- File Size: 2494 KB
- Print Length: 146 pages
- Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
- Publisher: Book Smugglers Publishing (May 2, 2017)
- Publication Date: May 2, 2017
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B071D6G8D7
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #710,318 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Reenu-You Kindle Edition
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Pulling from a wide range of tropes of science fiction, Berger has written a compelling story full of conspiracy and danger. Five women who all used the product and had horrifying side effects are drawn together in ways they themselves don't fully understand. The story was political commentary, a cautionary tale, an exploration of women's friendship, and an apocalyptic infection story, among other things. Berger uses the playground of this speculative tale to explore and consider issues of race, gender, age, class, urbanity, and so much more, yet it doesn't feel preachy or pedantic. You just find yourself thinking and considering while you're quickly turning the pages to find out what will happen next.
The novella read very quickly, pulling me along with my curiosity to understand what was going on with this product and its effects on the group of women the story follows. I was left feeling a little lost at the end, when the mystery is not fully resolved. I did wish for at least a little more resolution, even while part of me felt that an open ending might be the right one for the story. There's definitely room for the story to go further.
A strange health crisis has emerged in communities of color in American cities. While its cause is unknown, there are rumblings that a new “natural” hair relaxant product, Reenu-You, might be at the root of the outbreak. In her eponymous novella, Michele Tracy Berger tells a story of a small group of women in New York who have been impacted by this potentially serious situation. Told primarily from the points of view of two of the women, the non-linear Reenu-You also uses corporate memos and government reports to build the mosaic of the unfolding drama. With echoes of works like “The Stand”, “The Andromeda Strain” and also unexpectedly Chris Rock’s “Good Hair”, Reenu-You draws on Ms. Berger’s own experiences growing up as an urban woman of color and how the notion of “good hair” is viewed in communities like that of her upbringing in ways largely not experienced by Caucasians. Interspersed with these ideas, uncommon in most works of speculative fiction, is a compelling story on which I hope Ms. Berger, whose work was also featured in 2016’s UnCommon Origins anthology, can expand and release as a longer, full novel in the future.
Berger has taken our hair, something that holds the power to change our mood and our mindset and brought it into horror. With her latest release Reenu-You, Berger has brought some of our worst fears into realization. Even with so many women embracing the natural texture of their hair, hundreds of thousands of women are still searching for that product that makes styling that little bit easier.
When Kay finds Reenu-You on the shelves, a product promising exactly that, she tries it. The resulting rash and sores she gets won’t heal and are in fact, spreading. She goes to the hospital where she comes across a room of other women with a similar affliction. After an initial hesitation, she speaks with them and realizes they have all used Reenu-You. They leave the hospital, unsure the doctors are willing or able to do anything about this condition that is spreading unchecked. Does anyone care? Can the outbreak be stopped? Or are Kay and her newfound friends and allies doomed to succumb to the effects of Reenu-You?
Berger has done a fantastic job of bringing together women from different walks of life seeking a solution: first to what they see as the rigors of hair-styling and then to the disfiguring lesions caused by a hair product promoted as a solution to the previous concern. I enjoyed reading about these women and how they finally accept that they are on their own to figure out what’s happened to them. And I’m so thankful to read about a group of Black women that represents the diverse educational and socio-economic backgrounds we represent. Berger seasons the storyline with articles, corporation memos, and news reports to explain and underpin the cause of the outbreak.