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“When No One is Watching” by Alyssa Cole

RFM team members share a book they’ve enjoyed.

A thriller that should be destined for the big screen.

When I first heard When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole mentioned in the same sentence as the 2017 movie Get Out, I added the book to my list.       

Cole has crafted a psychological and sociological thriller around gentrification.

When Brooklyn-born Sydney Green returns to the borough to live with her aging mother, she is horrified by how much and how quickly the neighborhood has changed. Inspired to hang onto some sense of community, Sydney organizes a walking tour to acquaint new neighbors with the area. While researching the tour, Sydney finds an unlikely and at first unwanted assistant in new condo owner, Theo. Together they investigate landmarks and family trees, all while Sydney is trying to help her mother avoid foreclosure on the family home. 

As storefronts and community gardens transform overnight, Sydney and Theo descend into paranoia and fear. Meanwhile, newly arrived white neighbors take it all in from their doorbell security cameras and use the OurHood app to sort through homeowners’ association business, like “scary-looking” teens in hoodies and policing practices.

An award-winning author, Cole’s character development shines here as she explores what amounts to white terrorism perpetrated on a Black community. When No One is Watching grabs you from the first chapter and doesn’t let go until the very last page.

Karen Schwartzkopf has her dream job as managing editor of RFM. Wife, mother, arts and sports lover, she lives and works in the West End with her family, including husband Scott, who not coincidentally is RFM’s creative director. You can read Karen’s take on parenting her three daughters – Sam, Robin, and Lindsey, also known as the women-children – in the Editor’s Voice.
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