In her debut novel, Brown Girls, Filipina author Daphne Palasi Andreades delves deep into the lives of young women of colour growing up in Queens, New York. The city's streets echo with many languages, subways rumble above dollar stores, and the scent of the ocean wafts in from Rockaway Beach. Against this backdrop, brown girls struggle to reconcile their immigrant backgrounds with the American culture they come of age in.
Brown Girls is a fantastically executed novel. Andreades's writing is lyrical, with each chapter reading like a poetical masterpiece. But the real standout is Andreades’s highly original use of the first-person collective narrative. The voice of the "we" serves as a chorus of brown girls and women of colour. This narrative choice is highly effective as it speaks to how, in America, no matter their race, women of colour are treated much the same. So long as they are not white, they face similar instances of discrimination. The girls are also connected by their shared sense of place. Andreades sets the novel in Queens, vividly describing it as a melting pot of races and classes. The girls must learn to navigate Queens as part of their coming-of-age journey.
What's more, it was wonderful to see Andreades give a voice to the marginalised and the unseen as she depicts the microaggressions faced by women of colour in the United States. For example, the girls have their names mixed up by teachers, who blend all their brown faces into one. Meanwhile, their brothers are sent to prison and the girls are trailed by security guards when they enter a shop. By speaking to their experiences, Andreades ensures that the struggles of brown girls no longer go unobserved.
Overall, Brown Girls is a stunning tribute to women of colour that seethes with life and emotion. Andreades' skill and talent are evident throughout, making this a riveting novel that will stay with readers long after they turn the last page.