Hoppin’ for Nalo Hopkinson

Where is Nalo Hopkinson in my reader-satisfaction world? I felt as good after finishing Brown Girl in the Ring and The New Moon’s Arms as I did after finishing Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks and after finishing all three of the Julie Czerneda’s Species Imperative series in rapid succession.

It has been a *long time* since I’ve actually been satisfied by a read. This was delicious and perfect and exactly enough. I didn’t need any more or less, and I am closing the book happy. Nalo Hopkinson is the storyteller I’ve been longing for. It was the weirdest reading experience I’ve ever had, and true for both books. I finish, and then I don’t really feel the need to read anything else for a while. WEIRD, huh?

Odd reading behavior for me, but I started The New Moon’s Arms at midnight and finished it at 4:45 am. I usually sip lightly at my books, but this one I consumed whole hog.

There were some attributes to Hopkinson’s writing style true to both books that I really enjoyed.

The first is dialect. I love that Hopkinson includes dialect and doesn’t try to dumb down or explain the lingo as we go along in the story. It’s rather a sink-or-swim, and it’s delicious. We’re creatures of language, and it doesn’t take long before I’m thinking in these new grammatical ways, just from reading,

“It looks like she tear ducts get leave behind when she jook out she eyes, Ti-Jean thought.”


“Eshu, is we here tonight: me, Gros-Jeanne, and me grand-daughter Ti-Jeane, and her Baby-father, Tony.”

But the dialect is not here just for flavouring or authenticity. The patois changes according to whom the character is addressing, who is taking part in the conversation, and what the conversation is about. While Gros-Jeanne, the grandmother who is pretty much stuck in her flavor of English, Tony can formal-up and relax his English to suit his surroundings.

The other writing attribute that did me in for Hopkinson is her characterization. Her people are neither good nor bad, but just folks doing their just folks thing, likeable people who sometimes do unlikeable things, or make dumb mistakes, or bust out with a stupid thing she shouldn’t have said, or are pig-headed on an issue. Just…like…me. (*koff*) But the thing with Hopkinson, is that she lets us know *why* this character made this dumb mistake, or is stubborn on this one issue but otherwise level-headed and progressive. There’s a reason behind everything here, and every character in the story has a part to play in the plot.

from iphone 2012 169

Hopkinson had me doing the involuntary Cheese Chip Deadlift. I realized I had eaten half a bag of the stupid things without realizing what I was doing while reading Brown Girl. Now that’s good writing, hey?

Now, for a brief description of these two books that I’ve read and enjoyed.

Brown Girl in the Ring is a post-apocalyptic style tale, about a gal stuck in inner Toronto after the economy has collapsed and most people have left. It’s difficult to get out of the city, cars are rare, etc, and someone is preying on people for their organs. Ti-Jeanne is young, a new mom, trying to dump her boyfriend and her feelings for him, and living with her grandmother who is the local healer and a Voudoun priestess. Ti-Jeanne has inherited some of these powers, too, it seems, and she doesn’t quite know what to do about them.

The New Moon’s Arms starts with a funeral. One of the attendees loses her undies mid-mourn, and it just kind of goes from there. Calamity is 50-something, and if I’m not at least a little like her when I’m that age, please just push me off the roof. She has an ability to find lost things, or things just sort of manifest to her…including a washed up sea-people child and an entire cashew orchard. Calamity just rolls with the bizarre, though, and keeps on with her life: falling in love, pissing people off, and trying to figure out what’s up with this kid suddenly in her life. There’s a lot of family history, of course, including a seal skin that she and her daughter find on a dare when exploring the mysteriously-manifested cashew orchard. New Word: freezerversity.

I dunno if you’ll like Nalo Hopkinson. But if you like non-stop story, rich and full characters with punkitude and not-always-benificent-magic set in a world likely different than anything you’ve read or visited, you might fall in love with Hopkinson like I did. I plan to read everything she has written and then on to everything she recommends.

Her next book coming out (mid-March) is Sister Mine, and it’s already on pre-order for me with The Book Loft. No, you can’t borrow it. Is MINE! Get your own, punk.

P.s. When you get to reading Hopkinson, be advised that however the e-editions came about, they did a real scan and chop job. They are mostly OK, but some instances of the text being out of order. Advise finding paper copies.


17 thoughts on “Hoppin’ for Nalo Hopkinson

  1. But did you really enjoy them? You need to stop hiding your feelings in these reviews and let us know how you truly feel! LOL
    I like the look of both these but especially Brown Girl in the Ring. I’ll have to see if I can pick a copy up. BTW was thinking of my YOBC choice – do you think Something Wicked this Way Comes fits the bill? I want to read that and I sort of think of it as a classic?
    Lynn :D

      • Yeah, I thought so too – it seems to be well thought of and I’m sure I picked up the original idea to read it from Carl so hopefully I will love it. Plus it came in the post – I’ve been buying books so I love it when the postman arrives *grins like an idiot*
        Lynn :D

  2. I remember liking Something Wicked when I read it as a kid. Loved that movie adaptation too. Haven’t read or watched either since I was a kid though. Should check them both out to see how I feel about them now.

    I *think* I’ve read Nalo in short fiction format but I am not certain. I do know that I haven’t read any of her novels. She is a name that comes to mind from recent conversations with a close friend about how even our local chains with good-sized SFF collections don’t carry some of these more critically acclaimed authors. Tried to find a copy of Kiernan’s The Drowing Girl last night, as it is up for a Nebula and some other award that escapes me now, and no store in Kansas City had it. That is crazy wrong.

    • Yes, I have to special order almost everything I’ve been looking for lately. I have four books on special order, all of them are brand new releases. I special ordered The Drowning Girl, for example (do you want to borrow it?)

      I tried to get D. B. Jackson’s Thieftaker when it came out. So sorry, I was a month late, and it was totally unavailable.

      I know I get very crabby about this kind of thing, but really, how can I buy something that isn’t in stock? Backlist is *impossible* to find, new. How can I support an author and thereby their publisher if the books are unavailable to purchase? ::throws hands in the air:: Baugh–it’s a problem too big for me, that’s for sure.

      Thanks for the heads-up on the Kiernan being up for Nebula. I really love her short stories.

      • Thanks for the offer but I already ordered it from the library and should be getting it in soon. That is very nice of you though, thanks!

        I probably won’t get through all of the Nebula nominees, but I want to get through some of them. I did read and review (for SF Signal) all of the Nebula nominated short stories yesterday. Wow, there is a good crop this year. Will be hard to choose for the judges, I think.

    • Oh, I didn’t put that in the post and I should have. I was able to find these books at the library. They are trade paper size and have the appearance of being print on demand. These are the only two titles the library has and I’m going to ask them to get more

  3. I like everything you’ve said here. In fact, those are pretty much the same qualities I look for in a book. I wonder if my library has copies because I think I need to give her a try.

    • Yay! I’m a terrible writer so it pleases me when it seems I’ve muddled through enough to be able to convey my thoughts. Let me know how you find Hopkinson.

      I’m huge on believable characters, if that’s not in a book, I can’t continue with it. Hopkinson does an excellent job with characterization.

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