Hey mersquad coven! I’m so sorry that I totally spaced on fixing this post a while ago. I’m glad that I was going through emails and posts and was like “wait a minute!” I totally apologize about that, and I appreciate all of your patience waiting for this post.
Thank you so much to Inanna Publications for reaching out to me for the blog tour, and I look forward to reading more diverse reads with you!
In 1971, the fictional city of Bellport, Massachusetts is in decline with an urban redevelopment project on the horizon. The project promises to transform the dying factory town into a thriving economic center, with a profound effect on its residents. Sydney Stallworth steps away her law degree in order to support her husband Malachi’s dream of opening a cultural center and bookstore in the heart of their black community, Liberty Hill. Across the street, Della Tolliver has built a fragile sanctuary for herself, boyfriend Kwamé Rodriguez, and daughter Jasmine, a troubled child prone to frequent outbursts.
Six blocks away and across the Bellport River Bridge lies Petite Africa, a lively neighborhood, where time moves slower and residents spill from run-down buildings onto the streets. Here Omar Bassari, an immigrant from Senegal known to locals as Drummer Man, dreams of being the next Duke Ellington, spreading his love of music and African culture across the world, even as his marriage crumbles around him and his neighborhood goes up in flames. An arsonist is on the loose. As more buildings burn, the communities are joined together and ripped apart. In Petite Africa, a struggling community fights for their homes, businesses, and culture. In Liberty Hill, others see opportunity and economic growth. As the pace of the suspicious fires pick up, the demolition date moves closer, and plans for gentrification are laid out, the residents find themselves at odds with a political system manipulating their lives. “It’s a shame,” says Malachi, after a charged city council meeting, where residents of Petite Africa and Liberty Hill sit on opposing sides. “We do so much for Petite Africa. But still, we fight.”
Lisa Braxton is an Emmy-nominated former television journalist, an essayist, short story writer, and novelist. She is a fellow of the Kimbilio Fiction Writers Program and was a finalist in the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition. She earned her MFA in creative writing from Southern New Hampshire University, her M.S. in journalism from Northwestern University, and her B.A. in Mass Media from Hampton University. Her stories have been published in anthologies and literary journals. She lives in the Boston, Massachusetts area. www.lisabraxton.com
Disclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to Inanna Publications and Lisa Braxton for this free copy. All quotes in this review are taken from the Advanced Reader Copy and may change in final publication.
Goodreads talks about how this novel is focused around gentrification in the United States, something that is very rarely seen in literature if at all. To be frank, I don’t recall seeing any novels that have come across my feed focusing on gentrification, both in the United States and as a whole. So I was really interested to see how Braxton was going to write this historical fiction novel on a topic that certainly makes me feel all types of things.
I also feel like maybe not everyone is fully aware of what gentrification is defined as and/or hasn’t ever seen something like this happen near them. Even if that’s the case, I think at least researching what it is would be helpful for those that are thinking about learning more about this subject, and why Braxton decided to do a historical fiction novel on this topic.
Gentrification: the process of renovating and improving a house or district so that it conforms to middle-class taste.
Through the eyes of three different main characters, Braxton is able to expertly tell audiences why gentrification can have a lasting, negative effect on the communities that it impacts, and how it impacts the Black and brown people within those communities. If someone has never experienced this phenomenon before, it may be harder to understand or feel some sort of empathy for the people it affects because you aren’t affected personally. But its books like these and other stories out there that should be giving you some insight on what it means to not have the privilege that you grew up having, and think about others that don’t have a say in what is going on.