Disgruntled, the debut novel of author Asali Solomon, explores a young black woman’s experience negotiating the complexities that accompany coming of age. Solomon has an intimate connection to her main character Kenya, as many of Kenya’s experiences derive from Solomon’s childhood.
NPR interviews Solomon for a detailed look at the impact Solomon’s personal narrative has on the novel. She discusses her upbringing in West Philadelphia, with particular focus on her parents’ Afrocentric teachings. Her family celebrated Kwanzaa and discouraged the children from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in school. Her mother’s feminist ideals were also a prominent influence:
“She would always say things like, when people talk about "When we get married," she'd say, "If you get married," and talk about a lot of things as a choice. Or she would always tell this story of a friend of hers who was raising a child on her own and somebody would say, "Oh, you need a husband," and the friend would say, "No, I need a wife." So she was very conscious of the hierarchy of gender and these kinds of things.”Just as Kenya attends a predominately white school in the novel, Solomon has experience being the only black face in an affluent private school.
“…people really would ask me questions about the city, like, "Were there pools of blood on the ground?" and people would say things that were subtly or not-so-subtly racist. And class was a big issue. A lot of the kids were wealthy…I and a lot of the other black students were just marginal because we were black. We would never be at the core of the social experience of that school, I felt, because we were black.”Through Kenya, Disgruntled examines these concepts and others. Not only does it delve into critical discussion of race and class, but also the forces of social alienation, divorce, and how such combined experiences can impact a child’s search for belonging.