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Your House Will Pay

by Steph Cha

Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha X
Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2019, 320 pages

    Jul 2020, 320 pages


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Jamie Chornoby
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Ava was not a genius. She did well in school, but whether she would've graduated, let alone gone to college, there was no way to know. Shawn was smart, too, and he hadn't done either. She was a talented piano player, but there was a limit to her talents. It was plentifully apparent even in her brief career. She didn't have the resources to compete with the kids who practiced for hours each day, the ones who'd been playing since they were five, with professional teachers, with parents to prod them and pay for their lessons.

She was not a saint or an angel. Bad things had happened to her, and they didn't make her good; good things, too, and she took some of them for granted. She swore and talked back. Fought back, too. And Shawn knew it was gospel that she never stole, but she stole. He'd seen it firsthand, one night in Westwood, when a riot broke out under their feet.

She took a cassette tape—a gift for him—and a pair of jeans from a Guess store, a pair she'd coveted that Aunt Sheila wouldn't buy for her because they were tight and low-slung and expensive. It was nothing, in the scheme of things. That same night, Ray got a new pair of sneakers; Duncan got a leather jacket, a boom box, even a cell phone—the first Shawn had ever seen, a black plastic thing the size of his forearm. But it was more than a quart of milk. It was a violation to the tune of something like seventy dollars. It was, in the end, much more than some people thought her life was worth.

Shawn didn't know if Aunt Sheila remembered what Ava was actually like. She gave her aunt hell in her teen years. They fought constantly; Aunt Sheila had strict standards for her one baby girl, and Ava was always falling short of them.

One time, when he was in his twenties, running with the Baring Cross Crips, he told Aunt Sheila it was possible that Ava meant to steal that milk from Jung-Ja Han, that it wasn't out of character, and that she was plenty pissed enough to do it. He was tired of pretending Ava was a perfect child; he hated that perfection was what the world required to mourn her.

Aunt Sheila had slapped him across the face. "You know what happens to a girl like Ava, people start thinking she was a bad girl? She gets tossed in with the rest of them. The pile of black girls no one's ever heard of. It is a mass grave, Shawn. Baby, we don't even know their names, 'cause no one's talking about them or writing about them for any of us to hear. Is that what you want for your sister?"

Shawn had turned from her in anger, stunned that his aunt had hit him, a grown man with his own life, his own problems, his own way of solving them; he had turned away because he knew he had nothing to say.

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From Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha. Copyright © 2019 by Steph Cha. Reprinted by permission of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

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