Sugar Town Queens

Malla Nunn

Sugar Town Queens
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Sugar Town Queens

Malla Nunn

When Amandla wakes up on her fifteenth birthday, she knows it’s going to be one of her mother’s difficult days. Her mother has had another vision. This one involves Amandla wearing a bedsheet loosely stitched as a dress. An outfit that, her mother says, is certain to bring Amandla’s father back home.

But in truth, Amandla’s father has long been gone, and even her mother’s memory of him is hazy. In fact, many of her mother’s memories from before Amandla was born are hazy. It’s just one of the many reasons people in Sugar Town give them strange looks–that and the fact her mother is white and Amandla is Black.

When Amandla finds a mysterious address in the bottom of her mother’s handbag along with a large amount of cash, she decides it’s finally time to get answers about her mother’s life. What she discovers will change the shape and size of her family forever.

But with her best friends at her side, Amandla is ready to take on family secrets and the devil himself.

Review

Set in the shanty towns of Durban, South Africa, and featuring a biracial protagonist, Malla Nunn’s second novel explores identity and belonging with a loving eye.

Fifteen-year-old Amandla has been brought up by her eccentric white mother in a shanty town called Sugar Town. Her mum has severe memory loss, often behaving strangely both in public and at home. Amandla doesn’t know who her father is and has no other family – or so she thinks. By chance one day, she discovers an address and some cash in the bottom of her mother’s handbag. This sends her on a journey where she reunites with her grandmother and relatives she never even knew about, some of whom would prefer it to remain that way.

Meanwhile, in Sugar Town, Amandla is expanding her friendship group and takes a fancy to Lewis, a beautiful Zulu boy from the neighbourhood. But another boy, a meth-addicted gang member, is pursuing her and making her feel very uncomfortable. Amandla must come to rely on her friends and neighbours for help when things go wrong.

Despite the challenges in Amandla’s life, this is a compassionate, positive novel about the importance of family and community. The writing is authentic and confident, taking you deep into the world of the protagonist. It is a beautiful coming-of- age story that explores the difficulties of being biracial and confronting racism. It will be enjoyed by readers ages 13+.


Angela Crocombe is the manager of Readings Kids.

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