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Brown Girl in the Ring

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  5,171 ratings  ·  670 reviews
The rich and privileged have fled the city, barricaded it behind roadblocks, and left it to crumble. The inner city has had to rediscover old ways-farming, barter, herb lore. But now the monied need a harvest of bodies, and so they prey upon the helpless of the streets. With nowhere to turn, a young woman must open herself to ancient truths, eternal powers, and the tragic ...more
Paperback, 250 pages
Published July 1st 1998 by Grand Central Publishing
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[Name Redacted] Despite the attempt at nuance in the other respondent's answer, "rich people are really mean and poor people are really good" IS a cliche, regardless …moreDespite the attempt at nuance in the other respondent's answer, "rich people are really mean and poor people are really good" IS a cliche, regardless of ethnicity -- mainly because it's universal. You can watch a movie or read a book with exactly that message in just about every language, with just about every ethnicity as a protagonist. Heck, the 90s "Oddworld" video game series has that message but substitutes extraterrestrial aliens for both groups.

That said, this book seems to be criticizing the political class just as much as the rich, indicting those who are so intent on public praise/approval and so convinced of their own moral rectitude that they lose the capacity for empathy towards their fellow humans -- and that is a message that could be applied to anyone on the political spectrum. Likewise, the book indicts organized crime and gang culture and their tendency to prey on the very people who join them and/or support them. *shrug*(less)

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Average rating 3.86  · 
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Jun 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
A story so original, Brown Girl In the Ring is hard to classify. I have never heard of Caribbean magic realism. To me this is more sci-fi with a twist of magic. The bleak Toronto hellscape of the future is completely believable, as are the characters who have a complex outer and inner life. None are more complicated than our heroine, Ti-Jeanne. She is a strong girl, devoted to her new baby and her grandmother, but also resentful of them some times. The made up language flows and sounds right to ...more
Sometimes, it’s a good idea to revisit a book you haven’t read in years. I originally read this book many years ago because the story premise intrigued me: a dystopian Toronto with a young, black woman as its protagonist. This was the first speculative fiction story I had found actually situated in a Canadian city, naming buildings and things I knew of. I was excited, and began reading, then I ran up against my stupid assumptions for speculative fiction at that time, with the biggest bias being, ...more

"I can't keep giving my will into other people's hands no more, ain't? I have to decide what I want to do for myself."

This is a review of Nalo Hopkinson's 1998 fantasy Brown Girl in the Ring. Spoilers follow, and a discussion of abuse.

So What's It About? (from Goodreads)

"The rich and privileged have fled the city, barricaded it behind roadblocks, and left it to crumble. The inner city has had to rediscover old ways--farming, barter, herb lore. But now the monied need a harvest of bodies, and so
I’m a very big fan of Nalo Hopkinson, having absolutely loved her novel Midnight Robber, and having enjoyed many of her stories in her collection Skin Folk. This novel, her first, featured some of her best qualities: a vividly alive sense of place and culture, and a welcome willingness to blend the mundane with the fantastical. But overall, I couldn’t help but feel that it was a first novel, lacking some of the confidence that was on display in her other work; there was a tendency she seemed to ...more
Joe Valdez
The next stop in my end-of-the-world reading marathon was Brown Girl in the Ring, the 1998 debut novel by Nalo Hopkinson, a Jamaican born and Canadian bred author. The book doesn't fit in among the doomsday thrillers I've been reading and to even call this "science fiction" would be false advertising on my part. I was in the mood for something different, a blast of fresh air among the abandoned post-apocalyptic streets, but even by its own standards, the novel really disappointed me.

The story ta
Sep 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a dystopian science fiction novel set in the Toronto of the future, where the centre of the city has been isolated and abandoned following riots and is now ruled by a crime lord whilst the rest of society has moved out of the city. The inhabitants of the city get along by barter and people grow things and there is still some trade with the outside world. There is little law and order, plenty of violence and feral children roam the streets, some of whom periodically disappear. The novel r ...more
This is the second Nalo Hopkinson book that has been a struggle for me to read, and I am really not sure why (this, and Midnight Robber). Neither plot rocked me, nor did I identify with the characters.

