“It’s a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters (Austin 1).”
And so the story of Mr. Darcy and the Bennet sisters begins in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, one of the most popular novels in the English language. Many are familiar with this story of love and relationships, verbal sparring between Elizabeth ”Lizzy” Bennet and Mr. Darcy. It is a sometimes humorous and always contentious comedy between and among the main characters.
Let’s imagine this timeless story set in modern-day Brooklyn with an Afro-Latino flavor. This remix of the familiar story features all main characters of color and Ibi Zoboi’s witty writing, with nods to Austen interspersed with the modern twists.
“It’s a truth universally acknowledged that when rich people move into the hood, where it’s a little broken and a little bit forgotten, the first thing they want to do is clean it up. But it’s not just the junky stuff they’ll get rid of. People can be thrown away, too, like last night’s trash let out on the sidewalks or pushed to the edge of wherever all broken things go. What those rich people don’t always know is that broken and forgotten neighborhoods were first built with love (Zoboi 1).”
Zuri Benitez is a poet, proud of her Brooklyn roots and her family. When Darius and his brother move in across the street with their wealthy family, Zuri and her sisters have mixed reactions: Zuri can’t stand Darius who she perceives as snobbish, yet her older sister Janae is falling for his brother Ainsley. With the witty verbal exchanges, the college applications looming in her future, and the neighborhood boy vying for her attention, this familiar tale takes on its own wonderful flavor:
“My neighborhood is made of love, but it’s money and food and buildings and jobs that keep it alive – and even I have to admit that the new people moving in, with their extra money and dreams, can sometimes make things better. We’ll have to figure out a way to make both sides of Bushwick work.
“That gives me an idea. I grab my small laptop and type the first words of my college application essay to Howard.
Sometimes love is not enough to keep a community
together. There needs to be something more tangible, like
fair housing, opportunities, and access to resources.
My younger sister, who is a self-proclaimed finance
whiz, says it best: Love is abstract. Money is not.
I type, delete, type, and delete over and over and over again. I inhale. Close my eyes. And let my fingers dance across the keyboard.
How to Save the Hood
If my name was Robin
I’d steal the tight corners
Where hope meets certainty
To form perfectly chiseled bricks
Stacked high to make walls
Surrounding my Bushwick……(Zoboi 34)
Ibi Zoboi brings us this timeless story with deftly written cultural identity, class, gentrification, and first love. Though it had been years since I had read Austen, I thoroughly enjoyed this delightful and relatable remix.