Since February was Black History Month, the Amherstview Branch’s book club read books based on the themes of black history and culture. Jennifer, who leads the book club, chose to read Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson, a great CanLit novel. It’s sci-fi and from 1998, so it could be considered a bit obscure. “Winner of several ‘best first novel’ awards, this novel weaves together elements of Afro-Caribbean culture, feminist science fiction, and magic realism,” says Jennifer. “These threads find expression in the protagonist, setting, and conflict, respectively, and intersect throughout the novel.”
She explains, “The protagonist, Ti-Jeanne, a Jamaican-Canadian woman, lives in a community under siege. Set in a dystopian vision of a near-future, a criminal gang rules a downtrodden downtown Toronto. A folk magic practice called the Obeah complicates inner city warfare as it can be used for good and evil purposes, alternately challenging and empowering Ti-Jeanne, the heroine, in her journey.”
The reader’s experience of grappling with linguistic immersion echoes Ti-Jeanne’s struggle to embrace her heritage and her role as a ‘seer’ in the community.
“Layers of traditional Caribbean culture permeate the novel. First and foremost, the dialogue reflects Caribbean English dialect with its unique rhythms and phonetic spellings. The reader’s experience of grappling with linguistic immersion echoes Ti-Jeanne’s struggle to embrace her heritage and her role as a ‘seer’ in the community.”
This book is a great choice for both adults and a YA audience. It is character-driven, suspenseful and has an evocative dystopian Toronto setting. It is certainly a memorable novel even for readers who are not partial to sci-fi.
Reserve Brown Girl in the Ring at your branch of the County of Lennox & Addington Libraries or online here.