FICTION

Disgruntled

Farrar. Feb. 2015. 256p. ISBN 9780374140342. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780374712952. F
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This much-anticipated first novel from Solomon (following her highly regarded collection, Get Down) is the coming-of-age story of a young African American woman going through a childhood and adolescence in 1980s Philadelphia that are more difficult than most. Straddling two diverse worlds, with two very different (and difficult) parents, is Kenya's burden. She knows her family is unusual; most kids don't call their dad Baba, celebrate Kwanzaa, shun pork, or have a group of semimilitant activists called the Seven Days meeting in their home. Kenya's father, Johnbrown, is not so much a civil rights activist as a self-styled philosopher and author. He's obsessed with past martyrs, especially a black servant who gruesomely murdered the mistress of Frank Lloyd Wright and several others in 1914 Wisconsin. When Kenya's parents split up, her life changes as she and her mother, a librarian, move to a safer part of the city and Kenya is accepted into an expensive all-girls school.
VERDICT Will Kenya flourish at her new school, go to college, and become upwardly mobile, as her hardworking but dissatisfied mother wants? Where does Kenya belong? How will she find her own path, and her own identity, not one defined by her past and her parents? Solomon addresses all these questions with consummate grace.

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