Read Disgruntled by Asali Solomon Online

disgruntled

An elegant, vibrant, startling coming-of-age novel, for anyone who's ever felt the shame of being aliveKenya Curtis is only eight years old, but she knows that she's different, even if she can't put her finger on how or why. It's not because she's black—most of the other students in the fourth-grade class at her West Philadelphia elementary school are too. Maybe it's becauAn elegant, vibrant, startling coming-of-age novel, for anyone who's ever felt the shame of being aliveKenya Curtis is only eight years old, but she knows that she's different, even if she can't put her finger on how or why. It's not because she's black—most of the other students in the fourth-grade class at her West Philadelphia elementary school are too. Maybe it's because she celebrates Kwanzaa, or because she's forbidden from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Maybe it's because she calls her father—a housepainter-slash-philosopher—"Baba" instead of "Daddy," or because her parents' friends gather to pour out libations "from the Creator, for the Martyrs" and discuss "the community." Kenya does know that it's connected to what her Baba calls "the shame of being alive"—a shame that only grows deeper and more complex over the course of Asali Solomon's long-awaited debut novel. Disgruntled, effortlessly funny and achingly poignant, follows Kenya from West Philadelphia to the suburbs, from public school to private, from childhood through adolescence, as she grows increasingly disgruntled by her inability to find any place or thing or person that feels like home. A coming-of-age tale, a portrait of Philadelphia in the late eighties and early nineties, an examination of the impossible double-binds of race, Disgruntled is a novel about the desire to rise above the limitations of the narratives we're given and the painful struggle to craft fresh ones we can call our own....

Title : Disgruntled
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780374140342
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 285 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Disgruntled Reviews

  • Jennifer Lane
    2019-04-20 21:13

    Difficulty Discerning the Tone and MeaningApparently this author gave a wonderful interview on NPR about her book, leading my friend to choose it for book club. But I had difficulty understanding the author's message, and I didn't find a cohesive story that kept me turning the pages. So this ended up a DNF for me.Kenya is a girl growing up in Philadelphia in the 1980s. She feels like an outsider at school due to her family celebrating Kwanzaa instead of Christmas. Her only friend allays her fear of her parents divorcing by making Kenya kiss her. Kenya doesn't like these kisses but doesn't necessarily object. Then the fear of her parents divorcing hits Kenya as well.The most interesting and disturbing character is Kenya's father, Johnbrown. He wants to murder white people to retaliate for slavery and racism. I scratched my head trying to figure him out. I don't really know what the point of this story is. Johnbrown doesn't support the family financially, and at times mistreats Kenya and her mother. Johnbrown's mother sums up her son:"I guess I just wonder when he will take responsibility for his life. He's so stuck in the business about being black, like he's the first person to have that problem. I wonder when he will do right by the both of you."When Kenya shoots her mother while sleepwalking, and then the narrative brushes aside that incident as meaningless, I had enough. My struggle with the tone and meaning of the book made me put it aside.

