Book Talk: Pride by Ibi Zoboi

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Talk: Pride by Ibi ZoboiPride by Ibi Zoboi
Published by Balzer + Bray on September 18, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Retelling
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Pride and Prejudice gets remixed in this smart, funny, gorgeous retelling of the classic, starring all characters of color, from Ibi Zoboi, National Book Award finalist and author of American Street.

Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.

When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.

But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, cute boy Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering on the horizon, Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick’s changing landscape, or lose it all.

In a timely update of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, critically acclaimed author Ibi Zoboi skillfully balances cultural identity, class, and gentrification against the heady magic of first love in her vibrant reimagining of this beloved classic.

It is a truth universally acknowledge that if anything Pride and Prejudice-related comes out, Christina absolutely must have it. Pride is my first book by Ibi Zoboi, so I didn’t quite know what to expect, but I fell in love with the concept and the cover (that blend of classic and modern is perfection) instantly. Plus, I’d heard great things about American Street, which was another encouraging sign. Pride absolutely lives up to the all of that awesomeness. Pride‘s a clever modernization of Pride and Prejudice, taking the classic romance and turning it into a novel about gentrification.

In terms of how well-thought-out the modernization is, Pride ranks with The Lizzy Bennet Diaries. Though Pride isn’t as closely aligned to the original, its inspiration is clear. Zoboi’s very wise in what she cuts, what she changes, and what she keeps. Through it all, there’s a very strong sense of the original, but Pride is also something special all its own, which is the absolute best thing you can get from a retelling of a classic.

Zuri Benitez is the second oldest of five daughters. The girls are well-known and the family highly respected in their neighborhood of Bushwick. Zuri loves her home, and both she and her older sister Janae dream of returning after college to work and live there. She loves the neighborhood as it is, with everyone hanging out on their stoops and stopping by for some of her mom’s food; she resents the changes to the area: the white people taking over the park, the “organic” labels at the grocery raising the prices, and most of all the mini-mansion that went up in the abandoned lot across the street from their apartment building.

In this retelling, Darcy and Bingley are brothers: Darius and Ainsley Darcy, respectively. Ainsley’s a year older than Darius, and their family has moved into the mini-mansion across the street. Making them brothers was a smart decision, and it simplifies a lot of elements for a modern setting. Ainsley and Janae have the whole insta-romance thing going, and Darius and Zuri immediately develop a tense dislike for one another, because she disapproves of his discomfort at the block party.

The romance elements of Pride and Prejudice are rather diminished and made more anticlimactic for the most part. There’s very little of Janae’s romance with Ainsley, which is much more in the background than in the original. Even Darius and Zuri have less of a slow burn feel to them, and the dynamics are admittedly different. Zoboi does a great job with making the book about discrepancies in economic class, while also highlighting how modernization both has and has not changed the barriers between people.

The writing’s absolutely gorgeous, and I actually didn’t even mind the diminished romance because the story remained so engrossing. I loved seeing the ways Zoboi adapted the basic frame, and the way the interpersonal dynamics changed with the setting and having a cast made almost entirely of Black people.

Her narrative choices make such good sense, and it’s clear that she understood the key elements of Pride and Prejudice enough to make changes without removing the parts that make it work. Zuri and Darius differ from Lizzie and Darcy, but the core elements are the same: Zuri, vocal and defensive and unwilling to let anyone look down on her, and Darius, uncomfortable in a new milieu and awkward around unfamiliar people. The update to Mr. Collins and Charlotte is especially fun, with him made into a thirsty dude. The modernized Wickham works, as does the handling of the Georgiana and Lydia elements. As expected, Mama Benitez is gossipy and fabulous, though without the silliness of Mrs. Bennet, which I liked.

After this fantastic book, I know I’m going to be reading whatever Zoboi writes, starting with going back to American Street. She’s a massive talent, and I’m so impressed with her deft hand at retelling.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

6 responses to “Book Talk: Pride by Ibi Zoboi”

  1. lenore says:

    OOOH! Cannot wait. She graduated from VCFA the semester I started and her grad reading had me absolutely mesmerized.
    lenore recently posted…2017 in Review – MusicMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      She does VCFA proud. Her prose is gorgeoussssssss. I love it so much. Hers was one of a handful of short stories that I really liked in Meet Cute. She’s an author I’ll read pretty much regardless of subject matter, I think.

  2. I love any and all Pride and Prejudice retellings, so this one has had my eye for a while! I’m so glad you enjoyed it, because now, I have even more of an excuse to pick it up! 🙂
    Savannah @ Playing in the Pages recently posted…Review: She Caused a RiotMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      I’m very picky about my P&P retellings, and Zoboi’s on point. For me, it’s all about understanding the dynamics that really make P&P tick, and I think she was very mindful of that with her decisions. It’s very different from the original, more about the social/societal dynamics than the romance really, but it somehow works because she put that work in.

  3. Nori says:

    I’m so glad you thought this was good. It’s had my eye for a while, and I have hyped it up in my head. So, it could go either way….But now I can’t wait to read it. I also love Pride and Prejudice books, any Austen re-telings really.
    Nori recently posted…The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny HanMy Profile

  4. I’m so glad you loved this too because I loved it and I don’t know anyone else who did. I thought it was excellent!! Perfect mixture of obvious P&P and new original settings/characters. Every time I saw a new parallel I smiled to myself. I wasn’t in love with the poetry but it worked for Zuri’s character. And I really liked her relationship with Darcy even if it wasn’t as slow burn.
    Morgan @ The Bookish Beagle recently posted…Mini Review Monday: Mask of Shadows and The TombMy Profile

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