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Halsey Street by [Coster, Naima]
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Halsey Street Kindle Edition

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Length: 331 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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From the Editor

If you are bilingual like I am, you know that your brain can work on two parallel paths simultaneously. Both paths tell the same story but in a different way. It’s no coincidence that I was thinking about this experience while devouring Naima Coster’s debut novel, Halsey Street. The main character, Penelope Grand, flits between parallel worlds—her mother’s in the Dominican Republic and her father’s of jazz and record shops and bars where everyone knows your name in Bed-Stuy.

Penelope moves back to her once-familiar but now rapidly gentrifying neighborhood in Brooklyn to care for her ailing father, but her life is turned upside down when her estranged mother, Mirella, sends a postcard asking to reconnect. Naima expertly drew me in to Penelope and Mirella’s worlds and inspired deep reflection. What happens when you move back home and don’t recognize your past? Is change—in a neighborhood, in your situation, in life—necessarily bad if it benefits everyone? How do you mend two halves when they’ve been fractured for so long?

The two cultures are never at odds—like two languages, they complement each other. I can’t think of a changing Bed-Stuy without also thinking about the lushness of the DR nor can I think of Penelope without thinking of Mirella. I was struck by the emotions I felt for these complicated and passionate women, both of whom I was rooting for despite realizing they are also both at fault. The contradictions, struggles, and connections we make in life are not easy but Halsey Street walks these parallel paths confidently.

- Vivian Lee, Editor

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Editorial Reviews


“A masterful tale of family failures and forgiveness.” People

“In her stunning debut novel, Coster remarkably renders the complexities of people and their many relationships as well as the tricky interplay of past and present. Alternately delivered from the perspective of Penelope and Mirella (with a little Spanish mixed in), Coster’s realistic depictions of these two hurt and angry women and the broken man who connects them will haunt readers while making them flinch, gasp, and quite possibly cry. Wow. Powerful, unforgettable, and not to be missed.” Library Journal (starred review)

“A quiet gut-punch of a debut…Absorbing and alive, the kind of novel that swallows you whole.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“In her perceptive, memorable debut, Coster reveals the personal toll that gentrification takes on one damaged Bed-Stuy family…Penelope’s status as both an insider and an outsider in her childhood home affords Coster an acute perspective from which to consider the repercussions of gentrification, as well as a family’s legacy of self-destruction.” Publishers Weekly

“But where Halsey Street most impresses is in its sharp and sophisticated moral sense. Take the issue of gentrification. In lesser hands, this could become—in many works of contemporary literary fiction, does become—ham-fisted or preachy. Coster’s treatment, though, is always gracefully done. We don’t get a fictional ‘take’ on gentrification. Rather, we get a story that makes the phenomenon meaningful through its narrative integration…Halsey Street regularly rejects simplicity for complexity. Like Woolf said of Middlemarch this is a novel written for grown-up people—the most surprising and satisfying element in a continually surprising and satisfying debut.” San Francisco Chronicle

Halsey Street pays careful, detailed attention to the ways family ties can splinter and fester and ache, and the way a neighborhood that used to be familiar but no longer is creates a feeling of isolation…And [it] offers the same attentiveness to the changing landscape of Brooklyn, and to a Bed-Stuy that is rapidly becoming unrecognizable. It’s a detailed portrait that’s almost a love letter.” Vox

“Active erasure shows up strongly in Naima Coster’s beautiful debut novel, Halsey Street…In her portrayal of a borough that’s lost its identity, Coster paints a vivid image of a broken family that isn’t clear how to move forward, but knows that it must in order to survive. We become who we must be, particularly in times of turmoil. Brooklyn is not what it used to be, so what will it become? Halsey Street grapples with that question.” BitchMedia

“A meditation on family, love, gentrification, and home.” The Millions

Halsey Street tackles big issues like race, gentrification, and immigration but what’s most beautiful about Coster’s novel is that it is primarily about two women coming home and navigating the bewildering territory of their adult relationships with each other, with their pasts, and with their homes. Coster gives her characters of color permission to just be people—messy, hurt, sometimes hurtful, generally-mystified-by-life human people—liberating them (and thereby all her grateful women of color readers) from having to always be all of the demographic identities that precede them in a world that considers them first an aberration and a problem.” Bustle