  • Jeanne
    2019-04-04 18:06

    Disgruntled, by Asali Solomon, is a coming of age story set in the late 20th century, but also an odyssey through a series of strange and confusing contexts that help Kenya, the central character, set a course for her life. These strange situations seem both to be the problem she is attempting to avoid – earnest meetings of a Afrocentric group, a polygamous commune, a prep school, a goalless Party Central – and the force helping her identify a solution to that problem. Disgruntled explores how to go through life when the larger culture is oppressive, when you don't fit in, when you don't want to fit into what's there. It explores how to handle the shame of being alive ... the shame of being black and having a mere ten minutes to untangle your hair in the locker room after swimming (p. 66). The shame of living in a culture that excludes and puts down 10% of the population.Whites do not come off well in this book. With few exceptions, they are privileged, misguided, and superficial. They overlook Kenya's intelligence and sensitive observations, equating worth with skin color. Blacks do not come off much better, however. Most fawn over and attempt to ally with whites. They pretend to things they are not. There are two flawed heroes in Kenya's life: her parents. Her father was a weak, but charismatic Black Nationalist. However, Kenya's mother, who also went astray in the center of the book, had known that with Johnbrown in her life, Kenya could be proud of who she was. She wouldn’t grow up thinking that white people were gods or superheroes (p. 282). Bottom line: Kenya's parents loved her in their ways and ultimately gave her what she needed. Her father spent her childhood writing The Key, which initially proposed a vague philosophy, although later morphed into the story of the burning of Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin. By the end, she recognized the key to the next part of her life, the good part, was figuring out exactly what he did mean in The Key (p. 286).Kenya gives Disgruntled a warmth despite the significant difficulties its characters face (e.g., prison, drugs, betrayals, lies, pretense). Her voice prevents the book from devolving into nonproductive anger. She observes her parents, their friends, her peers, with compassion. While she does not always make good decisions, she responds with surprising restraint and wisdom. Her presence made this a novel that I finished and then immediately returned to. I didn't want to put it down.

  • Rachel Elizabeth
    2019-04-04 19:23

    I chose to read this book first and foremost because it's a Philly book, and I have read very few books set in Philly that (I think) truly capture the feel of this city. Disgruntled quickly moves from West Philly to Ardmore and Bryn Mawr, so it technically doesn't capture the working class center city Philly that I'm interested in, either. However, it is an excellent bildungsroman about an African American girl, Kenya, raised by a father who organizes a group sort of similar to MOVE (which I use as a point of reference because it's set in the 80's) and wants to live out of the mainstream despite growing up on the Main Line, and a mother who at heart wants to keep up with the Joneses. Asali Solomon's voice as third person narrator is unobtrusive, but she's quietly funny and sympathetic to Kenya, who finds herself some companionship but feels awkward and doesn't fully fit in anywhere. (view spoiler)[The end of the book is pretty upsetting. Kenya gets arrested and jailed for dealing marijuana because she leaves both of her parents' homes and the friend-sorta-with-benefits she crashes with turns out to be a dealer who uses her room for storage. This happens right after her plans to attend Wesleyan get thwarted because her father won't let her ask his wealthy white partner for money for tuition and her mother/mother's new husband are bankrupt, so she can't afford it. These are the quiet but very common things that snuff out someone's opportunity in life, and they just happen, and you've got to deal. For the whole book you hope Kenya gets something exceptional to break up the deflation, but you leave her in a worse situation than she started with -- by no fault of her own -- and it's disheartening, but real. Consequences don't always match action. (hide spoiler)]

  • Chris Blocker
    2019-04-02 13:33

    Here's the thing with this book: it lacks focus. It's an easy read and mildly enjoyable, the characters have potential. Parts of the story are certainly interesting and could stand on their own if given the time. But in this coming-of-age story, events are too quickly swept away and forgotten; a new direction is given and zoom, years pass by. The story lacks clear purpose, and though this may reflect the protagonist's issues with her own identity, it does not make for a good story.Certainly there is considerable talent shown in Disgruntled. The story is heartbreaking, riveting, and even funny at times. The characters could have brought things together if only I'd known their destination. I believe with a tighter story, Solomon could shine. She had me at moments, but in the end, I just felt lost.

  • Diana
    2019-04-20 15:24

    I heard Asali Solomon on the radio and immediately wanted to be friends with her. Seriously, I don't think an author interview ever made me like the hell out of anyone so much. She was warm, with just the wry kind of humor I enjoy. And her book is mostly set in her home town and mine, Philadelphia. So I was excited to get this.I was pleased by references to Frank Rizzo, Scrapple and Penn's Landing, and I always enjoyed my time with this book. She writes very rich believable characters, and it was interesting seeing race and class through her main character's eyes. That main character, Kenya, is the only child of parents who spend a lot of time and effort trying to improve things for the black community. She's an outsider in her West Philadelphia school, not allowed to watch sit-coms, eat pork or celebrate Christmas (her family celebrates Kwanzaa). Then things change for her family and she winds up at a private school in the suburbs, one of very few black students, so she's an outsider in a different way.I have to agree with readers who say that this novel didn't quite come together as a coming-of-age story. I just wanted maybe a tiny bit more resolution? That said, I'll read everything this author writes-- this was a pleasure. Plus, I still want to be friends with her.Listen to that Fresh Air interview here:http://www.npr.org/2015/02/05/3838363...

