(Buy it HERE.)
Can I be honest with y’all? It took me a long time to understand what the big deal about Pride and Prejudice was. High school classes, grudging re-reads, and wet Colin Firth on PBS were not enough to make me care about 5 sisters in 1813 England. It wasn’t until I was pressed into teaching it at a girl’s school summer camp a few years ago that I really got it–the girls created a whole primer connecting Darcys, Bennets and Bingleys to their own boarding school dramas complete with illustrations, and a light bulb went off.⠀
If I’d had Pride in high school, that light would’ve gone on much earlier for me. In this YA novel, the Bennets become the Haitian-Dominican Benitez family, crammed into a Bushwick apartment and surrounded by a vibrant Afro-Latin community. When the Darcys–a very rich, very Black family with an Afro-British mom and a vacation home in Martha’s Vineyard–move into the renovated house across the street, Zuri Benitez can’t stand their gentrifying asses. While her sisters try various ways to get into their good graces, Zuri makes her feelings about fake, judgmental rich people loudly known–at least until handsome Darius Darcy turns his prep school frown in her direction. ⠀
I loved this concept. Pride pays homage not only to Austen’s original romance, but also her commentary on class and gender. The setting, however, is purely, joyfully Black–the community Zoboi pens made me a little homesick, although I’m neither from Brooklyn nor Latina. I love how she brings in so many textures and types of Blackness–rich, poor, light, dark, Latin, Caribbean, British, Southern, Prince George County and Bushwick. It’s rare to see someone describe the sometimes tense interactions between Black communities with a light and humorous hand but Zoboi manages it. ⠀
Of course the heart of the story is its romance and unfortunately–that was the only off note for me. (It is in the original, too.) Zuri and Darius are a couple of grouches and when they do get together it comes out of nowhere. It’s still fun and readable, but it’s easily the weakest part of the book. ⠀
4 stars and some real street cred to Pride.
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