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


I had the privilege of hearing Morgan Parker read a section of this semi-autobiographical novel at a book festival so her charming grown-up (though still youthful & self-deprecating) voice stayed with me as I read the fictional Morgan Parker’s diary-like account of her 2008-09 school year. Our protagonist is a Black girl living with her family in an affluent area in Southern California; she attends a Christian high school with her brother and a couple of white best friends. The story reads like a journal, addressing situations with vague yet decipherable details that let us know Morgan has been struggling with depression & anxiety for a while. On the eve of Obama’s election, she is reminded even more profoundly of her Blackness and starts delving more intentionally into her identity as a young Black woman, much to the discomfort of many people in her life.

Even as an oldish woman with college-aged kids, I appreciated Parker’s mid-2000s (and a few retro) pop culture references - especially the way she incorporated bands & songs to illustrate her state of mind. As an avowed thrift store/bargain rack shopper, I also enjoyed the use of clothing & outfit choices as insight to identity and attitude.

There were a lot of situations in here for Morgan to try dealing with, as of course there are for any teenager but particularly a young woman of color in a predominately white community, but I think the book would have more staying power overall if Parker had focused more specifically & deeply on just a couple - she could even have a developed a series of focused stories from this engaging young woman’s high school life instead of giving this too-quick surface snapshot of so many tremendously important issues (eg institutional racism & microaggressions, sexual assault, homophobia, drug abuse, mental health care).