  • Linda
    2019-03-28 15:11

    Read my review here:https://lindasyearlybookchallenge.wor...

  • Megan
    2019-04-17 15:30

    Solomon's use of small details, and of smaller stories within the bigger one, is so effective. There's a richness to Kenya's world and her coming-of-age that made this book so wonderful to read. I also liked the way stories and books featured in Kenya's life, and how she tried to inscribe narratives of best-friendship, of family, of love and of sacrifice, and how that didn't necessarily provide her with the tools to author her own life. While reading, I was reminded often of Alice Munro's work, and I thought Solomon did a fantastic job of something Munro also does exceptionally: tell a story of childhood without letting the specter of adulthood cast too much of a shadow, but still without letting the reader forget that childhood is not something separate from adulthood. That this is growing up, and it can feel like being buffeted by storms from all sides, and this moment matters, not just as context or a starting point or a moral of a story, but because this is where you are.My challenge with this book was primarily structural. It didn't feel like a novel to me. Maybe this harkens back to the Munro comparison, but it felt like short stories / novellas about a character. This can be a natural fit for coming-of-age stories, but this book was trying to be a novel, and that didn't work for me. There wasn't a strong enough narrative line, and the ending in particular suffered. It felt like a thrown-together ending point, and as someone who loves, loves, loves endings of books, I was left feeling a little disappointed, even though I did really like most of the book.

  • Janeen
    2019-03-26 21:07

    I loved reading this book. First, I love coming of age stories. Secondly, the book is partially set in Philadelphia, so it really helped me paint a picture of the story being told. Kenya is a great protagonist for this story. As a reader, I felt like I understood her, and in many ways I could relate to her. Her subtle observations of others were humorous. I really felt sorry for Kenya- between her lost father, her mother who definitely had earnest intentions, and longing for Commodore - she was dealt a pretty crummy hand.This book felt very real for me- and I appreciate that the ending did not provide a real resolution.

  • Lark Benobi
    2019-04-10 16:05

    I appreciated the quiet restraint of the book but then again the author pulled away from some scenes that really needed to be there--opting instead for narrative summary. Some events are far too rushed, which dampens the impact the book might have had with more flushed-out scenes. What I liked very much about the book, on the other hand, was the way Solomon builds these characters into believable, flawed, interesting people, who are navigating their world in interesting ways and making mistakes along the way.

