I’ve always felt that a sign of a good read is one that elicits emotions in the reader. There were several times when I teetered between anger and delight as I read A Return to Arms. The character, Kanaan, brought up (past) anger because I’ve encountered men like him—particularly in social circles aimed at Black audiences and social awareness. My delight stems from a deep appreciation for sistahs like Toya, Folami, and Nina who “walk the walk and talk the talk”—women who, unlike me, remain consistent in their action and community support and are wholly connected to communities that skirt the margins of society. Dedication to eradicating social injustices in our communities should be praised and supported in a myriad of ways. Therefore, it is nice to see this call-to-action and a division of the present-day movement reflected in fiction through Black lesbian leads and a pocket of Black culture.
I enjoyed the duality of the sociopolitical struggle and the roller coaster struggle in Toya and Folami’s relationship. These characters shared similar fervor and challenges, which, in Folami’s case, left her caught between love and allegiance. I, like a lot of readers (I’m sure), found myself invested in Toya’s achievements and growth; therefore, a large part of me is screaming for Greer to give me more. However, I’ll be patient (and content) and simply appreciate what has been presented.
If I had a magic wand and could ask the author to change something—if I had a re-do— I would extend this story by a few thousand words to answer many of my lingering questions. For example, how did Toya land in St. Petersburg? Why does she have an affinity for community organizing? And last, but not least, who the hell was paying for all the stuff (e.g., posters, paint) that supported their activities?
A Return to Arms is a welcome addition to the Black lesbian literary canon. It joins a growing list of literature by Black lesbian writers that aims to represent the richness of our lives, as well as the particularities of our struggles as Black lesbian activist-artists. I look forward to seeing what Greer does next.
Reviewed by: Lauren Cherelle
Lauren Cherelle uses her time and talents to traverse imaginary and professional worlds. She recently penned her sophomore novel, The Dawn of Nia (Resolute Publishing, 2016). Outside of reading and writing, she enjoys new adventures with her partner of thirteen years. You can find Lauren online at Twitter, www.lcherelle.com, and Goodreads.