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Reviews of One of Our Kind by Nicola Yoon

One of Our Kind by Nicola Yoon

One of Our Kind

A Novel

by Nicola Yoon
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  • First Published:
  • Jun 11, 2024
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About This Book

Book Summary

Thrilling with insightful social commentary, One of Our Kind explores the ways in which freedom is complicated by the presumptions we make about ourselves and each other.

Jasmyn and King Williams move their family to the planned Black utopia of Liberty, California hoping to find a community of like-minded people, a place where their growing family can thrive. 

King settles in at once, embracing the Liberty ethos, including the luxe wellness center at the top of the hill, which proves to be the heart of the community. But Jasmyn struggles to find her place. She expected to find liberals and social justice activists striving for racial equality, but Liberty residents seem more focused on booking spa treatments and ignoring the world's troubles.

Jasmyn's only friends in the community are equally perplexed and frustrated by most residents' outlook. Then Jasmyn discovers a terrible secret about Liberty and its founders. Frustration turns to dread as their loved ones start embracing the Liberty way of life.

Will the truth destroy her world in ways she never could have imagined?

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 ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
  1. Liberty is an ultra-wealthy, all-Black community. There is much controversy around the idea of self-segregation, but what are the merits to a concept like "separate but equal"?
  2. Racism and all the ways that it permeates our society are on full display throughout this novel. However, a secondary character is capitalism. How do the two interact?
  3. Everyone in Liberty's oligarchy has a harrowing tale of how their views on systemic racism came to be. Does it justify their extreme solution?
  4. Why do you think Liberty's founders choose to reassign ultra-wealthy Black people as opposed to folks who are more financially compromised?
  5. King's decision to move his family to Liberty is made in large part because of the untimely death of his brother, but how ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Almost as soon as the Williamses move in, Jasmyn detects something a bit...off about Liberty. The neighbors are friendly enough, but they seem decidedly uninterested in getting involved with social justice movements like Black Lives Matter, or in protesting the recent police shooting of an unarmed Black man and his young daughter. Reading Nicola Yoon's adult debut, One of Our Kind, in many ways mirrors Jasmyn's experiences. Like Jasmyn, readers will feel initially uneasy, and then increasingly unsettled...and eventually real dread kicks in. This is a horror novel, but not the type that features blood and gore—instead, the horror is both more subtle and more chilling, getting under one's skin in multiple ways. Excerpts from news reports, court cases, online chatrooms, and other documents are interspersed throughout the narrative and give astute readers clues about what's really happening in Liberty...continued

Full Review Members Only (622 words)

(Reviewed by Norah Piehl).

Media Reviews

BookPage
The paradoxes and discontents of the upwardly mobile Black bourgeoisie are territory the Jamaican-born, wildly successful Yoon knows intimately and draws with precision. Like Kiley Reid (Such a Fun Age and Come and Get It), Yoon vividly captures the racial and political zeitgeist… [A] potent illustration of the effects of racial trauma…Bold and razor sharp.

New York Times
A slow-burn thriller that crosses the cinematic vectors of Get Out and Stepford Wives in a story about a young family that moves to a prosperous Black community, only to find that all is not as utopian as it seems.

Oprah Daily
[An] intense, politically charged thriller set at a gated Black community in Los Angeles, where Jasmyn Williams and her husband, King, learn that the wounds of police brutality and racism affect different people in very different ways. Some just want to wrap themselves in luxury and spa treatments—if that's what's really going on at the community's cultish wellness palace. Truly chilling.

The Seattle Times
Provocative…Sure to spark book club conversations for years to come. Who says you can't tackle big, important contemporary ideas in a page-turning thriller?

Time Magazine
An unsettling social thriller that is Get Out meets Rosemary's Baby. One of Our Kind…is set in Liberty, Calif., a fictional idyllic all-Black gated community outside of Los Angeles. Jasmyn, a public defender expecting her second child, moves there with her venture capitalist husband and their young son looking for a place where they can feel safe and supported. What she finds isn't the Black utopia she dreamed of, but a town more interested in self-care than social justice issues. When Jasmyn starts digging into the community's history, she uncovers a shocking secret about Liberty's founders that threatens to tear her family apart.

Booklist (starred review)
Yoon steadily builds suspense and provocation in this chilling, subtly speculative tale via perfectly selected details and unnerving conversations...In the mode of Percival Everett, Maurice Carlos Ruffin, and Rion Amilcar Scott, Yoon presents a riveting tale spiked with surprises, laced with compassion, and designed for discussion as it raises unsettling questions about class, Blackness, parenthood, social responsibility, justice, and the hidden repercussions of deep, centuries-spanning trauma.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Yoon is skilled at sustaining the tension throughout Jasmyn's investigations, exposing the ways that Black communities are undermined both internally and externally. It's an artful page-turning thriller, but constantly mindful that decisions about community and identity can put lives at stake. A bracing tale of the perils of groupthink and willful ignorance.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Masterful...Yoon maintains taut, nerve-shattering suspense throughout as she delves into societal fault lines and cultural anxieties, crafting a brutally effective examination of how generational trauma roots itself in the body. The dialogue in particular shines as the characters argue, sympathize, and search for connection with one another, even in the face of the terror that surrounds them. Yoon's latest will linger in readers' minds long after its horrifying conclusion.

Library Journal
At times unsettling, Yoon's narrative is a thought-provoking exploration of race and identity in modern society.

Author Blurb Ashley C. Ford, New York Times best-selling author of Somebody's Daughter
Nicola Yoon can write about any subject beautifully, but what she's done in One of Our Kind is as thrilling as it is lusciously written. I can't remember the last time a book kept me turning the pages so quickly, or kept me up so late. One of Our Kind is for readers who want to be taken to the edge of expectation, and solidly dropped into the middle of a new nightmare. I still have goosebumps.

Author Blurb Jodi Picoult, number one New York Times best-selling author of Wish You Were Here
Brilliant, provocative, seminal — there aren't enough adjectives to describe how much food for thought Yoon's novel provided.  When cultural identity is shaped by trauma, can you even imagine who you are when that trauma is excised?  What is the difference between equality and equity?  And how deep into the magma of racism does implicit bias go?  Your book club will be discussing this one for DAYS.

Author Blurb John Green, New York Times best-selling author of Turtles All the Way Down
With haunting and powerful prose, Nicola Yoon brilliantly imagines a world with much to tell us about our own.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book



Black Utopias

As Jasmyn Williams and her husband King arrive in the fictional Black utopian suburb of Liberty, California in Nicola Yoon's One of Our Kind, Jasmyn reminds her husband "that Black utopias ha[ve] been tried with little success before." She names two examples of real-world short-lived utopian experiments: Allensworth and Soul City. While there have been many other historic Black communities, these two cities were intentionally utopian in ambition and design.

Black-and-white portrait of Lt. Colonel Allen Allensworth, in uniform with medals Allensworth, California: Allensworth was founded in 1908 in California's Central Valley by Lt. Colonel Allen Allensworth, with the aim of creating a place where, as Brennon Dixson writes for the Los Angeles Times, "Black residents could prosper free from racist ideologies." ...

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