  • Steph
    2019-04-16 21:08

    This review first appeared in the Los Angeles Times: http://www.latimes.com/books/jacketco...With her 2006 fiction collection "Get Down," Asali Solomon established herself as a short-form artist with a knack for writing misfits in black middle-class Philadelphia. Her first novel, "Disgruntled," is a fitting follow-up — a smart, philosophical coming-of-age tale featuring a vivid protagonist who battles "the shame of being alive."When we first meet Kenya Curtis in the late '80s, she is in fourth grade at Henry Charles Lea School in West Philadelphia, where she has exactly one friend. Unlike the other kids in her class, Kenya celebrates Kwanzaa, calls her father Baba and is forbidden to eat bologna or say the Pledge of Allegiance. Her classmates, predominantly black, single her out for her peculiar blackness — they laugh at her when she's scandalized by the N-word, call her an "African bootyscratcher" and greet her with taunts of "boogeddy-boo."Kenya's otherness springs from her unconventional upbringing as the only child of Sheila and Johnbrown Curtis. Sheila is the breadwinner of the family, working a steady job at a public library. Raised by a single mother in the Richard Allen projects, Sheila "loved school, hated being poor, and spent her time at home studying," eventually winning a scholarship to Franklin & Marshall College, where she was one of three black students in her class.She is the more stable of Kenya's parents and often butts heads with her husband, much to Kenya's dismay. Johnbrown comes from a more privileged background than Sheila, but he resents his parents and rejects their values, their views on race in particular. "He's so stuck on this business about being black," his mother tells Kenya, "like he's the first person to have that problem."A sometime house painter and fervent philosopher, Johnbrown attended Cornell to escape the draft but was expelled for trying to take over the administration building. He convenes a group of black compatriots called the Seven Days, who serve as Kenya's extended family in the absence of aunts, uncles or cousins. The Seven Days devote themselves to various forms of community service. They meet at the Curtis home to talk and share a fellowship tinged with religiosity, pouring out libations for black martyrs.Johnbrown "could get very excited about the topic of Martin Luther King and how overrated he was"; he prefers to honor lesser-known black historical figures. He develops a particular fascination with Frank Lloyd Wright's mass-murdering butler Julian Carlton, who killed, among others, Wright's mistress and her children, after he was fired. (The novel's title first appears in connection with Carlton, in Johnbrown's voice: "I'm guessing that more regular outbursts by seriously disgruntled black employees would achieve more than three hundred sixty-five days of peaceful marches.")He focuses much of his time and intellectual energy on a mysterious project called the Key, "a contemporary work of black philosophy that would also be a way of living for nonblack peoples who were enlightened," refusing to get a square job until it's finished.This self-referential Key might hold the antidote to "[t]he shame of being alive…a phrase Kenya would hear in her father's voice" that "wafted in and out of her consciousness like the chorus of a song." Kenya struggled for years to understand what this meant, but as she was growing up, she "came into increasing consciousness of how fitting it was that Johnbrown had provided the language for this shame. After all, he and Sheila had created a world of opportunity for her to experience it."Her shame only morphs and deepens as she grows older, moving from the city to the suburbs, from public school to an all-girls prep school where her father's grandmother used to clean bathrooms. She befriends the one other black girl in her class despite reservations about her personality and settles into a school life built around a clique that never seems to feel quite comfortable. In the meantime, she deals with sleepwalking, boys and her ever-changing relationships with her parents.Solomon is a masterful writer, and "Disgruntled" is entertaining and thought-provoking in equal measure. Through her rich depictions of Kenya, her parents and their various friends, she presents a range of approaches to blackness, of different ways of being. She draws attention to some of the inner conflict that accompanies being black in America. This conflict penetrates everything in the characters' lives, from details like Sheila's appetite for "a police show that she repeatedly denounced as racist but never missed" to important questions of family, money and education, which become charged and tortured when tangled with questions of race."Disgruntled" seems like a book that might face an unfair amount of pigeonholing — not only is its protagonist black and female but its focus on Johnbrown's philosophy and the almost cultish Seven Days is strange and specific, with a cerebral bent that could put off the casual reader. But Solomon is a skillful guide who presents beauty and complex ideas in clear, accessible prose, with frequent punches of laugh-out-loud humor.At one point, Johnbrown turns to fiction as part of his treatise, to understand and communicate his rubric of being. "Disgruntled" offers Solomon's own version of the Key, a philosophical contemplation made tangible and compelling through narrative.

  • Keka
    2019-04-22 20:14

    Meh... It was good, but it never really got too good. It was just good enough to hold my attention and keep me from being bored and jumping ship. I kept waiting for something (anything!) good to happen to Kenya but this whole book was about how her life was a complete disaster... Ugh... And the ending?! Come on!!! I felt cheated. Why must every "black" book I read end so underwhelmingly? Can us colored people get a break? Can a sista get a happy ending? I didn't really like any of the characters. Not Kenya, not her mom, not her dad and definitely not Teddy Jaffrey. Commodore was alright but not really. It makes a book a very hard read when all of the characters irritate and frustrate you. I just thought that all of their decision making was terrible. Does everyone in the book have to have a backwards way of thinking? EVERYONE?!I liked the frequent writing breaks and every now and then there were some real Pulitzer-esque nuggets of greatness in the writing. However, the story as a whole seemed to have no purpose and I didn't really get the point of it all. But as always, maybe I'm just not smart enough to get it.

