A Pride and Prejudice Remix: Pride by Ibi Zoboi
I bought this book after Ibi Zoboi’s response to a trite, extremely problematic and racist review of the book came up on my Twitter timeline. Her scathing indictment of a poorly done and insulting review published on the Wall Street Journal by Meghan Cox Gurdon was so “articulate and tight” (to quote my own tweets lol) that I literally went straight to Amazon and purchased it myself. This was in September, and in classic fashion, I added it to the steadily growing pile of “Read this next!!” books on my night stand. I finally picked it up at the end of November around Thanksgiving, and it was absolutely phenomenal. I am excited to present it as a part of my Christmas List!
I’ll start by saying that Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is easily my favorite classic book. It’s one of the first major literary works that I ever read, and it has held a lofty status in my heart ever since. I was super intrigued by the premise of Zoboi’s modern retelling set in the heart of Brooklyn and centered on Afro-Latina characters. In reading the book, I was called back to the Austen text over and over again, and I deeply appreciate the care with which Zoboi approached the original framework of this story while finding ways to refresh it and spin a new tale.
Our protagonist and narrator, Zuri Benitez, is a 17 year old Haitian and Dominican girl who is navigating the changing landscape of her community and family. Gentrification is rearing its ugly head in her neighborhood as more and more wealthy buyers move in, driving up property values and rent. This is personified by the wealthy Darcy brothers, Ainsley and Darius, who move in across the street at the beginning of the summer. Her older sister, Janae, comes home from her first year of college in the opening pages of the book. Zuri is immediately apprehensive of the “bougie” Darcy family. When Ainsley and Janae fall for each other almost immediately (and fall apart almost as quickly), Zuri is caught up in her feelings of familial loyalty and a protectiveness not only of her sister, but also of the neighborhood that the boys, Darius in particular, don’t seem to understand or appreciate. As her own feelings for Darius begin to become complicated, Zuri must grapple with unexpected changes she never before considered.
I could give you a run down of the ins and outs of the plot, but if you’re familiar with Austen’s novel, you already know, and if you’re not, then what a lovely opportunity for you to explore something new. I would rather spend my time here talking about what excited me most about this novel: the poetry sprinkled throughout. Part of the way in which Zuri interacts with and makes sense of the world around her is through writing. Zoboi has these beautiful poems, sometimes as stream of consciouness thoughts inserted in the midst of a scene or as an anchor to a chapter, blended throughout the book, and I think that they provide the breath from which a story like Pride and Prejudice benefits greatly. Many of Zuri’s interior thoughts and motivations are revealed to us through her poems, and it builds trust between us as readers and her as our narrator.
This story also ties together Afro-Latin rituals celebrating Ochùn and various other Orishas. Zuri’s beloved Madrina, who owns the complex where they all live, does consultations and bembé celebrations where they dance to call down Ochùn in the basement of the building. In this one building alone we see the complex intersection of West Africa and Latin America brought together by slavery transplanted and alive and flourishing in Brooklyn, New York just like it is in many of our own families and traditions all over the world.
I definitely recommend this book for those that are looking for a fresh, vibrant and pro-Black take on a classic tale. Ibi Zoboi crafts a story that feels relatable and familiar and is the story of so many Black children who are impacted by the changing landscapes of their own communities. What does it mean when the only space that you’ve ever been able to claim as your own is invaded with people who don’t look like you, think like you, or care to understand your experiences and perspective? Get this book for your younger loved ones and tell them that you see them and care. In Pride, Zoboi does just that.
Have you read A Pride and Prejudice Remix: Pride yet? Let me know in the comments below!