A review by lancakes
Who Put This Song On?, by Morgan Parker


A perfect book?? A perfect book for me.

Morgan Parker, probably precisely because this book is so close to home/a fictionalised memoir, really fucking nails depression and dispossession. Book Morgan is recovering from a scary suicidal ideation/self harm episode during the beige California summer between 11th and 12th grade. She's having panic attacks ("Episodes"), hunkering down in her room, unable to establish or hold interest and feels like crawling out of her skin while socialising. She's a Smart Kid who doesn't really give a shit about school because it fucking sucks and it's hard to care about pointless assignments that aren't teaching you what you need to know because depression and anxiety are using up all your fucks faster than you can generate them. All in all: Relatable.

The book follows Morgan through her white-ass town, into her white-ass Christian school, observes her therapy sessions with white-ass Susan. As Writer Morgan Parker includes in an addendum at the end of the book, her positionality as a Black Woman affects her mental health/is comorbid with her anxiety and depression. The book dissects moments of micro and macro aggression in beautiful nuanced and palpable scenes that only a Black Woman could write - I certainly understand being othered and marginalised but I cannot on my own imagine exactly how it feels to be the only Black girl (aside from Stacey Dash-esque Other Black Girl) in an an AP government class insufficiently taught by a Republican during a "debate" on "whether the US is ready for a Black president" in Obama's election year. I felt choked with anger and exhausted just reading the scene. It reminds me how fortunate I and my fellow white people are that Black People continue, out of the goodness of their hearts and, I'm sure, risk of violent suppression, to not burn this whole motherfucker down. This book tackles so much, without being "preachy" (quotations because sometimes white people feel like if a particular "Black Issue" is raised in a book it's somehow "preachy" or "shoehorned in" instead of just like, part of Black People's reality), including: overpolicing and police harassment, police brutality, culturally incompetent mental health services, racist schooling, racialised fetishization and misogynoir, internalised misogynoir, "praying mental illness away" and the hesitancy to talk about mental illness, homophobia, Adderal addiction/abuse of prescription speed and standardised testing pressures, homophobic and prejudicial limitations for blood donation, non-Black people using the N word, tokenism and the expectation that if a singular person from a marginalised group is present they are a representative for the whole community, the white washing of American history and specifically the Civil Rights era, how fucked up and fucking anti-Black racist Mormonism is (the Curse of Ham? Go fuck yourselves).

Despite the oppressive social conditions of living in a white Californian suburb and attending a predominantly white, wack Christian school, Book Morgan begins to unfurl a bit and come into her own through interacting with a handful of precious fellow weirdos, the support of her family who means well, and delving into her history that's not being taught at school. Therapy, despite being corny and not culturally literate, helps. She cycles through a couple different meds and begins to feel more energised. This book doesn't end with a cure, or a love story, or any big vindication from the oppressive structures she has to interact with. I like that, it's not neat. Book Morgan just feels a bit better, a bit more like herself, a bit more free, optimistic, able to move forward. That's how life is.

Additional notes:

I was similarly fucking TERRIFIED of the Christian rapture when I learnt about it, and the Christian friend who taught me about it when we were around 11 was obsessed with it, which suggests that this is some kind of actual tactic/mode of control from the Church, scaring kids into being good lest all their friends and family get raptured and they get left behind? Gross. I hate it.

Writer Morgan Parker includes a therapy primer at the end of her book, basically some scripts of what she sends friends/how she accesses mental health resources, to facilitate the process of getting help. I cried reading it. It's invaluable, and I relate to her asides about dropping everything to call or google doctors when a friend reaches out (NOT SORRY!). Including that note at the end is just, I can't explain how touching to me. Writer Morgan Parker and Book Morgan Parker are my people.

In conclusion, I clearly care a lot about this special book, just look at how many f words I used in this review.