Title: Nigeria Jones
Author: Ibi Zoboi
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Review Copy: ARC by publisher
Availability: Available now
That’s what Nigeria’s father calls her. He’s raised her as part of the Movement, a Black separatist group based in Philadelphia. Nigeria is homeschooled and vegan and participates in traditional rituals that connect her and other kids from the group to their ancestors. But when her mother—the perfect matriarch to their Movement—disappears, Nigeria’s world is upended. She finds herself taking care of her baby brother and stepping into a role she doesn’t want.
Nigeria’s mother had secrets. She wished for a different life for her children, which includes sending her daughter to a private Quaker school outside of their strict group. Despite her father’s disapproval, Nigeria attends the school with her cousin, Kamau, and Sage, who used to be a friend. There, she slowly begins to blossom and expand her universe.
As Nigeria searches for her mother, she starts to uncover a shocking truth. One that will lead her to question everything she thought she knew about her life and her family.
From award-winning author Ibi Zoboi comes a searing, powerful coming-of-age story about discovering who you are in the world—and fighting for that person—by having the courage to remix the founding tenets of your life to be your own revolution.
Review: Ibi Zoboi’s newest is really a telling of revolution – specifically individual revolution. It is a moving story, one experienced by many teens, as they desire to break away from their parents and find their own path. Those moments are crucially developmentally, but are often fraught with tension as parents and teens battle in a conflict for independence. Teens want more, want to express who they truly are and parents only wish for their child to be safe, to accomplish the dreams the parents had for their child. By setting this novel amongst a Black separatist group, Zoboi really highlights this conflict between child and parent.
Because of her mother’s disappearance, Nigeria is at an age where she is starting to question everything, including her father who is the leader of their Movement. She’s always believe what her father has taught her, but now she wonders if maybe his beliefs are too extreme and maybe there is a different way to bring about change. Having her mother missing, Nigeria starts to see how patriarchal the Movement is and how some parts of the Movement are toxic. As she searches for the reasons why her mother left, she learns more and more about the world outside of her little bubble. She begins to push back against her father, creating some epic arguments, and sneaks out behind his back. She decides to attend the same school her cousin Kamau goes to and her world is broadened. She meets all sorts of different people, including being around the most White people she has ever been in her life. She experiences microagressions and must decide how to react (sometimes she gets it right, sometimes she doesn’t) and eventually begins flirting with White boy named Liam, whom she knows if her father were to find out he would lose his mind. I actually loved Nigeria’s revolution because her story showed that not all revolutions result in a teen acting out. Sometimes they just want to find their own path, create their own destiny. Nigeria was torn between the love of her little brother, her friends in the Movement’s Youth Group, and even the love she had for her father. She knew she was fighting against her father’s expectations of her but she made those decisions anyway. Nigeria’s parents had raised a very smart, head strong young adult, and when Nigeria decided to break away from the Movement it was not just an emotional decision, but one she had truly thought over. Her growth throughout the story was truly inspiring.
There is a plot twist in the novel that I could see coming, sorta, because I was wrong about what actually happened, but when it was revealed my heart broke for Nigeria. At the same time, though, I realized the twist is what set her on her journey of revolution and she would be stronger once she understood what happened with the twist. I know that my last statement doesn’t make much sense, but you just have to read the book to find out.
I absolutely love Ibi Zoboi’s novels and Nigeria Jones is no different. This is a moving story that will drag you in with the wonderful characters who fill Nigeria’s world and her fight for independence.