  • Kelly
    2019-04-23 14:10

    A classic bildungsroman set in the 1980s in/outside of Philadelphia following young Kenya as she comes to understand her family structure, as well as better appreciate her father and his passions (even if she doesn't come to agree with them or with him). This is a quicker read, and I would have loved even more. The third person POV was interesting and a bit removed, but it definitely made this story feel like an adult novel, rather than a YA. It's not bad at all, and certainly teen readers who love literary fiction will dig this, but I wondered how different the story would have been had we been even closer to Kenya through her own perspective. The 80s setting here is purposeful and not at all obnoxious. This isn't about the pop culture or an opportunity to make a teen cool by loving certain bands, but rather, it's about this particular moment in time.

  • Lindsay
    2019-04-03 14:20

    This was an odd one. While I enjoyed it overall, I also felt like it never really took off...as if it were one prolonged exposition. I loved the beginning of the book up until Kenya's parents' separation and once again when she goes to visit Johnbrown on his farm, but a lot of the middle I found difficult. Perhaps Bahni Turpin's teenage voices were a little too good (and while she remains my favorite reader, her Caribbean accent verged on a Russian accent) during that segment, but I found the dialogue between the girls hard to stomach. (view spoiler)[And I'm glad that one scene with Teddy Jaffrey didn't go any further than it did. (hide spoiler)] Still, it was a touching--and often heartbreaking--coming of age story with some excellent family dynamic written in, and I'll be interested to see what Asali Solomon's next step will be.

  • Amanda Mae
    2019-04-02 19:07

    What a sad book. It's not exceptionally tragic, but there's just a cloud of sadness over the whole thing. We meet Kenya as a young girl in the 80s, living with her parents - her long-suffering mother a librarian, her father a black rights activist who has an obsession with Frank Lloyd Wright's butler who set fire to his house and killed anyone who tried to escape the blaze. We follow Kenya as she grows up, experiences different worlds, and tries to evolve into her own person. Quite a bit of heartbreak entails, too. A very real story of growing up.

  • Vonetta
    2019-04-23 15:30

    You know what? I was going to give this book four stars, then, when I thought about the surprises in the language and the plot, I was like, let's give this five. Oh! How Solomon took me back, back to those times in my life when I was so wistful and longing for what I thought was impossible. She managed to pack so much of the Black and woman experience in so few pages without being remotely preachy. It was just so much without being overwhelming. Damn, I'm impressed.

  • Marykate Hughes
    2019-03-26 17:06

    It was interesting to read about the different iterations of one family from the perspective of Kenya, the main character who comes of age in this novel. The writing held my attention and is very layered with issues of race, class, gender, and power. The characters are believably complex and the book is real, funny and not preachy. The ending is unsatisfying.

  • Yanira
    2019-04-17 20:17

    I really really wanted to like this book. I read the reviews and was committed to it. But I did not. I could not feel anything for Kenya or her mother. Perhaps, the father was the destruction of the family. Some of the descriptions in the book felt more like types than real people. Maybe I need to read it again in a few years and see where I stand.

  • Sarah
    2019-04-02 21:32

    I started to give this 4 stars but then bumped it up to 5-- it's too compelling and satisfying not to. I loved reading this one-- Solomon has created some really wonderful characters and I just found it impossible not to route for Kenya all the way through.

  • Sandra Telep
    2019-04-10 17:07

    Easy and enjoyable readI enjoyed reading this book and appreciated all the West Philly points of reference. Not life-changing, but worth the read.

