I’m not going to lie a BIG reason I picked this book up mere days after it arrived in the October Owlcrate box is because of my girl, Lilly, and her love for this ownvoice contemporary! Beyond the fact that her review is informed and entertaining (it even includes street art!), Lilly provides a whole other viewpoint and understanding on this important read, which demonstrates how reads can affect each of us differently. I’d love if you’d read on to my review, but definitely give hers a gander, too!
P.S. HAPPY HALLOWEEN, BOOK NERDS!
Pride by Ibi Zoboi
Title & Author: Pride by Ibi Zoboi
Genre: YA Contemporary/Retellings
Release Date: September 18, 2018
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Series Details: Standalone
Page Count: 289 pages (Owlcrate Exclusive Edition)
Description: “Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.
When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.
But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, cute boy Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering on the horizon, Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick’s changing landscape, or lose it all.”
“We’re not supposed to be proud. We were not supposed to love these things so hard: the chipping paint, the missing floorboards…But I’ve never known anything else. These broken things all spell home to me.”
Filled to the brim with themes of class expectations, gentrification, fitting in, and first loves, Pride, at its heart, is really a novel about change. Change and all the emotions and uncertainties that come with transition.
Zuri “ZZ” Benitez weaves this modern day Pride & Prejudice remix through bouts of poetry and strong-willed dialogue. The second eldest of the “fierce and fabulous five” Benitez sisters, Zuri, is capital I Intense when it comes to her Haitian-Dominican roots and her beloved block in Bushwick, Brooklyn. So intense, in fact, that she immediately has beef with the rich new neighbors that renovated the broken down home across the street and converted it into a suburb-approved mini mansion. Bearing most of her wrath is the fade-rocking, khaki pant wearing, private school attending, Darius Darcy. Zuri isn’t subtle about her distaste of the Darcy’s “cleaned up” addition to her hood and constantly puts Darius down for his mannerisms, clothing, and outlook on the world. This nonstop judgmental “hood only” viewpoint not only makes her a borderline unlikable character, but could also turn off several readers that don’t give her a deeper look. And that would be a shame, because Zuri – and Pride – deserve a deeper look.
I’m not going to lie, at first I was like my Lord where do you come off, Zuri? You can’t preach don’t judge a book by its tattered cover by day while mocking a brand new release because it’s mint condition by night. There’s so many scenes that felt like Zuri was taking her love for her borough too dang far! And this is from a girl who’s all about state pride, y’all! But once I realized Zuri’s actions and rants really stem from her fear of change and entering the unknown I had to take a step back and reexamine my understanding. Soon I started to see her decisions for what they were: a way to combat the unfamiliar. From her initial interest in Warren (“Warren is smooth and easy. Warren is Bushwick”) over the challenging and thought-provoking Darius to the dismay over her sister’s Janae’s plans to “move on and leave” after college graduation, Zuri is clinging to the familiar in efforts to “make sense of it all: her hood, her Brooklyn, her life, her world, and her in it.” Zoboi most eloquently states this in Zuri’s college essay when she writes:
“But my neighborhood is not flooding or splitting in half. It’s being cleaned up and wiped out. It’s being polished and erased. So where do I reach back and pull out memories as if they’ve been safely tucked away into a trunk or an attic like the people on TV who have enough time and too much space? Where do I call home?”
When you realize that these changes are things Zuri associates with lost stories, faded memories, and a place to truly call her own, you start to understand her aggressive protection of “her hood.” Because who wouldn’t be ferocious when it came to protecting their home? Their family’s stories? Their legacy? It took a deeper look to see the war that was waging inside Zuri. To see that she was battling her allegiance to the history of her known world with the possibilities of what life could be if she consented to change. A fight that’s ironically timeless and faced by readers and fictional heroines alike.
Zoboi’s contemporary while threaded with romance and sisterly affections really challenges its narrator – and its readers – to push past their own prejudices, drop their pride, embrace people for who they really are, and accept that things can’t always stay the same. Madirna said it best when she advised that you have to move and flow to grow! So embrace change, but keep your stories alive. Whether you write it down, store it in knick knacks hidden away in attics, or throw it down in slam poetry sessions, find your platform to raise your voice. Raise it loud and raise it proud.