Review: Daughters of Jubilation

Title: Daughters of Jubilation
Author: Kara Lee Corthron
Genres: Fantasy, Historical
Pages: 352
Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Review Copy: Received ARC from publisher
Availability: Available now

Summary: In the Jim Crow South, white supremacy reigns and tensions are high. But Evalene Deschamps has other things to worry about. She has two little sisters to look after, an overworked single mother, and a longtime crush who is finally making a move.

On top of all that, Evvie’s magic abilities are growing stronger by the day. Her family calls it jubilation—a gift passed down from generations of black women since the time of slavery. And as Evvie’s talents waken, something dark comes loose and threatens to resurface…

And when the demons of Evvie’s past finally shake free, she must embrace her mighty lineage, and summon the power that lies within her.

Review: [Content notes: This book includes sexual assault, rape, racial slurs, strangulation, drowning, and lynching.]

DAUGHTERS OF JUBILATION is a very good book. It is also a difficult one to read. Author Kara Lee Corthron doesn’t try to hide the horrors of Jim Crow South Carolina and ensures that the reader understands the ties between slavery, Jim Crow, and the present day in multiple ways. There’s Jubilation, of course, the magical thread that connects mothers and daughters and future generations, but there are also non-magical things, like naming monuments/geographic features/etc. after Confederate “heroes” or Evvie briefly meeting a woman who had born into slavery. The past isn’t over—it continues to affect Evvie’s present and the readers’ present. That frankness about history permeates DAUGHTERS OF JUBILATION in other ways, from honest talks about sex to trying to survive unjust systems and the horrible people that take advantage of them.

Evvie is a delightful protagonist, and I truly enjoyed her voice and her character arc. Some of the best scenes in the book were her trying to master control of Jubilation with her grandmother. Evvie’s struggles, triumphs, and relationships were always compelling. I was very fond of her relationship with Clay, especially since he and Evvie took the time to have important conversations when they were needed. That’s one of the many strengths in this book—characters having difficult conversations with each other, especially when they’re not on the same page.

DAUGHTERS OF JUBILATION is a suspenseful read. Corthron does a fantastic job of balancing Evvie’s powers against the threats in her life, so much show that every close call, every terrible encounter is harrowing and unnerving. As another character tells Evvie in the book, Jubilation is a survival tool. And it is one Evvie definitely needs in a society that’s actively hostile to her.

Recommendation: Get it soon. DAUGHTERS OF JUBILATION is a fascinating mix of the historical and the magical, and it doesn’t shy away from difficult topics. Evvie’s journey to learn more about Jubilation and to use it to survive the danger that reappeared in her life makes for a compelling, and sometimes upsetting, read. If you can handle the content notes above and you like historical fantasy, you should add this book to your TBR list.

Extras:
Kara Lee Corthron, author of Daughters of Jubilation at Feminist Book Club

Interview with Author Kara Lee Corthron at WOC Read

Daughters of Jubilation Reflections/Review & Favorite Quotes at Books with Brandie Shanae

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