  • Mindy
    2019-04-07 21:19

    Started strong, but I ended up kind of struggling to finish it.

  • Joe
    2019-04-07 21:16

    The experience of reading this was so enjoyable, like a straight-up coming of age story with the usual type of challenges/changes/etc., but never hackneyed ones. Given that, I kept realizing only in retrospect how deep and thoughtful some of the characters' relationships were and how much was behind everything they went through.

  • Andre
    2019-04-12 16:20

    This book tells the story of Kenya Harris growing up in mid 80's Philadelphia in a Afrocentric home. Well, that angle is what sparked my attention and I was curious to see the author's perspective through the eyes of young Kenya. For the most part, the task is done well, although there were some points in the novel where she kind of clowned aspects of cultural behavior that could be considered Afrocentric. Kenya feels out of place in school because of her home life. She celebrates Kwanzaa, doesn't participate in Christmas and the eating of pork is forbidden. The novel begins thusly, "In the first grade at Henry Charles Lea School in West Philadelphia, when Kenya told kids that she celebrated Kwanzaa, no one knew what she was talking about." By the time Kenya reaches 4th grade she is down to "one friend." Not that she had many in 1-3rd grade. What is the problem? "It wasn’t just the Kwanzaa problem. And anyway, she could have lied about Kwanzaa like she suspected Fatima McCullers did— ....It was also that she couldn’t eat any pork, including the bologna sandwiches that were the everyday fare of the lunchroom—....It was that she wasn’t allowed to watch Gimme a Break, Good Times, or Diff’rent Strokes because, according to her mother, watching black people on TV acting the fool was worse than not watching any at all." So anytime you have a coming-of-age story where the main character is swimming against the current cultural commonalities, that mix should make for some interesting dynamics. There are some laugh out moments in this book, Kenya is portrayed as sassy yet smart, so some of this stuff she is experiencing at home becomes quite humorous through the eyes of a child. Sheila and Johnbrown are Kenya's parents and they host a group in their home every week called the Seven Days, taken from Toni Morrison's book The Song of Solomon. The group meets to try and figure out what they can do to uplift the community. They start each meeting by pouring libations and every week it seems like Johnbrown mentions the same man. Julian Carlton. Apparently, Julian was the butler of the famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright and one day when Frank was out of town, the mistress fired Julian but asked his wife to stay on. Well this didn't sit well with Julian, so her and everyone else in the home at the time were killed. “'How did he kill them?' asked Kenya. They all turned to her as if they’d forgotten she was there. Johnbrown looked at her. 'He set the house on fire and then stood in the main doorway with an ax in case anyone tried to escape.'" This incident stayed in the mind of Johnbrown, who by the way attached the brown to his given name of John to make it one word. He was a some time worker, stereotypically I might add, a full time philosopher and a 100% race man who is working on a book called The Key. "(Once Kenya had asked him what he would be if he couldn’t be black and he had said, “Light- skinned.”)."He never gets to complete this book and never gets a full time job.So when Johnbrown hooks up with one of the Seven Days members, that is enough for Sheila and she and Kenya move out. I think the earliest part of the book is the strongest and once they move out and Kenya begins a private school, her dilemmna becomes being one of the few blacks in school and how those typical interactions play out, the narrative begins to weaken. The rest of the book deals with Kenya's growing pains as she navigates high school and potentially college. Ms. Solomon does a good job of avoiding the all too easy happy ending and opts for a dose of realism which some may find sad. I think Ms. Solomon is a writer to watch, her prose is breeezy and her humor is engaging, even if you don't agree, you may find yourself chuckling. 3.5!!