I continue to hold out hope, as Ms. Hopkinson is now a Grandmaster, and I have a few of her stories still to read.
Here, we have a genre hybrid of social SF (abandoned inner-city Toronto) with fantasy elements of spirits and "voodoo" magics (Ms. Hopkinson does both genres excellently) in one wo
Dawn C
Wow wow wow. I’ve encountered Carribean folklore before but never so fleshed out and multi faceted as in this book, where spirits have personality and thought and wants and wishes, all the things I love about Greek and Nordic mythology as well.

“Brown Girl in the Ring” is an apt title for our MC who unwillingly finds herself in the middle of a fight between her ex and his drug lord, the dark magic the boss meddles in, and her own private family drama of a missing mother and a grandmother who’s in
Allison Hurd
A near-dystopic version of Toronto with a strong Afro-Caribbean mythos makes for an original, violent and yet very human urban fantasy.

CONTENT WARNING: (no actual spoilers, just a list of topics) (view spoiler)

Things to love:

-Ti-Jeanne and Mami. I think a lot of people would feel a connection to their relationship. They felt honest--flawed, well-meaning, part of a rel
K.J. Charles
This was amazing. Such a fantastic exciting SFF read. In a future Canada Toronto has collapsed--no food, no electricity, the city a no go zone of survivors just getting by, and ruled by a malevolent crime lord who uses dark magic to get his way. The story centres on one young woman from a Caribbean family whose grandmother is a healer and communicator with the old spirits, plus and the motivating plot driver is the Canadian PM's need for a donor human heart for a transplant. The modern/futuristi ...more
Feb 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: standalone, fantasy
Brown Girl in the Ring is a standalone fantasy/horror book. This was my first time reading anything by Nalo Hopkinson. Even though I have a couple complaints, I enjoyed the story more and more as it progressed.

There are a few POV characters, but mostly the story focuses on a young, single mother named Ti-Jeanne. She has been having strange, terrifying visions. Meanwhile her ex(ish) deadbeat boyfriend Tony, the father of her young baby, has gotten mixed up with a dangerous posse led by a man who
Book Riot Community
After reading Falling In Love with Hominids, I was determined to go back and read every book Hopkinson has ever written. Brown Girl In the Ring is her first novel, and it’s a powerful beginning to a body of work. It takes place in dystopian Toronto, but it is just as much about the complicated relationships the women in this family have with each other as it is about organ farms. That’s not even mentioning the pantheon of gods that keep trying to force themselves into Ti-Jeanne’s life, while she ...more
Stephanie Spines
Dec 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
Brown Girl in the Ring is set in a future dystopian Toronto, where the wealthy have fled to the suburbs following a large-scale economic collapse fuelled by failed negotiations with local First Nations communities. Infused with magical realism, it follows Ti-Jeanne as she reconnects with her Caribbean culture, largely via her grandmother, Gros-Jeane (who is, as one may call her, an obeah woman) to take down a local gang lord, Rudy.

At first, I really connected with Ti-Jeanne, a single mother with
Bogi Takács
Update: I just realized I did not add the link to the finished review here - you can go to to read it!


I think this was my third reread of this book, the first one is pre-Goodreads. Review coming soon in my column at, this was a "readers vote with many ticky boxes" choice.

I feel like every time I get something different out of it. This time I found myself thinking this would be such a shoo-in for New Adult (which readers ask for A LOT) but
Apr 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
Brown Girl in the Ring, Nalo Hopkinson's first novel, is an impressive work of imagination. Her Haitian dominated near future Toronto is alive with sights and sounds and smells. Her world of Caribbean magics slamming into cutting edge medical tech really works, channelling a little bit of the old RPG Shadowrun but replacing information for organs. I would recommend it to anyone who loves Sci-Fi or Fantasy or Sci-Fantasy.

But I can't muster much more from my personal response than, "That was okay
Gretchen Rubin
I read a terrific list of "The 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time" and have been tracking down all the ones I haven't yet read; I discovered this excellent novel that way. ...more
Enjoyed the audiobook. Interesting fusion of near future scifi and Caribbean folklore.

