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Patsy
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Patsy

A Novel

From the critically acclaimed and award winning novelist Nicole Dennis-Benn comes a stirring portrait of motherhood, immigration, and the sacrifices we make in the name of love.


Bookseller Recommendation

Patsy

“I feel that Dennis-Benn is unparalleled in writing the insidious unforgivables. The mother who can't find love for her daughter, the more-than-friend who takes everything you give them and never gives back, the daughter told to be a "good girl" who finds difficulty doing either of those things for the woman who ends up raising her. Like her debut, this novel is filled with characters tormented by the compromises they made but whose character Dennis-Benn refuses to compromise. The painfully recognizable humanity of everyone in Patsy asks us all to reach inside for the empathy we're capable of for people we wouldn't normally think to give it to.”

Water Street Bookstore image Alice, Water Street Bookstore

Description

When Patsy gets her long-coveted visa to America, it comes after years of yearning to leave Pennyfield, the beautiful but impoverished Jamaican town where she was raised. More than anything, Patsy wishes to be reunited with her oldest friend, Cicely, whose letters arrive from New York steeped in the promise of a happier life and the possible rekindling of their young love. But Patsy's plans don't include her overzealous, evangelical mother—or even her five-year-old daughter, Tru. Beating with the pulse of a long-withheld confession, Patsy gives voice to a woman who looks to America for the opportunity to choose herself first—not to give a better life to her family back home. Patsy leaves Tru behind in a defiant act of self-preservation, hoping for a new start. But when Patsy arrives in Brooklyn, America is not as Cicely's treasured letters described; to survive as an undocumented immigrant, she is forced to work as a bathroom attendant and nanny. Meanwhile, Tru builds a faltering relationship with her father back in Jamaica, grappling with her own questions of identity and sexuality.

Expertly evoking the jittery streets of New York and the languid rhythms of Jamaica, Patsy weaves between the lives of Patsy and Tru in vignettes spanning more than a decade as mother and daughter ultimately find a way back to one another.

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Testimonials


“Beautiful, shattering, and deeply affecting. Patsy’s story ultimately makes for a novel that is destined to endure.”

Chigozie Obioma, author of The Fishermen

“A stunningly powerful inter-generational novel about the price―the ransom really― women must pay to choose themselves, their lives, their value, their humanity. Frank, funny, salty, heartbreaking, full of love, Dennis-Benn is a map-maker to those places in the heart held so closely, the holder may not know even they’re there.”

Alexander Chee, author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel

“A novel that splits at the seams with yearning, elegantly written and deeply felt. Dennis-Benn leads the reader through Patsy's life with empathy and grace.”

Esmé Weijun Wang, author of The Collected Schizophrenias

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About the author


Nicole Dennis-Benn is a Lambda Literary Award winner and New York Foundation for the Arts Artist Fellowship recipient. She's also a finalist for the 2016 John Leonard Prize National Book Critics Circle Award, the 2016 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, and the 2017 Young Lions Fiction Award for her debut novel, Here Comes the Sun- a New York Times Notable Book of the year, an NPR, Amazon, Barnes & Noble Best Book of 2016. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Elle, Electric Literature, Ebony, and the Feminist Wire. She was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, and lives with her wife in Brooklyn, New York.


Reviews

“There have been few narrative epics that effectively tally the emotional, logistical, physical, psychological and financial trials of the black female immigrant and mother or, likewise, the impact on the family of a black woman who dares transform herself. Dennis-Benn maps the internal terrain of black women yearning to be free — without romanticizing or ignoring their flaws....Patsy fills a literary void with compassion, complexity and tenderness.”

Time Magazine

Patsy upends the stereotypes of immigrant and gay fiction...[it] continually and subtly defies predictability as it tells a vital and remarkable life story...Again and again, Patsy surprises and illuminates.”

The New York Times

“An unflinching rumination on ambition and ambivalent motherhood, Patsy turns a fish-out-of-water tale into a morally complex epic.”

O, The Oprah Magazine

“Dennis-Benn gives her characters the dose of happiness and self-assurance that many stories about social ills refuse women like them. She does that without facilely wishing away the big issues—racism, homophobia, gender, classism—that her novel tackles. Patsy is a portrait of black queer women grasping for self-determination, and a challenge to the conventions of what is expected of good mothers and good women and good immigrants. Tru’s inheritance from Patsy isn’t years of doting or gifts from America, but instead the permission to thrive in a society that will always threaten to crush her will and desire. In writing beautifully about that unending struggle, Dennis-Benn finds a way to extend to black girls and women some of the love that the world may never offer.”

The Atlantic

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