That’s what Nigeria’s father calls her. He’s raised her as part of the Movement, a Black separatist group based in Philadelphia. Nigeria is homeschooled and vegan and participates in traditional rituals that connect her and other kids from the group to their ancestors. But when her mother—the perfect matriarch to their Movement—disappears, Nigeria’s world is upended. She finds herself taking care of her baby brother and stepping into a role she doesn’t want.
Nigeria’s mother had secrets. She wished for a different life for her children, which includes sending her daughter to a private Quaker school outside of their strict group. Despite her father’s disapproval, Nigeria attends the school with her cousin, Kamau, and Sage, who used to be a friend. There, she slowly begins to blossom and expand her universe.
As Nigeria searches for her mother, she starts to uncover a shocking truth. One that will lead her to question everything she thought she knew about her life and her family.
From award-winning author Ibi Zoboi comes a searing, powerful coming-of-age story about discovering who you are in the world—and fighting for that person—by having the courage to remix the founding tenets of your life to be your own revolution.
Title : Nigeria Jones
Author : Ibi Zoboi
Format : eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Balzer + Bray
Release Date : May 9, 2023
Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated
Hollis’ unrated review
Here I am, once again, coming out of a read by Zoboi that I was so excited for.. and just not feeling any of that excitement by the end of it all. I think maybe, as much as I’m enthralled by the author, excited by what they are putting out in the world, it’s just maybe not meant to be for me.
I was lucky enough to attend an event and see Zoboi speak, and speak particularly about this book, and I was just star struck. I was so hooked by how they described this story, this journey, and how it related to them personally, and I was desperate to read it. So ending up here, with this result, is a bummer.
A lot of what Zoboi has done with this story is put the usual tropes of similar journeys on their head and flipped them. This isn’t the slow understanding of injustice and systemic racism and oppression. This is from the point of view of someone who has lived and breathed this knowledge since infancy. Equally, instead of being someone who has broken down barriers and been integrated into a predominantly white school system, Nigeria’s father is actively trying to keep her out of said school because it is, well, a system. And instead he wants to her remain homeschooled with the eventual goal of realizing the Movement, allowing for a curriculum, and a safe space, untouched by white society and structure.
My father doesn’t want to change the world; he wants to create his own world.
But not free of the patriarchy, as Nigeria soon comes to realize.
Despite how interesting all of this was, I found myself hard pressed to push through this book. Despite the sympathy and concern and, well, rage, I felt for Nigeria, I was at equal turns frustrated and put off by her, too. I don’t know if it was the rougher cut of the ARC or how she was meant to be read but she flipflopped a lot from one mentality to the next and maybe that’s understandable with how she was raised vs what she was experiencing but it was very inconsistent. Equally, with all this heaviness, I struggled to connect or at least enjoy the characters, any character, and I’m not sure I found a single one. Maybe KD? Or maybe she was the one I liked because she was easy to like. I don’t know.
I also wasn’t all that surprised by the ‘twist’, if we can call it that, and I just kept waiting for that shoe to drop.
I don’t know, I’m all mixed about this one. So I’m taking the easy way out and leaving this unrated. I am sad about this result but I’m hopeful this was just a case of wrong time for me to read this or maybe, again, I’m just not able to connect with the author’s words despite loving their concepts. So I definitely would not discourage you from picking this up, in fact it’s the opposite. I highly recommend you give this a go. Because frustration with Nigeria’s character and circumstance aside, it’s a whole new perspective on a similar story and I think it’s incredibly important.
[..] where do we draw a line between the harmful ideas our loved ones perpetuate and our own journeys to find meaning and truth in the world?
And hey maybe I wasn’t supposed to enjoy it, just learn from it. And I did. But I also like to enjoy my reads and sadly, as I didn’t, well, here we are.
** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **