Austen of the New World

It is a truth universally acknowledged that, as an Austen fan, it is impossible to avoid all the many adaptations, sequels and prequels that her novels have inspired. They really do run the gamut of literature. From thoughtful historical fiction such as Jo Baker’s ‘Longbourne’ to modern treatments of characters and plotlines as seen in the likes of ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ or Sonali Dev’s recent contemporary romance series. Many of these are fun, enjoyable reads. Other’s will widen your awareness of the world the original texts inhabited. Few actually manage to, in some way, capture the original spirit of Austen’s novels yet create something completely new. BorrowBox features quite a number of Austen adaptations but of them all, the audiobook of Pride: A Pride and Prejudice remix by Ibi Zoboi read by author and spoken word poet Elizabeth Acevedo has to be my favourite.

“It’s a truth universally acknowledged that when rich people move into the hood, where it’s a little bit broken and a little bit forgotten, the first thing they want to do is clean it up. But it’s not just the junky stuff they’ll get rid of. People can be thrown away too, like last night’s trash left out on sidewalks or pushed to the edge of wherever all broken things go. What those rich people don’t always know is that broken and forgotten neighborhoods were first built out of love.” Ibi Zoboi

Zoboi takes Regency England and replaces it with a rapidly gentrifying neighbourhood in Brooklyn. With Zuri Benitez as our narrator and main character, the story immediately becomes more intimate and necessarily modern while we follow her on her journey towards college. With the wealthy Darcy family moving on to her street, we see her fight to balance her pride in her Afro-Latino heritage and her home, with her realisation that progress and growth can’t be stopped.

Zoboi transforms Austen’s novel into a YA tale full of poetry and heart. She keeps all the character dynamics so beloved in the source material but adds depth through her exploration of cultural identity, class and the inevitable sense of loss which comes with growing up. It would be remiss not to note that so much of what brings this novel to life is the narration by Elizabeth Acevedo. Her spoken word credentials are clear in her lyrical, bold vocals and add hugely to the experience of reading this book.

This book is an ideal gateway book for younger readers who may be looking to start reading Austen but aren’t quite ready to make the jump. It’s also an timely book whose explorations of race and the nature of belonging will make it an addition to Austen fans and readers everywhere.

Review by Lori Moriarty


Titles by Ibi Zoboi Punching the Air (with Yusef Salaam), My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich, Black Enough, Pride

Titles by Elizabeth Acevedo Clap when you land, With the fire on high





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