cover image Assembly


Natasha Brown. Little, Brown, $25 (112p) ISBN 978-0-316-26826-4

Brown’s provocative and lyrical debut follows a young Black British woman’s navigation of the racism and sexism at her investment banking job while she contends with a breast cancer diagnosis. Brown opens with three third-person vignettes describing an unnamed woman’s sexual harassment from a man she works with, who calls her hair “wild” and her skin “exotic,” then shifts to a first-person account from an unnamed woman, possibly the same one, of why she chose to work for banks. “I understood what they were. Ruthless, efficient money-machines with a byproduct of social mobility.” Her “Lean In feminist” work friend thinks the narrator’s white boyfriend will propose during an upcoming visit to his parents’ estate, but the narrator can tell her would-be mother-in-law hopes it’s a passing fling. Before the trip, she gets the results of a biopsy and tells her boyfriend there’s nothing to worry about. She also reflects ominously on the doctor’s admonishment on her resistance to getting surgery (“that’s suicide”), and on the notion that a successful Black person can ever “transcend” race. References to bell hooks’s writing on decolonization and Claudia Rankine’s concept of “historical selves” bolster her fierce insights. This is a stunning achievement of compressed narrative and fearless articulation. (Sept.)