09 8 / 2011

Danyel Smith, revered music journalist and current EIC of Billboard magazine, ventured off into the world of fiction with this story of Pinch and Paige, two sisters growing up in Oakland in the mid 1970s to early 80s.

While in junior high school, Paige and Pinch are allowed to live in their own apartment inside a victorian house, while their mother figures out how to handle her marriage to their drunk and abusive step father. Their adventures on their own lead to them meeting a group of friends who initially stick around to have fun up until adulthood, when they are eventually touched by the burgeoning drug trade, and things get a lot more serious.

My love for this book is deeply rooted in my love for Oakland. The novel is filled with people, places, things, and events that I grew up around, and expecially things that my mom grew up around. My city was the central theme of the book, and it brought back so many memories. This is the first time ive ever read about Oakland in a novel from a Black girls perspective. I am grateful to Smith for writing such a story.

I did have issues with some of the writing style, though. With some of the chapters jumping around the timeline, along with Paige’s diary entries, and sometimes not knowing who the current narrator was, I found myself getting confused. I also felt like there was times when the author was too poetic, and much of the lengthy descriptions could have been cut. There were parts in the middle when I just wanted to give up.

Overall though, I enjoyed the story. The author’s intricate details were so descriptive that I wonder if this novel was truly fiction. I absolutely loved the ending, and im so happy that I pushed, through.

I’d recommend this to all Oakland/Bay Area/California natives. I’d also recommend it to those interested in reading of familial bonds, coming of age stories on the west coast, the strength between sisters, or stories that dabble in the development and the effects of the inner city drug trade.

B-