Synopses & Reviews
An elegant, vibrant, startling coming-of-age novel, for anyone who's ever felt the shame of being alive.
Kenya Curtis is only eight years old, but she knows that she's different, even if she can't put her finger on how or why. It's not because she's black — most of the other students in the fourth-grade class at her West Philadelphia elementary school are too. Maybe it's because she celebrates Kwanzaa, or because she's forbidden from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Maybe it's because she calls her father — a housepainter-slash-philosopher — “Baba” instead of “Daddy,” or because her parent's friends gather to pour out libations “from the Creator, for the Martyrs” and discuss “the community.”
Kenya does know that it's connected to what her Baba calls “the shame of being alive” — a shame that only grows deeper and more complex over the course of Asali Solomon's long-awaited debut novel. Disgruntled, effortlessly funny and achingly poignant, follows Kenya from West Philadelphia to the suburbs, from public school to private, from childhood through adolescence, as she grows increasingly disgruntled by her inability to find any place or thing or person that feels like home.
A coming-of-age tale, a portrait of Philadelphia in the late eighties and early nineties, an examination of the impossible double-binds of race, Disgruntled is a novel about the desire to rise above the limitations of the narratives were given and the painful struggle to craft fresh ones we can call our own.
“Disgruntled is tender, hilarious, perfectly remembered and rendered, that rare book that is both wildly imaginative and thrillingly true to life. Get Down established Asali Solomon as one of the finest writers of her generation; Disgruntled narrows it down to one of the finest writers alive.” Elizabeth McCracken, author of Thunderstruck & Other Stories
“Preternaturally observant and mordantly funny, Kenya is a hypnotic narrator coping valiantly with an increasingly bewildering life...navigating the chill of a private, primarily white high school and dreaming of college. Solomon's cultural references resound, her dialogue stings, and the intricate and surprising relationships she choreographs are saturated with racial, sexual, and political quandaries of intimate and epochal repercussions....Deft, knowing, bold, and witty.” Booklist (starred review)
About the Author
Asali Solomon received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers Award for the stories later collected in Get Down, her first book; the volume was also a finalist for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. In 2007 she was named one of the National Book Foundations 5 Under 35. Solomon teaches English at Haverford College. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and two sons.