It is a truth universally acknowledged that when rich people move into the hood, where it’s a little bit broken and a little bit forgotten, the first thing they want to do is clean it up. But it’s not just the junky stuff they’ll get rid of. People can be thrown away too, like last night’s trash left out on sidewalks or pushed to the edge of wherever all broken things go. What those rich people don’t always know is that broken and forgotten neighborhoods were first built out of love.
So begins Ibi Zoboi’s novel, Pride.
It is also a truth but not so universally acknowledged that I’m a sucker for Jane Austen remakes—especially ones that don’t stick too closely to the source text (I’m looking at you, very disappointing Pride and Prejudice and Zombies!). As a result, I enjoyed Ibi Zoboi’s Afro-Latino Bushwick take on Pride and Prejudice partly because Zoboi’s translation (or as she put it, remix) kept the class dynamics of Austen’s novel but used the other plot points only as needed to tell her own story of love, race and gentrification.
In this version, the wealthy Darcy family moves into a newly remodeled mini-mansion across the street from the Benitez family’s apartment building. Though the two oldest sons, Ainsley and Darius, are fine to look at, Zuri Benitez worries that this change is a sign of more unwelcome changes to come to her working-class Brooklyn neighborhood. However, her older sister, Janae, home from college, quickly falls for the older Darcy, Ainsley, and parts of the familiar plot fall into place.
Zoboi makes some good choices here—giving the story to Zuri to tell (versus letting a more objective narrator take the reins) and making Zuri a poet, using the words of Elizabeth Acevedo to bring her skills to life. This was a fun and incredibly timely read. Even if Austen or Austen reboots aren’t your thing, the story here could easily stand on its own and is well worth checking out.
Thanks to Bonnie for another great CBR Book Exchange choice.