Title: Brown Girls
Author: Daphne Palasi Andreades Publisher: Fourth Estate, HarperCollins UK
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Literary Fiction
This book reminded me so much of The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, of course, barring the fact that in Brown Girls we are exposed to a variety of voices – of all brown girls trying to navigate and find their way in the world. While Cisneros’s work was about the coming-of-age of one young girl, Brown Girls is the story of many. It also somewhere down the line becomes the story of the marginalised, the unseen, the unobserved, the ones who are struggling every single day to make their presence felt.
Brown Girls is about young women of colour – across ethnicities, growing up in Queens, and it is their stories that are told from one chapter to the other. This book also reads like a memoir sometimes – I am sure though some portions are reflective of the author’s life.
Brown Girls is a novel that speaks of the loneliness of young girls, the losses that they do not speak of, the secrets they don’t confide in anyone but each other, and the ones that are hidden even from themselves. It is a book of how brown girls are alienated and how they are almost given a handbook to be followed by their family and the outside world as well.
Andreades touches on female friendships that are cohesive, argumentative, disruptive, and extremely volatile. It is written in the style of a chorus of immigrant voices – of daughters living on the margins of the American dream. The expectations of parents, their own desires and hopes, and the world that doesn’t allow them those benefits is the crux of the book. It is also mainly about survival.
The writing is strong, unifying, sometimes speaking of identity as a whole, and sometimes right down to individuals. The complex nuances of race and identity surface with every chapter in a different way and compels readers to see what Andreades wants them to.