Hello, my name is WildNightIn, and I have an addiction to retellings of Jane Austen novels. If you’ve gone out on a limb and guessed that “Pride” is a retelling of “Pride and Prejudice“, then you are 100% correct. But if you think you already know how this story is going to pan out then you, my friend, are going to be pleasantly surprised.
“Pride” by Ibi Zoboi is set in Bushwick, (a part of Brooklyn in New York if, like me, you’re not great at US geography) and follows the clash of cultures that ensues when the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street from the Benitez clan.
As you can imagine, there is a world of difference between Austen’s story and Zoboi’s. It all starts with Zoboi’s willingness to use a love story to examine the thorny issues of race, and class. The infamous story of misunderstandings between Zuri Benitez, and Darius Darcy feels almost like a sub-plot in this exploration of cultural heritage, urban gentrification, and social class. This is not in any way a criticism: with some Pride and Prejudice retellings one gets the feeling that the story is fumbling through a tired formula to an inevitable conclusion. You know the ones I mean? Where afterwards you sit there thinking, “but why on earth did they get together? That guy’s a pig!/ She is horrible!”
“Pride” breaks that formula. Instead it uses Darcy’s character to set up some incredibly interesting discussions that challenge both his and Zuri’s perceptions on issues that drive them apart, and then gradually bring them together. At times I wished that Zoboi could have gone even further in her discussions about intersectional equality but recognise that this would have slowed the story’s pace to a glacial drip. But we can’t get everything we wish for, and this was the sort of trade off I was willing to put up with in a book.
As I’m on a bit of an audiobook auto-pilot, I listened to the audiobook version of this instead of reading a printed version. Elizabeth Acevedo, a Carnegie Medal winning author in her own right, brought a fire and realness to the words quite beyond anything my British brain would have been able to imagine. In the story, Zuri writes poetry and excerpts of her poems are scattered throughout the book. As Acevado is a poet, she absolutely gets the poetry as she says it. If you get the chance to listen to the audiobook version, I thoroughly recommend it. It is a treat.
Overall: I found Zoboi’s “Pride” a fresh re-telling that hooked me in and introduced me to multi-faceted characters who lived in a very real world. Zuri’s love for her neighbourhood, and knowledge of its history was so profound that I stopped reading on several occasions and actually went for “walks” around the places the story was set in on Google’s Street Map.
Read as part of the Cold Winter Challenge and for HPOOTP: Flourish and Blotts Challenge