  • Renae Pérez
    2019-04-19 13:07

    Disgruntled is a smart, fresh coming of age novel full of “the shame of being alive”—a particular embarrassment that Kenya Curtis becomes intimately acquainted with over the course of her adolescence. In this brief book, author Asali Solomon tracks not only Kenya’s awkward growing up years but also her parents’ shifting lives, as well as the cultural climate of the United States at the end of the twentieth century.Beginning when Kenya is 8 and concluding when she’s 19, this book covers a lot of ground in a relatively short span of pages. Solomon keeps the story’s pace going at a steady clip, and often scenes will break and shift forward abruptly. Yet in spite of a sometimes bumpy narrative, Disgruntled still feels cohesive and focused. Like many character-driven slash literary novels, it doesn’t have a traditional plot, but the force of the author’s prose and the characters’ personalities kept the story afloat.It is interesting to me that in spite of her capacity as the book’s protagonist, I feel that I got to know Kenya least of all the characters. Her parents stand out much more vividly—perhaps it’s a case of a person observing and understanding others but not fully comprehending themself. An intriguing thought, though the author does narrate from a distant third person perspective rater than a more intimate first person.However, the third person narration was, I believe, a good technical decision. Because of it, Solomon is able to zoom away from Kenya, and though she’s always in focus, other things are allowed to make appearances in the frame. This, in turn, gives Disgruntled a rich cultural context in which to view Kenya, her family, and her peers. Solomon, indeed, pulls a very distinctive 1980s/1990s atmosphere into the story, though never in a way that feels forced or theatrical. The time in which Disgruntled takes place is very necessary to the story the author has to tell. More, the clarity and subtle humor of the author’s prose make it seem as if the book is constantly revealing some truth—whether regarding race, religion, society, or art.Though pervading with a sense of authenticity and truth, taken as a whole, there are some things about Kenya’s life that seem almost too far-fetched. It’s not that all the events that occur in Disgruntled couldn’t happen to one person—it’s that there’s something darkly comic about the way the events are presented that brings the story one step back from reality. But the vividness of personality, the easy pace of the narrative, and the grace of the author’s prose all temper that pseudo-surrealism. Even if you’ve never met a girl like Kenya Curtis, you believe in the possibility of a girl like her.There is something so appealing about Kenya’s story, and about bildungsromane in general, with its infinite variety—unlike some other story formats, the options for this kind of narrative are near endless. I’ve read a great many coming of age novels, but never one like Disgruntled. With clear insight, Asali Solomon was able to portray not only Kenya and her family and friends, but also the dynamic environment she inhabited, which perhaps molded her just as much as anything (or anyone) else.

  • Shannon Brown
    2019-04-11 19:30

    It's taken me about a week to write a review of this novel because I so conflicted about it. On one hand, I loved the writer's strong voice and clear eye for the vivid details not just of growing up, but of growing up in a a very specific series of times and places, many of which I remember from my own childhood. Her characters are so alive and so memorable, especially in the early West Philly chapters, when narrator Kenya is deceiving her Afrocentric family and her fast-talking philosopher/house painter/adulterer father and her parents' consciousness-raising Seven Days group and her edge-of-outcast childhood in a world where no one but her family celebrates Kwanza, that the story struggles to live up to them at times, and nothing after those early chapters ever feels as real or as fleshed out. This reads a lot more like a series of interlacing short stories than a cohesive novel to me. Threads are plucked, but never joined, plot points fade in and out, and sometimes what feel like crucial details are skipped over or alluded to only in passing. The ending, especially, feels abrupt and tacked on,More like a stopping point than a resolution. Still, this is such a strong voice I and the book is filled with so much humor and compassion for the "shame of being alive" - I recommend giving it a try, and definitely keeping an eye out for more of Solomon's work in the future.

