Book of the Month: On Rotation by Shirlene Obuobi

Happy New Year! I can't believe this is the first time I'm here on the blog. So let's get it out of our system. The Book of this Month is On Rotation by Shirlene Obuobi. This is a hard book to categorize and talk about. It's about a Ghanaian-American medical student, Angie Appiah, who is figuring out life as she navigates her myriad of relationships with her boyfriend(s), friends, and her family. She also deals with expectations from her family and is left confronting choices, decisions, and even the people around her. As this is happening, she meets a random guy, at a random place, Ricky. As he is introduced into the equation, Angie feels control spiraling out of her hands. 






You can see how this is hard to categorize. It's been called a rom com, a literary fiction, or worse "Grey's Anatomy meets Seven Days in June". I am an AVID Grey's Anatomy fan or at least, I used to be until about two years ago. I have watched Seasons 1-15 about three times or more. And I can tell you for a fact, this is NOT Grey's Anatomy lol. I wonder if it's being described as a "medical drama" because the author is a doctor, because the medical references are probably only about 10 percent of the book. Just because the main character is inside a hospital does not a medical book make.  Now that that's out of the way. Let's talk about what makes this book fantastic. 


It's an enjoyable read. The main character, whose voice the entire novel is written in, is quirky, young, energetic and has a gaggle of loyal friends. That's a dynamic that is interesting to consume. There was a lot of Ghanaian culture in this book (this had a flip side which you will see below). The characters are so tangible, you almost feel like you're in the room with them. Plus don't you just love a black woman [aspiring] physician! They can sometimes be so few and far in between that the representation of them in a novel is just heartwarming and fuzzy in all types of ways. The author is quite a phenomenal writer and the way she wields her pen to make every single character come alive is a wonder to behold. I can almost guarantee you would not want to put this book down and that's always a plus.


That being said, prepare yourselves, because some of the book was just...corny. Like who meets their best friend's romantic interest and legit says, "if you hurt Jane Doe, I will come for you". Bruh. No, you do what the rest of us do, and fume silently as your friend's significant other mistreats them. At some point, another fight with a friend felt so sudden, so out of place, like it was manufactured to generate conflict. It speaks to the childishness of the interpersonal relationships in this book that I couldn't quite put my finger on. The protagonist was 25, and while that is relatively young, it is NOT that young.  


Speaking of themes and genres, sometimes this book tried too hard and it suffered for it. The idea of mixing something as serious as gun violence with lighthearted topics did my head in. Yet, this is not always a disadvantage. In fact, one might argue that it is a much healthier way to consume and ponder upon serious issues; when you don't see them coming. I think the author does a good job here or at least starts that way. However, and perhaps this is because my  sister is in medical school but as I flipped the pages of the book, the medical side almost started to feel like she had a list of things she planned to include in the book and must tick them all off. Once, the protagonist mentioned how despite all the talks about "health-care disparities, it didn't occur to me that someone I knew would be impacted by a language barrier." Bruh. You are a Ghanaian-American immigrant, a black woman in medical school, and the idea of healthcare disparities is that abstract to YOU?! At this point, something  about the protagonist felt inauthentic, as much as I loved the storytelling.


Here is another example of the protagonist's inauthenticity: after a stereotype about Asian women being "docile", there is a footnote saying, "a stereotype that has never made sense to me, because I have yet to meet an Asian girl who isn't alarmingly powerful". God, I have never read anything so condescending in fiction. Lmao. 


The ABSOLUTE WORST PART of this book was the incessant footnote. My goodness. It was the worst. It was extremely distracting and disorienting. Explaining the most simple things is insulting to your reader. And dumbing down your culture, explaining your culture to cater to specific audiences is just...well, a little painful to experience.


If you can get past the problem mentioned in the last paragraph (and it's worth it to do so), then please read this book. It's such a lighthearted way to start your reading this year (if you haven't already). 


And that's it. Happy Reading!


See you on the next edition of Book of the Month!


Love,

I

3 comments

  1. Happy new year! Excited for the new year and looking forward to your blog posts this year!

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind comment! I'm looking forward to writing/blogging this year too :-)

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  2. Not me requesting this book from the library after reading this post. Trying to go back to reading and I’m liking it so far. Not much progress yet sha with all the million things I need to do in only 24hours - 14 of which goes to work most times 😭 - adulting. Smh
    And nope, no book can give us Greys. Thank you 😂. Might come back to drop a comment once I’m able to read it.

    Aish

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