Novelist's 'Disgruntled' Heroine Is Drawn From Her Own Childhood
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies in for Terry Gross. Today we're going to listen to Terry's interview with Asali Solomon, whose novel's about a girl growing up in the '80s the daughter of black nationalist, Afrocentric parents. The book, "Disgruntled," is now out in paperback. Its main character, Kenya, feels like an outsider in her neighborhood school in West Philadelphia because she's such a dedicated student. But when she's sent to a private school, she's an outsider because she's one of the few African-American students. She feels guilty she's not measuring up to the model she thinks she's supposed to be portraying, the brilliant black girl, heir to those brave children in the South who'd shine their shoes each morning, only to get kicked and spat on in their fight for a good education. Many of the suburban white students assume everyone in Kenya's neighborhood is on welfare.
The novel's rich with observations about race, class, the impact of divorce on a child and growing up with a father sometimes uses his politics to justify irresponsible behavior. "Disgruntled" is Asali Solomon's first novel. Her previous book, "Get Down," is a collection of short stories. In 2007, she was named one of the National Book Foundation's 5 under 35. She teaches English literature and creative writing at Haverford College. Terry spoke to her last year.