Rainbow Milk: a book review

So, where you from?


I mean where you were from originally?

Still London.

I mean where your parents from?

Why do people still do that?

That’s what this book is about; well, no; it’s about a lot more than that. It’s one of those books which’ll give you something, depending on who you are, and the kind of life you’ve had, I suppose.

It’s the story of a fella called Jesse, who leaves his family and the church of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the West Midlands, and ends up working as a gay prostitute in London.

On his journey, which begins as a teenager in the sticky throes of sexual awakening, and ends with discovery and salvation, Jesse meets discards and is abandoned by a cast of characters who are so well-drawn you can almost hear them breath. His hideous mother is a rare literary treat, and his step-father, who I’m still quite ambivalent about, is a man who has the kind of problems you’d expect for a white man who’s taken on a black son in a country that is on the verge of losing the tolerance it was once renowned for. As Mendez recounts memories of being constantly asked Where you from?, and other examples of casual and not-so-casual racism (the scene where a mate of his step-father washing a mug Jesse had used as though he’d been sick in it was pure genius – not just because of the writing, but because stuff like this happens so often during the course of your life that it sort of just fades into background. But here it was, so of course it wasn’t just me).

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