By Piyali C.
Tue, October 4 | 7 – 8 pm
HCLS Miller Branch
Register at this link.
The theme for One Maryland One Book this year was “new beginning.” As a member of the selection committee, I was assigned to read What’s Mine and Yours as a potential title. It took me a while to recognize the theme in this story, but I realized that instead of the theme being overarching, hope or a new beginning, operates somewhat cyclically in this novel.
The story opens with the prospect of new beginnings – two men stand at the cusp of a beautiful, happy life. Two fathers share a cigarette and a brief conversation one day about their dreams surrounding the amazing lives that they envision for their children. However, disaster strikes soon after and the lives of both those families take vastly different turns than what the fathers dreamed.
The story revolves around two families who confront each other over a busing initiative in 2002 in Piedmont, North Carolina. Jade has suffered an immeasurable loss in her life already. Now she wants her only son, Gee, to get all the opportunities that she did not have so he can become a successful, sensitive Black man in America. After her husband is incarcerated, Lacy May, a White woman, is equally determined to keep children like Gee away from her White-passing, biracial daughters. She does not want them influenced by the children from the east side of town at their predominantly white school.
However, Gee and Noelle, Lacy May’s eldest daughter, become friends, which soon turns into more when they meet during a school play. The lives of these two families intersect despite the mothers being on opposite sides of the debate over the county’s decision to enforce integration. The busing initiative provides the primary conflict, with the repercussions manifested in the adult lives of the central characters – Jade and Gee, Lacy May and her three daughters. Despite the different directions each character grows, they all manage to find their new beginnings by the end of the book, in big ways and small.
Although the story begins in Piedmont, North Carolina, the issues addressed in What’s Mine and Yours are relevant to other parts of United States, including in Maryland and even Howard County. The theme of school desegregation to address socioeconomic disparity is especially pertinent as The Baltimore Sun reports, by 2014, Maryland was the third most racially segregated state in the nation, with one-quarter of its schools considered highly segregated.
The integration efforts described in the book will touch a relatable chord and inspire interesting and, hopefully, productive discussions. While the story revolves around an effort to desegregate schools, the book explores other, hugely relevant issues, such as the struggles of Black teens trying to prove that they are good enough to be in a White-dominated world, the question of why they have to prove that they are good enough, White-passing biracial people and issues that they deal with, complicated relationships between lovers, sisters, LGBTQIA+ identity, infidelity, abortion, and miscarriage – all things relevant to our present moment.
We are thrilled that Howard County Library system is the only public library in Maryland on author Naima Coster’s six-stop tour!
Naima Coster is a graduate of Yale University, Fordham University, and the Columbia University School of the Arts where she earned her MFA. She has taught writing for more than a decade in community settings, youth programs, and universities. She currently teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Antioch University in L.A. She is a 2022 mentor for the Periplus Collective.
One Maryland One Book is a program of Maryland Humanities. This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Maryland State Library. We would also like to thank our valuable partners Howard County Poetry and Literature Society (HoCoPoLitSo) and the Office of Human Rights & Equity (OHRE) and the Last Word bookstore.
Piyali is an instructor and research specialist at the Miller Branch of HCLS, where she co-facilitates both Global Reads and Strictly Historical Fiction and keeps the hope alive that someday she will reach the bottom of her to-read list.