By Asali Solomon
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015
The daughter of two black nationalist radicals, Kenya grows up in West Philadelphia in the late 1980s feeling different than the other kids in her African American community. In Kenya’s family there is no TV, no saying the Pledge of Allegiance during school, and no Christmas—Kwanzaa is celebrated instead. But her parents’ love and their ideal community, called the “Seven Days,” only lasts for so long, and eventually Kenya and her mom are on their own, living in the suburbs, where Kenya faces new challenges when she one of a few girls of color at a private girls school.
Disgruntled chronicles Kenya’s coming of age as she tries to make sense of the world, both in West Philadelphia and later in the suburbs. I don’t want to give away too much of the story as it was fun to watch this book unfold, but it twists and turns as Kenya grows up, ending just after she graduates high school, with the dream of going off to college. As she grows up, her father does things she can’t believe he is capable of. And she surprises herself as well, including a sleepwalking incident.
Solomon is a graceful writer. She creates a beautiful portrait of Kenya—a girl who is shut out of her parents’ adult world, while being asked to follow their rules at the same time. I felt close to Kenya as she negotiated the challenges in her life. This is a unique coming of age story of a young black woman.
Solomon is a professor at Haverford College. She has also published a collection of short stories called, Get Down. Disgruntled was widely reviewed when it came out, but I feel like it has not gotten as much attention as it deserves.
Thanks to Proto Libro reader, Kate M for telling me about this book!