Book Review

Readgasm: A Case of Rape, Chester Himes

This unfinished sketch of a fictional book that Chester Himes wanted to write is a complicated and tragic story of four African-American soldiers in Paris who are falsely charged with the rape and murder of a white American woman. The sketch sets out to criticize the way American racism leads to automatically condemning African-American men of crimes they didn’t commit, simply on the basis of color. A case is heard but hardly investigated, and the men are all found guilty. It is a real problem African-Americans faced, and Himes wasn’t the only writer raising his voice in protest against this particular result of racism.

I was somewhat disturbed by the way the murdered woman is largely written off as crazy, and how her specific case of mental health problems is sort of blamed for the false conviction of the four men. While the men are innocent of rape, two are guilty of manslaughter (at the very least), but Himes focuses only on the injustice the men are faced with, rather than the fact that this woman was, in the end, murdered because of racism.

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