"400 Days of Oppression" Book Review
Written by Wrath James White
2013, 258 pages, Fiction
Released on October 31st, 2013
Wrath James White always pushes the envelope with his fiction, and I'm not just talking about the gore factor of hardcore horror. No, White constantly looks for new ways of putting race, politics, and religion in the spotlight, and he does it with the intellect of a scholar and the "touch" of a rampaging bull. In 400 Days of Oppression, abuse, slavery, and interracial relationships take center stage in a narrative that mixes psychological horror with the heavy dose of sex and violence we've come to expect from the author.
Natasha is a regular girl who hasn't had the best luck with men. Then she meets Kenyatta, the man of her dreams. Intelligent, interesting, hypersexual, experienced, tall, muscular, dark, successful, and handsome, Kenyatta is a dream come true for Natasha, and there's nothing she wouldn't do to please him. He has taught Natasha about herself, taught her about race, made her feel emotionally stable and happy, and introduced her to new pleasures. The next logical step is marriage, but first Kenyatta wants to teach Natasha a few more things about what it means to be African American in the US. He offers her a deal: if she can survive 400 days of oppression, a small version of the 400 years of oppression Africans have had to endure since the start of slavery, they will be together forever. If she says the safe word and quits, their relationship is over. She accepts, but what follows is something she couldn't have imagined even in her worst nightmares.
The title of the book is also its premise. Kenyatta has a book detailing the history of suffering and struggles of Africans and African-Americans and uses it to construct a very accurate set of situations for Natasha to undergo. History is ugly, and so are the things she has to suffer through. On top of the physical aspect, which includes being locked up and physically punished, there are strong psychological, sexual, and emotional elements at play that make this one a very interesting read. Also, White manages to have both Natasha and Kenyatta undergo great changes in the eyes of readers, and that's no easy task.
400 Days of Oppression is as pornographic as White's prose gets, but lovers of his knack for brutality will probably miss the death and destruction of previous novels. However, they won't have to wait much because there's a portion of the narrative in which Kenyatta goes out looking for revenge, and that part alone is as wonderfully gruesome and bloody as anything White has ever written.
Love, race, and sexuality are all crucial elements in 400 Days of Oppression, and only White could bring them together in a way that's shocking while simultaneously speaking volumes about racism, prejudice, and abuse in this country. If you're looking for a smart, titillating read with something to say, definitely give this one a try.
Want to comment on this review? You can leave one below or head over to the HorrorTalk Review Forum.