  • Jeanne Thornton
    2019-03-26 16:10

    This book hits all of my favorite notes: households whose emotional tenor is Unsafe in a way that is muted and hard to explain to external observers, groups of fanatical yet totally ineffective intellectuals who engage in doomed art projects, personal odysseys through different class worlds, complex descriptions of houses, etc. All of this and a plot contingent on sleepwalking. Every scene containing Johnbrown and the different configurations of his family is gold, and the circularity of the plot is at once really a downer and really inspiring. My gripe with most books is that they should be longer, because some key thing about the plot has somehow remained latent--I always want fifty or a hundred more pages on some subject in the book whose potential hasn't been totally mined. And I guess I want this a little bit because of the notes of gay/lesbian potential within the book that remain locked up, implicit--even though saying this reminds me of the Wesleyan professor referred to who talks about "lesbian french fries"--but I think that to unlock those notes would just change the plot totally. But this is the ideal book that feels like it's covering everything, exhausting itself, and leaving a clear, if difficult, road forward. So so so recommended.

  • Jennifer
    2019-04-19 15:18

    I don't know if I liked this or not. ***SPOILER ALERTS*** Basically the girl has two shit parents who ruin her life and her future. Not totally ruined, but just enough to be a bleak adolescence and no hope for anything, after her mother squandered her college fund on a second marriage. I did appreciate that the near-molestation was treated from the nearly molested's perspective - she asks, (as omniscient narrator), "Wasn't that enough?" And anything less than her mother leaving the man wouldn't have been an appropriate response. But of course that's not what happened, at least initially. So it had a very real, stark, hopeless feel to it...which is a lot like life, and I read for escapism mostly. I knew near the end that there were not enough pages for what I wanted to happen to happen, and I wonder if there'll be a sequel, but I'm not sure that I'll read it even so. The last page or so, from the mother's perspective, seems hopeful because the mother feels that everything will be all right now that she has her daughter back, but I know it won't because there's no money for college and both of them will have to work for women's high school grad wages forever just to pay the bills...and so it goes.

  • John (JP)
    2019-04-09 21:21

    Disgruntled by Asali Solomon. Disgruntled displeased and discontented; sulky; peevish. This book about a young black girl whose parents get divorced, goes to a private girls school,and ends up being put in jail after her drug dealing live in boy friend stashes marijuana in her room. The book left me disgruntled. In theory the reader is supposed to enjoy and gain insights from the journey and struggles the protagonist undergoes.The writer acts as a guide giving commentary by shaping what is presented reader. Asali Solomon does a marginal job at this task. As readers experience life from the perspective of the child, then the adolescent, and finally the young adult girl. What doesn’t happen is a connective narrative through the book. Events just happen without an overall context. Events happen and their significance is never explained or examined. The books ending is anti climatic and wholly dissatisfying.

  • Purlewe
    2019-04-04 18:18

    I heard about this from NPR, but then my wife met the author when she came to read the book at Lea (one of the schools Kenya attends in the book in West Philly). I really enjoyed this book and really loved so much of it. The writing. The location. The struggle to find yourself when you are always in a place where you don't feel like you belong. And while I loved so much of this book I will admit the ending left me.. disgruntled. I didn't need so much resolution as I felt like the story dropped you suddenly in a place you weren't expecting to be, then left you with a blank page after. I hope there is a follow up to this. And I would gladly read more of Ms. Solomon's work. I just felt like there was more to the story, and wish there had been more after that last blank page.

  • lp
    2019-03-31 14:13

    Even though the story was a bit unhinged and I had a lot of questions about the story, I really enjoyed reading this book. For some reason it didn't bother me. I think it's because everything that happened, whether sufficiently explained or not, left me a lot to think about. This is a big thinking book. I know that some people disliked the characters, but I felt like I was good friends with them by the end. We grew closer. I recommend this because the parts that piss you off won't piss you off because they're boring, it's because they beg so many questions. Maybe that was what the author intended. I feel like I could read this one again.

  • Bianca
    2019-04-06 15:13

    I heard Asali Solomn read a section of her book, but that wasn't the only thing that drew me in. It was her sense of humor. It wasn't a typical sense of humor, but it was still very enjoyable. I decided to read Disgruntled, because I was also a city kid that ended up at private school. Before reading the book I did not know of any books that shared the same perspective as mine. After reading I've taken more away about family and just growing up than I did about private school, but none the less I enjoyed the book immensely.