Brown Girls by Daphne Palasi Andreades
Published by Random House
Publication date: January 4, 2022
Genres: Debut, Fiction, Contemporary, Literary
Who are the brown girls? When Daphne Palasi Andreades’s novel, Brown Girls, opens it’s Nadira, Khadija, Anjali, Yesenia, and Sophie, a group of 10-year-olds growing up in the “dregs of Queens”. In under 250 pages they pass from childhood to old age in lives that are as singular as they are relatable. Not to mention riveting.
Andreades makes bold stylistic choices in Brown Girls. The first, is the story is told in the collective “we”, creating a feeling of intimacy except the “we” shifts as the novel moves through the stages of life. It encompasses the girls already noted, but goes well beyond them to include other brown girls; girls with parents from Pakistan, Guyana, Haiti, the Philippines. All girls in Queens in families large and small moving from school to college to jobs, marriage, divorce, families of their own—trajectories we’ve all experienced. It’s how Andreades puts it together that’s a bit of literary magic.
This book is a stream of brown girl consciousness, modern poetry. It flows and mows through the pages with love, rage, humor, sass, so many emotions. They could pile up into an incoherent mess but Andreades arranges them perfectly, each set where it needs to be to evoke a response. And there will be one. The invocations to be good, be quiet, not fuss, don’t show off, watch how you dress, work harder. Many of the things we’ve all been told, but imagine those directives, that weight, applied to a frame covered in skin the color of root beer, caramel, or any of the infinite shades of brown. Something you have no control over, but which makes you judged all the more.
Brown Girls structure is creative with limited punctuation. The chapters are short, but could be no other way because Andreades needs to draw a breath before plunging back into the expansive but intimate lives of all these girls. All these girls striving, failing, staying, going. And yet it’s not frenetic or over wrought. Brown Girls is the literary equivalent of sitting with a new friend and having them share their life history—mesmerizing, foreign, but with the familiarity that allows bonding. I loved this stunning novel.
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*I received a free copy of this book from Random House in exchange for an honest review.*