Kevin’s birth was uneventful, but in that moment, the world was roiling, and his life is forever shaped by that violence. Kev was born in Los Angeles during the riots of 1992, sparked by the acquittals of the police officers who beat Rodney King during a 1991 arrest.
Kev and his older sister, Ella, have powers. Ella calls them her Thing. She can visit places she’s never been, past and present, and see how events will unfold. Ella struggles to control her powers, which are ignited by her anger—and she has plenty to be angry about in a country built on structural racism. As a young girl, she recognizes the dangers of the gangs in her Los Angeles neighborhood and worries about the day when her unborn brother will be forced to declare allegiance. Kev’s future is as his big sister expected, and he spends years in prison, where she visits him both through the system and by using her powers.
During a visit to their mother’s former pastor, Ella recounts the context of Kev’s birth. The pastor responds, “Violence didn’t give you your brother.” But Ella, who has always recognized the turmoil that would surround Kev, responds, “But it will get him back.”
Young adult novelist Tochi Onyebuchi makes his adult fiction debut with Riot Baby, a novella that shimmers with Ella’s frustration and desire for justice. Onyebuchi expertly weaves supernatural elements through an all-too-realistic, thrilling story.