Brown Girls

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Author: Daphne Palasi Andreades
Genres: Fiction
Pub. Date: Jan. 2022

I have mixed feelings about this one. It’s a short book told in a series of vignettes from the perspective of the chorus “we” of American brown girls. It takes us through the lives of brown girls and the 2nd generation immigrant experience, from childhood to death, so it’s pretty ambitious in scope.

I loved the style of the book. I don’t think I’ve ever read an entire book told from a perspective like this and the short chapters made for an easy reading experience. It’s not quite prose, but the writing is lyrical and I liked that the story wasn’t limited to one perspective or protagonist. Even though the structure is ambitious, I liked that the author takes us through the lives of brown girls over time. I viewed it as a snapshot at the different stages of life and I thought there were some really perceptive ideas here. My favourite chapter by far was “Those who leave and those who stay”, which was a gutting read for someone who chose to leave.

What I was unsure of was whether the author really has the credentials to write from this perspective. It’s a bold claim to try and represent the experience of so many different cultures and countries. I’m sure there are lots of common threads and similarities with the immigrant experience, but despite the “we” of the book, a predominant voice still emerged of a 2nd generation woman who got out of Queen’s by going to good schools and ending up with a white partner. This is definitely a perspective, but I know it’s not the only perspective. I would have liked to see more varied perspectives if you’re going to rely on a chorus narrator to carry your story. It’s ambitious for any single author to carry such lived experience.

To an extent the structure is also a weakness because we only skim the surface of brown girls experiences, so it is somewhat lacking in depth. Personally this didn’t really bother me though because I feel there are lots of other single POV novels out there that get into the nitty gritty. This was a higher level look, just maybe not high enough to represent such a broad spectrum of voices and identities.


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