STARRED REVIEW
March 03, 2021

What’s Mine and Yours

By Naima Coster
“If there’s something I’ve learned in this country, it’s that your address decides everything.” That piece of advice is tucked among the rich character descriptions in the opening chapter of Naima Coster’s second novel, What’s Mine and Yours.
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“If there’s something I’ve learned in this country, it’s that your address decides everything.” That piece of advice is tucked among the rich character descriptions in the opening chapter of Naima Coster’s second novel, What’s Mine and Yours. What could be taken as a passing remark is actually a poignant thesis for the story that follows as it unfolds from the 1990s to the present.

In early 2000s North Carolina, Jade is thrilled that her son, Gee, and other students from their part of town will have the opportunity to transfer to the predominately white Central High School. The newspaper reports that the merging of the city and county school systems is popular among the town’s residents, and pilot programs provide incentives for students to transfer across the system. But at the crowded town hall meeting before the start of the school year, Gee doesn’t share his mom’s enthusiasm. He’s sure this isn’t a welcoming committee; he’s heard white parents plan to protest.

Lacey May is among those pushing back. She hasn’t had it easy; after her husband went to jail, she chose to couple up with a man who could provide for her and her three daughters. Lacey May’s oldest, Noelle, is embarrassed by her mother’s actions and is sure they’re motivated by the color of her new classmates’ skin. Noelle and her sisters are half-Latina, though they pass for white. She concocts a plan with Central’s theater teacher: They’ll put on a Shakespearean performance to build a bridge between existing students and newcomers. The play brings Noelle and Gee together, even as their mothers continue to rage outside the classroom.

In vividly detailed scenes spanning more than 25 years, Coster (author of Halsey Street and one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” for 2020) illuminates the impact of Noelle’s and Gee’s families and formative years. The pair is the heart of What’s Mine and Yours, but Coster allows every major player their time in the spotlight. Her rich character development illustrates the many ways family and circumstances can influence who we become.

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What’s Mine and Yours

What’s Mine and Yours

By Naima Coster
Grand Central
ISBN 9781538702345

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