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Micro Review: Daphne Palasi Andreades's 'Brown Girls'
A blazingly original debut novel told by a chorus of unforgettable voices, Brown Girls illustrates a collective portrait of childhood, adulthood, and beyond, and is a striking exploration of female friendship, a powerful depiction of women of color attempting to forge their place in the world today. For even as the conflicting desires of ambition and loyalty, freedom and commitment, adventure and stability risk dividing them, it is to one another—and to Queens—that the girls ultimately return.
Micro Review by Lauren Brooks
Brown Girls by Daphne Palasi Andreades is not only a brilliantly lyrical debut novel but also a love letter to the experience of girls of color in Queens, New York, and the experience of growing up in America as the daughter of an immigrant family. The novel follows an entire generation of “brown girls” from childhood through adulthood, focusing on the collective experience rather than the experiences of individual characters. Names are central to the book, expressing the importance of names as cultural inheritance while reminding us that the experiences described throughout the novel are both collective and nuanced. Brown Girls serves as a reminder that regardless of our cultural backgrounds, “brown girls” have many shared experiences that indelibly bind us together.
As a half-Taiwanese individual, I was instantly warmed by Palasi Andreades’s generous categorization of who is included as a “brown girl.” As someone of East Asian heritage, I had never thought of myself as “brown,” but within the pocket of Queens, the book describes all “non-White-European” women, even if their skin was the color of snow, as being “brown” in identity. Brown is not a label, nor a look, but rather a feeling and connector between people.
At only 205 pages, this book sucked me in. I rushed through its rhythmic pages with a sense that as these “brown girls” collectively grew up and progressed into adulthood that I would see myself, better understand myself, and maybe even get a glimpse into my future. Perhaps this is why I found the ending particularly unsatisfying. Without any spoilers, I will say that it felt rushed and left me feeling incomplete and uninspired, unable to connect the experiences of being a woman of color with the timeliness of pandemic references or with the idea that intergenerational inheritance is our only lasting, or real, contribution in life. Regardless, the 196 pages before that final chapter still make this an entirely worthwhile and important read. TLDR: Read this book! You won’t regret it!
Lauren Brooks is a half-Taiwanese writer of fiction and poetry. In addition to her work as a full-time nonprofit fundraiser, she manages a book review blog, where she reviews both titles by AAPI writers and international works that have been translated into English. She is also an inaugural member of Feminist Press' Young Feminist Leaders Council. Follow her on Instagram @literarybread for more reviews and updates on her writing!