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50 pages 1 hour read

N. K. Jemisin

The City We Became

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2020

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Symbols & Motifs

The Color White

Racial identity looms large in The City We Became. Jemisin’s characters are clearly delineated: They are either people of color or they are White, and the two sides tend to be separated by a wide moral canyon. Everything white in the narrative—the Woman in White, the white tendrils, White cops, and R’lyeh’s white city—represents infestation, decay, and destruction. While her main protagonists exhibit more nuance, they are by and large noble warriors. The stark divide that Jemisin draws between White and non-White pulls the narrative into the realm of allegory, preaching the gospel of social justice loudly and unapologetically. With White supremacy on the rise—or at least more willing to show its face in public—Jemisin’s tale of malevolent Whiteness is cautionary and timely.

Cash/Credit

When Manny and Bel encounter the white tendrils in Inwood Hill Park, Manny makes an intuitive connection between his innate city power and money. Throwing cash and a credit card in the path of the encroaching enemy slows it down just long enough for Brooklyn to arrive and finish the job. Each avatar draws their power from some quality innate to their borough, and for Manny, that quality is commerce.

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