The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin is a unique science fiction novel that brings cities to life. When a city becomes “great” a human inhabitant becomes its avatar. Except at the start of this novel, the homeless Black boy is chased into hiding. Enter the awakening of the human avatars of each of the five boroughs. The book follows each avatar as they discover their connection to the city. There is a mysterious entity that doesn’t want the city to fully become a great city. The boroughs must come together to protect the city.
“This is the lesson: Great cities are like any other living things, being born and maturing and wearying and dying in their turn.”
While reading, I kept thinking of Alicia Keys’s song, “Empire State of Mind”. I lived in NYC for a short two years, so appreciated the details of the city’s descriptions. Through lyrical and humorous prose, Jemisin explores the soul of cities along with tidbits on the history of NYC. The novel is a clever musing on gentrification. It took me a while to find my groove with the book, but once we meet the Bronx, I really started to love it. The Bronx had such bravado and wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. The bathroom encounter with the Woman in White was eerie and mesmerizing. I was not a fan of Staten Island, but I respect the conflict that the borough has with the others. I’m intrigued to see where Jemisin goes next with the universe of cities she’s created.
I highly recommend the audiobook narrated by Robin Miles, which won an Audie Award for female narrator and best fantasy book. I keep meaning to read N.K. Jemisin and I own several of her books. This was selected for the February Afrofuturism theme from my Mocha Girls Read book club. If you’re a fan of sci-fi, Afrofuturism, New York, or Jemisin, this novel is worth the effort.
Read more of my reviews on my blog, Confessions of a Pop Culture Addict.