“This moving yarn gives us enchanting heroine Penelope Grand. She’s dealing with her suddenly gentrified neighborhood, which presents unwelcome surprises.” Essence

“Naima Coster is definitely a writer to watch. Her clear-eyed writing interrogates race, class, and family in a refreshing and thoroughly engaging way. A lovely and thoughtful book.” —Jacqueline Woodson, author of Another Brooklyn and National Book Award winner Brown Girl Dreaming

“This is the story of a family—which means it’s the story of imperfect and vulnerable creatures—failing at love no matter their efforts. In Halsey Street, Naima Coster shows us one young woman’s tangled efforts to return home and repair the intimacies we can hardly live without. It’s a poignant, moving book, written with deep empathy and sophistication.” —Ben Marcus, author of Leaving the Sea and The Flame Alphabet

“In this lovely novel, Naima Coster captures, with depth and nuance, the yearnings, ambivalence, and insecurities of a woman on the brink of adulthood. In the process of healing old wounds, Penelope Grand must mend complex fractures in relationships with her estranged mother in the Dominican Republic and her father in Brooklyn. An exceptional debut that explores how to find meaning within the shifting emotions and tangled webs of connection.” —Christina Baker Kline, New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train and Piece of the World

“Naima Coster’s first novel is rich and flavorsome, a portrait of a Brooklyn neighborhood in decline and renewal, and of a young woman—a risk-taker, fierce and yet loving. First novels rarely come as skilled, touching, and real as Halsey Street.” —John Crowley, author of Ka and Little, Big

“Coster’s absorbing and beautifully written novel Halsey Street haunts me still. Set in two cities I love, Pittsburgh and New York, it’s both lucidly familiar and emotionally unpredictable. It’s a novel that faces head-on the complicated ways women are split between their duty to their families and their personal passions. In this deeply profound and moving story, Penelope es tremenda!—Angie Cruz, author of Soledad and Let It Rain Coffee

“How does one gifted young woman find her life? Through a deep journey of mind, body, and spirit across cultures, classes, and city blocks. Coster’s Penelope rises and falls, flies and stumbles, and goes straight to the heart in this beauty of a debut. Get to Halsey Street as fast as you can.” —Stacey D’Erasmo, author of Wonderland

Halsey Street introduces Naima Coster as an important new voice—wise, elegant and utterly engaging. Her protagonist Penelope is a fierce yet tender heroine who must navigate modern-day Brooklyn, must learn to move between classes and countries. Coster captures the ache and longing of living life as an outsider, while also illuminating the force of history and family. A remarkable, heartbreaking debut.” —Rebecca Godfrey, author of The Torn Skirt and Under the Bridge

“A poignant and absorbing Brooklyn elegy, told by a young woman lost in the no-man’s-land between gentrifier and gentrified.” —Johanna Lane, author of Black Lake

“With this debut, Naima Coster has established herself as a major new talent of literary realism. A tale of what happens when your own past is rendered as unknowable as your future, this family story looks at all the different ways loss defines us. Brooklyn is under trial for Coster’s Grand family in a way any New Yorker can recognize, but Coster goes the additional mile to investigate the nuances of the gentrified and the gentrifiers. Race, ethnicity, and class are masterfully challenged in this narrative of self-discovery and the quest to preserve one’s heritage while honoring lifesaving transformation. A brilliant debut.” —Porochista Khakpour, author of Sons and Other Flammable Objects and The Last Illusion

About the Author

Naima Coster is a native of Fort Greene, Brooklyn. She holds an MFA in fiction from Columbia University, an MA in English and creative writing from Fordham University, and a BA in English and African American studies from Yale. Her stories and essays have appeared in the New York Times, Guernica, Arts & Letters, Kweli, and the Rumpus. Coster is the recipient of numerous awards and a Pushcart Prize nomination. A former editor of CURA and a former mentor of Girls Write Now, Coster is also a proud alumna of Prep for Prep, the leadership development program in New York City aiding high-potential minority students in public, charter, and parochial schools. She currently teaches writing in North Carolina, where she lives with her family. Halsey Street is her first novel.

Product details

  • File Size: 2416 KB
  • Print Length: 331 pages
  • Publisher: Little A (January 1, 2018)
  • Publication Date: January 1, 2018
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,792 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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