The first book I read for my Black Author Challenge set the bar EXTREMELY high. This is one of the best books I’ve read in a while due to it’s inspired narrative, amazing dialogue, and great characters.
The story of an immigrant girl from Haiti who’s mother is detained on their trip to stay with family in Detroit, was something I didn’t think I could get into but obviously the start of an epic tale. It’s books like these that remind me that I don’t have to literally see myself in the character or their circumstances to get drawn into their story. (I mean, I know nothing of being an orphan boy wizard from England but I certainly grabbed on to that saga).
Fabiola is the 16-year old, brave protagonist of this story who leaves behind her home and mother to start a new life with her aunt and cousins in Detroit. She quickly learns the expectations she had for a new life in America would not line up with her new reality (her first meal in her new home is a slice of individually wrapped cheese because no one thought to make a home-cooked meal). Though she recognizes people in her new life as the archetypes of the spirits from her old one, it’s anything but comforting. A situation presents itself to her with the reward of getting her mother back but also the retribution of losing everything and everyone, including the young man she has started to care for.
This book is amazing! It took everything in me not to stay up all day and night reading it. The story was so captivating it flew by and I couldn’t get enough. All of the characters were so well thought out and I had very strong opinions about all of them. No one was simply there as filler. Fabiola’s relationship with her mother and her faith is so beautiful in how she finds the space in her new life to honor them. Her relationship with her cousins and aunt is so complicated and you can see the trouble coming a mile away but it’s still disturbing when it shows up LITERALLY at their door. And her boyfriend, Kasim is just the kind of young man you want for her at this point in her young tumultuous life. This was Ibi Zoboi‘s first book and my ardent reaction to it resulted in me immediately getting her new books, Pride and Black Enough.