Mecca Jamilah Sullivan
A BBC RADIO 2 BOOKCLUB PICK
SHORTLISTED FOR THE CENTRE FOR FICTION FIRST NOVEL PRIZE, THE GOTHAM BOOK PRIZE AND THE LAMBDA AWARD
*’Absolutely incredible. Beautiful, powerful writing. These pages will stay with me forever’ CANDICE CARTY-WILLIAMS, author of QUEENIE
*’A gift as big, beautiful and complicated as living itself’ Jacqueline Woodson, author of RED AT THE BONE
*’Hilariously funny and quietly devastating’ Nicole Dennis-Benn, author of PATSY and HERE COMES THE SUN
*’There are three books on earth that I would give anything to be able to write and reread until the suns burns us up. Big Girl is one of those books’ Kiese Laymon, author of HEAVY
A THING IS MIGHTY BIG WHEN TIME AND DISTANCE CANNOT SHRINK IT
It was a quote by Zora Neale Hurston. Malaya liked the words. The message was a mouthful of meaning, and it changed each time she read it. At first it had seemed ominous, but now she looked at it differently. She wondered for the first time if there could be something good about bigness, something mighty about not shrinking, after all.
Growing up in rapidly gentrifying 90s Harlem, Malaya struggles to fit into a world that makes no room for her. She’s funny, creative and smart, but all people see – even those who love her – is her size. At eight, she is forced to go to Weight Watchers; at twelve, her parents fear she’ll be taken from them; by sixteen, a gastric bypass is discussed.
On good days, Malaya braids bright colours into her hair, turns up Biggie Smalls on her Walkman, and strides through Harlem, his words galvanising her; on bad days, she doesn’t leave her bed other than for furtive trips for the forbidden food that will comfort her – for a while.
Big Girl is an unforgettable portrait of a queer Black girl as she learns to take up space in the world on her own terms.
'Mecca Jamilah Sullivan has given us a gift as big, beautiful and complicated as living itself, filled with everyday people who in her gifted hands, show us the love and struggle of what it means to be inside bodies that don't always fit with the outside world. I found myself cheering for Percy, Nyela, the Harlem streets and of course, for Malaya -- Jacqueline Woodson, author of Red at the Bone What is a child's body worth when it is big, Black and female - when it is under constant demand to be something other than what it naturally is? In Mecca Jamilah Sullivan's achingly beautiful coming-of-age debut novel, Big Girl, this body carries the weight of an entire neighborhood ... Big Girl triumphs as a love letter to the Black girls who are forced to enter womanhood too early - and to a version of Harlem that no longer exists * New York Times * There are three books on earth that I would give anything to be able to write and reread until the suns burns us up. Big Girl is one of those books. The sound, the expansiveness of the whispers, the critical, brilliant, sometimes bruising, beautiful Black girlness explored in this novel is literally second to none... I know I have just read and reread a new American classic that we as a culture and country desperately need. Believe that -- Kiese Laymon, author of HEAVY I ate this up in one greedy, joyous gulp. I fell in love with Malaya Clondon from the very first page. This book is hilariously funny and quietly devastating - a compelling narrative about what it means to define ourselves and make space for our bodies as women -- Nicole Dennis-Benn, author of PATSY and HERE COMES THE SUN Mecca Jamilah Sullivan has delivered a singular coming of age story. A book about the vulnerabilities of living in the body of a young Black girl, Sullivan has created a portrait of young adulthood as quietly revolutionary as Gwendolyn Brooks' Maud Martha or Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John. Resetting the conversation about girlhood, desire, bodies and appetites, this book is a revelation for those who care about the rich, varied lives of Black youth -- Kaitlyn Greenidge, author of LIBERTIE Alive with delicious prose and the cacophony of '90s Harlem, Big Girl gifts us a heroine carrying the weight of worn-out ideas, who dares to defy the compulsion to shrink, and in turn teaches us to pursue our fullest, most desirous selves without shame -- Janet Mock Absolutely incredible. Beautiful, powerful writing. These pages will stay with me forever' -- Candice Carty-Williams, author of PEOPLE PERSON and QUEENIE Sullivan's talent shines most through her ability to embody character where most writers would simply observe them. The result is a thrilling, big-hearted novel by a writer of endless and remarkable promise -- Chigozie Obioma, Booker-shortlisted author of AN ORCHESTRA OF MINORITIES and THE FISHERMEN
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