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Excerpt from One of Our Kind by Nicola Yoon, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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One of Our Kind

A Novel

by Nicola Yoon

One of Our Kind by Nicola Yoon X
One of Our Kind by Nicola Yoon
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  • Published:
    Jun 2024, 272 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
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Print Excerpt

One Of Our Kind

It really is beautiful here," Jasmyn says, looking out of the passenger- side window. Here is the Black history museum with its massive roman columns and grand staircase. Next door, the manicured sculpture garden is populated with statues of W. E. B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Stokely Carmichael, Malcolm X, and, of course, Mar- tin Luther King Jr. A block later the Liberty Theater, with its ornate rococo stylings, comes into view. Enormous posters announce the dates for December's Nutcracker performance. Beautiful Black ballerinas star in every role from the Rat King to the Sugar Plum fairy.

Her husband, Kingston—everyone calls him King—takes a hand off the steering wheel and squeezes her knee. "Been a long time coming," he says.

Jasmyn smiles at his profile and rests her hand atop his. God knows he'd worked hard enough to get them to here. Here being Liberty, California, a small suburb on the outskirts of Los Angeles.

She turns her eager gaze back to the sights of the downtown district. They pass Liberty Gardens with its bountiful variety of cacti and succulents. On a previous visit, she'd learned from the entrance plaque that desert flowers have unique adaptations that allow them to extract the maximum amount of moisture possible from their parched environment. Jasmyn told King she felt a kinship with them because of the way they found a way to thrive despite hardship.

"Bet they'd prefer if it just rained a little more," he teased. "Probably," Jasmyn said, and laughed along with him.

They drive by the aquatic complex, and then the equestrian center, where she sees two young Black girls, twelve or thirteen years old, looking sharp in their riding jackets, breeches, and boots.

Finally, they begin the drive up Liberty Hill to the residential section. They'd visited Liberty three times before, but Jasmyn is still awestruck and, if she's being honest, a little discomfited at the sheer size of the houses. Why call them houses at all? Modern-day castles are what they are. Expansive lawns and landscaped hedges. Wide circular driveways, most with fountains or some other architectural water feature. Multiple cars that start at six figures. They pass two parked pool service vans and another for tennis court maintenance.

It's hard for Jasmyn to believe that everyone who lives here is Black. Harder to believe that, in just one month, she's going to be one of the Black people who lives here. The Jasmyn that grew up fighting for space in a cramped, one-bedroom apartment with her mother, grandmother, and older sister couldn't have imagined she'd end up in a place like this. That Jasmyn would've thought this kind of living was only possible for the rich white people she saw in TV shows.

But here she is, driving by these outrageously colossal homes, on her way to her own outrageously colossal home.

King turns down their soon-to-be street. It's a week before Thanksgiving, but a handful of the houses already have Christmas decorations up. The first has not one, but two enormous Christmas trees on either side of the lawn. Both are flocked and decorated with crystal snowflakes. Closer to the house itself, spiral-strung lights ascend to the top of their fifty-foot-tall palm trees. There are wreaths in every window and a more elaborate one hanging from the front door.

But it's the house half a block later that makes Jasmyn ask King to slow down and pull over.

"These people aren't playing," King says.

The house has three separate displays, all of them animatronic and so realistic Jasmyn does a triple take. On the left side of the driveway there's a nativity display complete with bowing Wise Men, baby Jesus in a manger, and two angels with wings beating lightly. On the right, there's an elaborate Santa's workshop display featuring Mrs. Claus and her helper elves wrapping a tower of presents. The final display is on the roof. Santa, resplendent and jolly, is poised for takeoff in a life-sized sleigh, complete with rearing reindeer led by Rudolph.

Excerpted from One of Our Kind by Nicola Yoon. Copyright © 2024 by Nicola Yoon. Excerpted by permission of Knopf. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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