50 pages 1 hour read

N. K. Jemisin

The City We Became

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2020

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Themes

White Displacement of Communities of Color

Jemisin is not shy or subtle about tackling themes of race, and White incursion into communities of color is primary among them. Jemisin’s New York is a city built on the backs of Black, Latino, and indigenous people who have suffered exclusion and marginalization. Yet these communities have persevered as they try to build and sustain livable neighborhoods for themselves, only to be driven out by escalating rents when more affluent Whites move in. San Francisco’s Mission District, for example, has long been a multiethnic hub of art and cheap food, but when tech entrepreneurs moved in, much of the diverse flavor was lost. Brooklyn, for decades a borough of diverse ethnic groups coexisting side by side—not always peacefully, admittedly—has become much like R’lyeh’s city: renovated brownstones adjacent to perfectly manicured parks, in neighborhoods so pricey that low-income residents who once might have carved out a meager existence there have been driven out completely. Much like the Dutch who purchased—or swindled—the island of Manhattan from the Lenape Indians, White displacement of people of color has a long and notorious history, and history, if left unchecked and unexamined, repeats itself.

In The City We Became, this phenomenon is a tsunami of Whiteness, often nameless and faceless.

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