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American Street author Ibi Zoboi is following up on her widely acclaimed debut with a little Pride.
Zoboi’s upcoming novel centers on Zuri Benitez, a young woman with four wild sisters who’s contending with a rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood. 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 — that is, until they’re forced to find common ground and they start to bond.
If this sounds at all like a timely update of Pride and Prejudice, that’s very much by design. Zoboi, a National Book Award finalist for American Street, explores cultural identity, class, and gentrification against the heady magic of first love in this new book. The author has exclusively shared the book’s cover (with art by Billelis and T.S. Abe) with EW, as well as an excerpt. Read on below, and pre-order Pride here ahead of its Sept. 18 release.
Excerpt from Pride, by Ibi Zoboi
The new owners are moving into the mini-mansion across the street today. For the last few months, construction crews have been giving that abandoned house an Extreme Makeover: Bushwick Edition. They gutted and renovated the best thing on our block—that run-down, weed-infested, boarded-up house. Now it looks like something that belongs in the suburbs, with its wide double doors, sparkling windows, and tiny manicured lawn.
I pull back the curtains to greet my little corner of Bushwick and Jefferson Avenues, my very own way of stretching out my arms and yawning at the morning sun.
Everything is how it’s supposed to be—except for that mini-mansion that’s like a newly polished pair of Jordans thrown in with a bunch of well-worn knockoffs.
Still, I remind myself that today is special, and I won’t let those new neighbors moving in mess that up. My big sister, Janae, is coming home from her first year of college. Mama’s got a Welcome Back dinner all planned out. I fluff up my thick, kinky fro and throw on an old pair of jean shorts. They’re hand-me-downs from Janae, and they’re even tighter than they were last summer. Mama has joked that my curves have finally kicked in at seventeen—not that I was waiting for them. The Haitian-Dominican Benitez sisters already get enough attention on the street and at school as it is.
I slept in late, but I can hear my younger sisters, Marisol, Layla, and Kayla, joking and laughing in the kitchen as they help Mama with the Welcome Back dinner—peeling batatas, seasoning the chicken, boiling the habichuelas, and soaking the dry salted fish for bacalao. Papi must be sleeping in because he worked overtime last night, and I know he wants to avoid all that noise. I get it, though.
I’m about to head into the kitchen when I see it. Across the street, a blacked-out SUV pulls up in front of the new mini-mansion. They’re here! We all took bets on what these fools were going to look like—black and rich, or white and rich. One thing’s for sure: they had to be rich to move into that house. The passenger side door opens and—never one to lose a bet—I yell out at the top of my lungs, “The rich people are here!”
In no time, Marisol, who’s two years younger, is standing right beside me. Not because she’s the fastest, but because she has the most to lose with this bet. Me and my money-hungry sister, aka Money Love Mari, bet a whole twenty dollars that it’s a young white family moving in, because that’s what’s been happening all over Bushwick.
“Come on, white boy, come on,” Marisol says while clapping and pushing up her thick glasses. “Let’s make this money!”
But a black woman gets out from the passenger side, just as Layla walks in and shouts, “Yes! We won! Give us our money!” She and her twin, Kayla, bet that it would be a rapper or a basketball player and his supermodel wife, and we’d all be famous by association.
But then the driver hops out, along with two passengers, and we can’t believe our eyes. Stepping out of the back of the car are two of the finest boys we’ve ever seen. Fine, black teenage boys. Marisol and I have definitely lost the bet, but no one cares.
The entire family gathers on the sidewalk and look as if they’ve stepped into a different country. The woman is wearing all white, as if she’s going to a fancy boat party, and uses her sunglasses to push back her long, shiny hair. The man has on a sky-blue button-down shirt with rolled-up sleeves, and he keeps his sunglasses on. And then there are those two boys.
“Oh. My. God!” Layla is the first to say anything, as usual. “Who are they?”
“Rappers and ballers! Give us our money, Marisol,” Kayla says.
“No they’re not! Those boys look like they’re from One Direction or something,” Layla says. “Look at how they’re dressed. I know a baller when I see one. And no rapper will be wearing them kinda shoes.”
“They’re more like Wrong Direction. They don’t look like they belong here,” I say.
“But they’re cute. Are they our age? Let’s go say hi.” Kayla grabs her twin’s hand and rushes out of the bedroom.
“Zuri! You coming?” Kayla yells from downstairs.
Outside, Marisol and Layla are already across the street, talking with the two boys. Their parents must have gone inside. Kayla grabs my arm, and before I know it, I’m headed across the street too. My little sister is holding my hand like I’m some kid, but by the time we step onto the curb, I pull away from her and cross my arms.
Both of the boys look to be about my age, seventeen or so. They have smooth brown faces that look unreal—the forehead, eyebrows, and cheekbones of models. One of them is a little taller and slimmer than the other, but they definitely look alike. They have to be brothers. The shorter one has a head full of thick hair and, even though he’s shorter than his brother, he still towers over my sisters and me. The tall, slim one has a close-cropped fade with a hard jawline that moves from side to side as if he’s gnashing his teeth. I try hard not to stare, but it doesn’t really matter—my sisters are already holding it down in the thirst department.
“And this is ZZ from the block. Aka Zuri Luz Benitez.” Layla pronounces my whole name while pointing at me.
“Hi, it’s just Zuri,” I say, holding out my hand to the taller boy with the fade. “My friends call me ZZ.”
“Darius.” He takes my hand but only grabs the tips of my fingers and shakes them softly. I quickly pull away, but he keeps staring down at me out from under his thick eyelashes.
“What?” I say.
“Nothing,” this boy named Darius says as he rubs his chin and fidgets with his collar. He’s still looking at me.
So I roll my eyes at him. But I can still feel him staring even as I turn my whole body away from him and face his brother.
“I’m Ainsley,” the other boy says, giving me a firm shake. “We, uh, just moved in. Obviously!”
“Nice to meet you,” I reply, using the good manners that Mama has drilled into us.
“Totally! I can’t wait to explore Bushwick. Your sister has been telling us all about it,” Ainsley says. He’s smiling way too hard. but still, he’s nice, like a happy puppy in a handmade sweater that the white people in our hood like to walk around, while Darius seems more like a cranky bodega cat. “And please ignore my baby brother, he’s just grumpy that we had to leave Manhattan.”
“Dude, hey, I am not grumpy. It’s just an . . . adjustment,” Darius says, crossing his arms.
“What a hard adjustment for you,” I say, my curiosity about these boys turning off like a switch. I don’t appreciate anyone throwing shade at my neighborhood, especially from people who say words like “totally” and “dude.” I give Darius my mean Bushwick mug, but it doesn’t seem to register. He just stands there with his upper lip curled up as if he’s smelling his own stank attitude.