Fever to Tell
Book Review by Ernest Barteldes
As someone raised in a bicultural family (my father is German-Irish from Kansas, my while my mother is Brazilian of Dutch and Portuguese descent) and who has also been in diverse relationships, I was intrigued when I heard about the controversy over J.C. Davies’ I Got The Fever: Love, What’s Race Got To Do With It? (Doublewide Publications, 232 pages, $ 16.85 – also available as e-book) an admittedly non-scientific self- help tome that gives tips on dating across both racial and religious barriers.
Davies is a former Wall Streeter who noticed that many people seemed to be curious about dating outside their own, er, comfort zone but for a reason or another wouldn’t take the plunge. She then decided to use her own experience (she was married to a Latino and later dated several African-American men) and also interviewed several mixed couples (or people who had been in mixed relationships before) in the New York area and came up with how-to guide of sorts divided in five sections: Salsa fever (Latino), Curry Fever (Indian), Yellow Fever (Asian), Jungle Fever (African- American) and Shiksa Fever (Jewish).
Before I had a chance to read the book myself, I saw many negative reviews on the web. However, after reading it I was forced to disagree with the negative reviews. Yes, she uses coarse language and is sometimes a little too honest with her assertions, but nothing really offensive. However, if you are a bit too PC in your attitudes about race, maybe this book is not for you.
Throughout the pages, she looks at both the positive and negative aspects of each culture, while also trying to dispel certain stereotypes about each culture. For instance, she praises the strong family values of both African American and Latino families, but also debates on the high level of infidelity from men in both cultures. She finds that Jewish men are not necessarily cheap, but are just simply very effective in managing their money. Through her interviews, she also looks at how effective the men in each group are in bed –both regarding women’s satisfaction and size-wise.
As I read the ‘salsa fever’ section, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud as she described Latin families and their endless feuds, remembering how the same thing happened on my mother’s side of the family. As one interviewee stated, “I even know two brothers who live in the same house. They are 50 years old and haven’t spoken to each other for 20 years. When you sit down with them at dinner they will talk to you separately, but never to each other.” I could definitely relate to that – I have several relatives who disagreed over who would get my late grandmother’s jewelry and who have been mum with one another since.
In the ‘jungle fever’ section, she comments that many African-American the desire to have the perfect ‘postcard’ family: “The demonstration of this perfection is the postcard that he sends out every Christmas. The postcard shows him, of course, the black father, with two or more perfectly smiling children. But what makes it perfect is the black wife… When it comes to marriage, no matter how much he says he loves you, he’s still likely to crumble under societal pressure – and that means he’s less likely to marry you. The pull of the postcard is strong.”
On each section, she collects stories from interracial couples (both successful and otherwise) from all backgrounds: Asian-Latino, Jewish-Indian, Black-white and others including her own very detailed stories about her serious relationships with her Latino and African-American exes and also her present (as of the book’s publication) relationship with a Persian Jewish man she calls Josh.
After going through I Got The Fever, I really can’t understand what the fuss was all about. I didn’t find J.C. Davies bigoted at all, and from what I could see she is definitely not racist. My assessment probably comes that being bicultural I have developed a thick skin about these things and sometimes I might fail to see what others might see as insensitive. The book is definitely a fun read thanks to Davies’ easy conversational style and keen sense of humor, which makes this a recommended book for anyone interested in relationships in general and understanding different cultures.