400 Days of Oppression by Wrath James White might make you angry. Depending on your gross-out tolerance, perhaps it will make you cringe. Hopefully it’ll turn you on a bit with its sex scenes. Either way though, it will definitely make you think. At least if you read to the end, and this is a book you must read to the end no matter what.
I devoured several Amazon reviews of this novel before attempting to write my own, and I’m still not sure exactly how I feel about the message and emotions this novel stirred in me. So let’s just start with the plot:
Natasha is a Caucasian teacher who has a bit of a white trash background. She doesn’t understand African American culture or their struggles. When she meets Kenyatta in a nightclub, she’s smitten and excited to be a part of his life. Kenyatta is described as a black Adonis and I envision an almost Christian Grey-type character, but perhaps not as wealthy. After Kenyatta unleashes his sexual power onto Natasha, she is willing to follow him to the ends of the earth.
However, he is not willing to crown Natasha as his queen (wife) until she truly understands him. Understanding of not just his BDSM lifestyle, which is dark and intense, but also his African roots. In order to test her, to prove that she fully comprehends what his people went through, Kenyatta designs the ultimate bondage challenge: 400 Days of Bondage. 400 Days where each day represents a year of the oppression his ancestors suffered. 400 Days that not only represent the African struggle, but imitate it as well. For example, Natasha’s first challenge is spending her days and nights in a coffin suspended from the ceiling by chains. The close confines and rocking are suppose to simulate the journey overseas to America.
Once “on land” Natasha must begin her next challenge, including the sexual treatment of house slaves and the humiliation and fear of being sold at auction--all challenges accompanied by dark sexual excitement. And it’s only going to get worse. The good news is that, as with all consenting BDSM role-playing, there is a safe word. I’m sure you can guess the word, however, if Natasha utters it, not only does she end the game, she ends her relationship with Kenyatta and any hope of ever marrying him.
Now the hard part...
While I do not engage in BDSM, I am fascinated by it. As I’ve said in other reviews, I’m a voyeur who is unwilling to participate, but will definitely rubberneck lol. In that regard, I found myself enjoying most of the sex scenes. Some were quite hot while others were highly disturbing and upsetting. Many readers might find themselves really getting turned on by the sex, only to get that splash of cold water on their crotches as they remember the circumstances surrounding the scene, when the subversive degradation slips in. All the sex scenes were interesting and highly creative. That’s probably the best thing going for this novel; I’ve never read anything quite like the plot that Wrath has laid out.
Reader complaints will likely come from Natasha’s shallow character and her stupidity of allowing Kenyatta to walk all over her. She continues to bend to all his whims no matter how harsh because she desires and wants this man so badly. The BDSM community may have issues with how Kenyatta puts her through both mental and physical torture with little regard for her well-being. Both aspects made me very uncomfortable too, but people like this exist in real life. And these characters portray them accurately in my opinion. There are plenty of insecure ladies who will allow men to walk all over them. And there are plenty of men whose love of bondage is deep and dark and who mentally and physically abuse anyone they can. In addition to entertaining, this novel can serve as educational too.
Despite other readers complaining that the author is racist and misogynistic, I disagree. Just because Wrath writes about these types of characters, it doesn't means this is who he is. It’s the only novel I’ve read by him so far, but I have a feeling he is simply exposing a segment of the population that is very real. And since I don't know him, I can't claim he hates white women or that he’s racist as other reviewers have suggested. Could I be wrong? Sure. I don’t know his personal viewpoints, but taken as a story, these characters are realistic; sadly I have met people like Natasha and Kenyatta. Also, I wonder if the readers who sling the insults as Wrath and the novel have actually read the book TO THE END.
If you ask me, I think 400 Days is a sexy and subversive philosophy book, doing exactly what it's suppose to do. But what do I know.
Regardless of your personal views, I feel strongly that you should read this book. And I want to hear your thoughts on the ending. Does it change the entire theme of the story? Does it resolve everything? Vindicate Wrath from the angry cries of some readers? I can’t answer that for you. But I do feel like there are some things that should be read, facets of society that must be confronted, whether we like them or not. And as with everything, you will only be able to see this novel through the lens of your own perception.
I propose my own challenge for you…read the whole novel before commenting on it. You can pick up a copy here. I look forward to seeing what everyone has to say, but remember, I’m a voyeur only. I enjoy seeing everyone’s reaction, I’m fascinated by human nature, but chances are I’m not going to engage you in deep conversations on race and soci-economic factors, especially not on my website or social media platforms. I don’t enjoy that. I’m not here to change your mind or push my own political views. I only want to explore the various facets of society through books. As such, I present the dark and disturbing without comment.
Take my challenge and then share your thoughts…