In Swing Time, the protagonist—who, surprisingly, is never named—narrates the story of her friendship with Tracey. Each of the girls was born to a white and a black parent in London, England. They find a bond in their common racial heritage and their love of dance. But while Tracey is skilled and recognized for her talent, the protagonist experiences no such success, yet never loses her love of dance.
In a complicated series of events, including disappointments, lies, and betrayal, the friends lose touch with each other. Tracey’s initial success descends into a chaotic life where poor choices lead to lasting consequences. The protagonist seems to chart a more successful course as the personal assistant to Aimee, a rising pop star who engages in relief work in Africa.
However, white privilege, exploitation of poverty for self-aggrandizement, discrimination, and cultural insensitivity lurk beneath the seemingly positive guise of Aimee’s philanthropy. As the protagonist comes to terms with differing realities of various groups—“tribes,” as she thinks of them—she understands that “every tribe has their blood-soaked legacy.”
Though the protagonist and her politically active mother care about big-picture inequalities, in the end, they must face their own realities and the persons closest to them, choosing to either offer grace or to walk away.
Swing Time is a lengthy, complex novel which contains vulgarity and some sexually explicit material. It dares to see the world as it is and, nevertheless, to offer hope and grace. (Penguin Press)