Blog, Book Reviews, Social Justice

Book Review: Unfollow Me: Essays on Complicity by Jill Louise Busby

Feminist Book Club does not shy away from discussing difficult topics, as evident not only from our business model but also from our numerous blog posts on social justice and our Educate and Activate series. Unfollow Me: Essays on Complicity by Jill Louise Busby (also known for her online persona Jillsiblack) is a collection of essays on social media, racism, tokenism, liberalism, identity, and fame. The essays also discuss white fragility, and the performance of being woke among progressives and liberals and incorporating diversity practices by companies and corporations.

Each of the essays end with a letter, to the people who are addressed or discussed in the chapter. My favorite letter was “Dear White Hippiecrites” at the end of the first chapter, “Hi, Liberal White People.” The chapter details the politics of a part that Busby attends and how she outs on the persona of Jillisblack. The essays do not follow any chronology. “A Consequence of Us” is about the year that she spent living with her grandparents and it is an intimate portrait of the expectations, society, and relationships between the two generations. I liked the way Busby is both critical of and compassionate towards her grandparents (Busby buying a thrift store dress to attend her cousin’s wedding was fun event). The letter to Busby’s cousin shows the contrast between the two women as Busby was raised by a single mother and later had a stepfather. Later in the collection, Busby and her mother move to Olympia, WA to live with Busby’s half-brother.

Fly Home” is remarkable as it is written without a period, all with commas. Busby was visiting Philadelphia to moderate a panel/conference and she details her stay, which hit a bit close to home as that is what I usually did when I attended academic conferences. Conferences are supposed to be places where graduate students present their academic work, listen to others, and network. Being an introvert, I got takeout dinner and watched cable on the hotel TV (don’t tell that to my professors) while reading. “This Is How It Starts” focuses on Busby’s mother and their relationship. This is probably my favorite one as it shows a very realistic mother-daughter relationship and how Busby grows up.

A Friend of Men” is about Busby’s relationship to men and how women, who see her as a feminist, frown or are uncomfortable about it. The other favorite essay is “Flowers for the Black Artists” which discusses how Busby attended a retreat, organized by white liberals, for Black artists who were chosen through a foundation. This chapter made me smile because it exposes the sheer hypocrisy and politics. “Let the People Through” is about Jill and her mother’s emergency cross-country trip from South Carolina to Washington during the pandemic and this essay reminded me of social justice movements in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. Strangely, I became nostalgic for my family’s cross-country trips, pre-pandemic. The last essay, “Unfollow Me” seems to be the most important one as it has Busby’s conversation with a Proud Boy while Jillisblack hovers.

The collection of essays reminded me of the Netflix series Dear White People, especially in its analysis of being woke and of navigating racism, politics, and identity. Busby also has a web series with her mother where they “deliberate, deride, and devise (but never quite agree on) a menagerie of millennial anguishes — including, but not exclusive to ambition, belonging, race, and identity.” If you want to know more about Black journalism here’s our list of books. You can follow Jillisblack on Facebookview all Jillisblack’s speeches her, and follow Busby on Instagram.

Rashmila likes to read books by/about women/people of color. She prefers fiction to reality. A dog parent and word ninja, she volunteers for non-profits and is multilingual. Favorite genre- contemporary literary fiction.

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