photo credit: Vox / Little A
Let me start of by saying that as 2018 approached, I felt a TREMENDOUS amount to pressure to choose the next book I would read.
I know… silly, right?
But I felt that with the late start I had in staying true to my New Year’s resolutions, I had to just relax. And by relax, I mean quit dwelling on the things I CAN’T control and begin focusing on what I CAN.
Things I can’t control: other people’s opinions, what my bosses assign me at work, what my roommates do, the state of our country… basically, an infinite amount of things.
Things I can control: My attitude, how I handle things, how I manage my time, how to do things that make me happy, WHAT BOOK I READ… not as many as the first list, but a lot more than what I’ve just written.
Boy, did I take that last one to heart. I love to read, and figured the first book I ready of 2018 would really set the tone for what is shaping up to be another chaotic year. However, despite the unnecessary stress I put on myself to make what is usually a completely arbitrary choice…
I finally picked up Halsey Street.
Friends… I made the right choice.
Halsey Street is the stunning debut novel by Naima Coster.
It was released on the first of the new year.
photo credit: Jonathan Jimenez
The story takes us on the journey of 28-year-old Penelope Grand, an artist who moves from Pittsburgh to Brooklyn to care for her ailing father. The story unfolds beautifully between the past and “real-time,” all set against the disarming backdrop of gentrification.
Early in the book, we are introduced to the Harpers… the white family Penelope lives with because she just can’t bear the thought of living with her father again. The Harpers mirror everything Penelope isn’t; they have everything she doesn’t have. They’re white, well-off, and happy.
Noticeably absent from Penelope’s thoughts in the first chapter of the novel is her mother, Mirella. An intelligent, independent Dominicana, Mirella has struggled to maintain a relationship with her independent, multi-racial daughter.
Halsey Street compares and contrasts the lives of Penelope and Mirella, while skillfully pivoting between their strong voices. As the story unfolds with the Harper Family looming in the background, we see how thin family ties can quickly come unbound with the help of a drastically changing landscape.
WHY IT MATTERS
This novel offers a glimpse into the lives of people from marginalized communities, battling tooth-and-nail for their livelihood (and at the heart of it, very existence) due to the circumstances of an unjust society.
Halsey Street is the story of surviving in a world of racism, colorism, elitism, and suffocating inequities. It’s the story of driving oneself down a dark path to both conform to and rebel against what such a society demands of you.
It’s about crumbling family ties, and incredibly strong women.
If you can relate to the experiences described in Halsey Street, this book is for you.
If you can’t relate to the experiences described in the story, this book will educate you.