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Reviews of Nobody's Magic by Destiny Birdsong

Nobody's Magic

by Destiny O. Birdsong

Nobody's Magic by Destiny O. Birdsong X
Nobody's Magic by Destiny O. Birdsong
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Feb 2022, 368 pages

    Paperback:
    Jan 2023, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Ahima
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About this Book

Book Summary

In this glittering triptych novel, Suzette, Maple and Agnes, three Black women with albinism, call Shreveport, Louisiana home. At the bustling crossroads of the American South and Southwest, these three women find themselves at the crossroads of their own lives.

Suzette, a pampered twenty-year‑old, has been sheltered from the outside world since a dangerous childhood encounter. Now, a budding romance with a sweet mechanic allows Suzette to seek independence, which unleashes dark reactions in those closest to her. In discovering her autonomy, Suzette is forced to decide what she is willing to sacrifice in order to make her own way in the world.

Maple is reeling from the unsolved murder of her free‑spirited mother. She flees the media circus and her judgmental grandmother by shutting herself off from the world in a spare room of the motel where she works. One night, at a party, Maple connects with Chad, someone who may understand her pain more than she realizes, and she discovers that the key to her mother's death may be within her reach.

Agnes is far from home, working yet another mind‑numbing job. She attracts the interest of a lonely security guard and army veteran who's looking for a traditional life for himself and his young son. He's convinced that she wields a certain "magic," but Agnes soon unleashes a power within herself that will shock them both and send her on a trip to confront not only her family and her past, but also herself.

This novel, told in three parts, is a searing meditation on grief, female strength, and self‑discovery set against a backdrop of complicated social and racial histories. Nobody's Magic is a testament to the power of family—the ones you're born in and the ones you choose. And in these three narratives, among the yearning and loss, each of these women may find a seed of hope for the future.

I didn't really kick it that much before Doni cause I felt like I had everything I needed right where I was. I still live at home, and my daddy own Elkins Custom Auto, so we do pretty good. Nice cars, of course; nice house. Movie room downstairs; game room upstairs. The sunporch, which I love cause it's just the right amount of shade, and I can sit outside all day playing games on my phone or shopping online and not get burned. My friend Drina would come over and my mama would make us food while we sit and talk. Or if we did go out, it was to shop, like at Mall St. Vincent. That's where the good Dillard's is, the one with the Coach bags. I got my daddy to buy me one awhile back, but then I kinda wanted this other one that was beige with a flower on the buckle, and oooh! It was flames. But my daddy said I needed to get tired of the one I had, and when that happened, he'd buy me the other one. Then my mama said, "Careful, Curtis; she gon stop thinking you hung the moon." I swear my ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
  1. Having been sheltered her entire life, Suzette is gaining new skills and a greater understanding of her family and friends, and she must finally face the ways people in her life see her. Discuss how Suzette actively learns more about the world around her and accomplishes her goals. Discuss the ways in which the people around her helped or hindered her from reaching those goals. How did her relationships with those people evolve?
  2. Maple's story examines three very different women: Maple, Momi, and Nana. In what ways do Maple and her grandmother approach their grief differently? Why do you think that is, and what could they learn from each other?
  3. Discuss how Agnes's relationship with her sister, Berniece, shapes her life. What does she gain ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Don't mistake Birdsong being a poet for her being inaccessible. Her sometimes crude humor is full of pop culture references, as seen in Maple's story: "Ms. P was a rich chocolate brown, over six feet tall, and had the biggest natural titties I've ever seen…And it was torture watching her dance anywhere that wasn't on the pole. You kept wondering when those titties were gonna pop out like the Kool-Aid Man." Moments like this are sprinkled throughout the narrative, showing that the author knows how to play around with voice, construct elaborate, visceral images, and genuinely have fun with her craft. I had a blast laughing at these snippets of humor, but there were also aspects of the narrative that made me crumble into tears...continued

Full Review (850 words)

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(Reviewed by Lisa Ahima).

Media Reviews

Booklist (starred review)
Birdsong is a masterful storyteller with a powerful voice that will keep readers captivated.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Poet Birdsong makes her fiction debut with a searing portrait of three young Black women who live with albinism in Shreveport, La...Birdsong imbues the characters with palpable emotions and crafts spot-on dialogue, conveying vernacular speech with layers of pathos and wit. It's a stunning achievement.

Kirkus Reviews
[T]he three novellas show each woman shaped by her skin and people's reactions to it as central facts in their development...Maple's Momi is a fabulously vital character...A thoughtful examination of a subject rarely addressed in contemporary literature.

Author Blurb Dantiel W. Moniz, author of Milk Blood Heat
As with Destiny Birdsong's poetry, the stories in Nobody's Magic are striking and original, full of down-home hilarity, Black love, truth, grief, and the sometimes-uncertain roads one travels to accept the self. Birdsong's is a powerful voice I'd follow anywhere.

Author Blurb Deesha Philyaw, author of National Book Award 2020 finalist The Secret Life of Church Ladies
With Nobody's Magic, Destiny Birdsong has given us a devastatingly beautiful, sexy, searing gift. I fell in love with the women Birdsong conjured so brilliantly. These are stunning, irresistible stories of Southern Black womanhood that I will return to again and again.

Author Blurb Melissa Febos, National bestselling author of Girlhood
Nobody's Magic is a captivating triptych of three unforgettable women. Each of their voices will ring in my memory for a long time—they have so much to say of love, loss, desire, and the city that knows them best. Together, their perspectives illuminate a prismatic portrait of how possible it is to feel intimately bound and a stranger to the places that have created you, and the people you call home.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Who Really Has Your Back? Queerness and the Black Community

In Nobody's Magic, a novel about three different black women with albinism who are on journeys of self-discovery, the social circles readers become privy to serve to normalize some of the characters' queerness. There are multiple queer moments throughout the novel; in Suzette's story, a character named Drina struggles with telling Suzette that she's gay. When Suzette asks Drina why she didn't tell her earlier, Drina simply replies, "I didn't really think you wanted to know." Drina never expounds on this reasoning nor is she expected to. But as a black, queer woman having grown up in the south, I could project my own experience onto the question of why. Living within my black community compounded fears of being honest. I believe that fear ...

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