4 Stars

Listened to the audiobook. Peter J Fernandez was very good.
This book is by a Canadian- Caribbean writer and it’s creative, fresh and *new* for being eleven years old. So I’ve got another new to me favorite writer. The ring of the title is the suburbs that the wealthy and middle class fled Toronto to and have taken with them the police, government and left it in the hands of an organized drug lord. Rudy calls on Caribbean dark spirits (obeah) to consolidate his power, but his ex-wife Mami Gros- Jeanne, her daughter Mi-Jeanne and granddaughter Ti-Jeanne w ...more
Even though some of the SciFi/Dystopian aspects did not make sense to me, it not prevent me from enjoying the novel.The magical elements and the use of Afro-Caribbean folklore and spiritual beliefs made it a compelling read. This was a reread for me and I enjoyed it every much as I did the first time around. Nalo Hopkinson is a gifted writer and I've loved everything I've read from her! ...more
Oleksandr Zholud
While this book is shelved as a fantasy here on GR, it is actually more of a horror set in post-apoc.

While a lot of US residents cite Canada as an example of how great he USA could be with more liberal policies (esp. now), this book describes Toronto after riots caused by income inequality. The municipal center is now a lawless zone where poor survive, riddled with addicts and the informal power in hands of a sorcerer. Those with money are living in former suburbs and visit former center only as
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 rated it it was ok
I think I was mostly disappointed by this book because I came to it with really high expectations - I'd read some great reviews of it, comparing Hopkinson favorably to Octavia Butler, etc.
Well, both writers are black and tend to write about black characters, but there the similarity ends.
This is a reasonably entertaining voodoo adventure story... a young Canadian woman of Caribbean descent, Ti-Jeanne, must take care of her baby, ditch the loser drug-addict boyfriend she's in love with, learn to
I read this and didn’t understand some of what was going on. Have to reread.
Feb 15, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2009
i think i responded to this more on account of what i learned from it than on the merits of its prose... which isn't to say it's not an enjoyable novel. it's just a bit flat in a few areas, story-wise (atmosphere, characterizations).

the premise is an interesting one. brown girl in the ring concerns a post-apocalyptic toronto, in which a young mother learns to use her caribbean spiritual roots to bring down a local drug dealer. as sci-fi, it's not terribly concerned with alternate realities. in f
Megan Baxter
May 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
I sat down to read Nalo Hopkinson's Brown Girl in the Ring because it is on a CBC Books List of 100 Novels That Make You Proud To Be A Canadian. I'm working my way through it, slowly, although it is annoying that it skews so heavily towards the recent. And there are certain other themes that I am less than happy about.

Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read
Oct 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the folk religion blended with the use of magic. She drew on a vast culture but never info dumped and kept the pace moving. The worldbuilding and political commentary were subtle and on point. She effectively skewers white privilege and makes her case for a very real and disturbing future. A novel of redemption for some and despair for others. But her skill as a novelist keeps you guessing who the saved and who the damned will be.
Been on hiatus because of work and things, but hoping to get more reviews back out. :-) If I owe you an email, I'm getting there. Promise. Anyhow.

3.5 stars. I know this book is classified as science fiction, but honestly, it felt more like urban fantasy to me. At best, it was science-fantasy because it does have some science fiction elements. However, those things aren't nearly as pronounced to me as the fantasy portion of the novel.

Downtown Toronto has abandoned by the Canadian government afte
Feb 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014, own
The first sentence of Brown Girl in the Ring contains the line of dialogue, "We want you to find us a viable human heart, fast." It is a white man coming to a black man for help, and it sets into motion a chain of events that will change the lives of many people in the ruins of Toronto.

Brown Girl in the Ring runs a scant 250 pages, but it packs a hell of a lot into those pages. Ti-Jeanne, Our Heroine, has her hands full with a new baby, but her former lover, Tony, gets embroiled in the dealings
Many writers and other literary types have been concerned as of late with the idea of queering science fiction, fantasy, and other kinds of speculative fiction, which have an unfortunate but not entirely undeserved reputation of glorifying certain kinds of white homophobic masculinity. Being a fairly recent convert to these kinds of non-realist writing, I picked up Jamaican-born Torontonian Nalo Hopkinson’s first novel Brown Girl in the Ring (1998) eagerly. It comes recommended by Octavia Butler ...more
Jherane Patmore
Oct 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: rebelwomenlit
This book is awesome! Reading this was so easy and Nalo packs in HUGE themes of ethics, Afro-spirituality, immigration, aging, motherhood, poverty, and exploitation. I learned so much about my own Caribbean culture from reading this book based in Toronto, how sway?

I would recommend this book for anyone with an interest in seeing a dystopian world where the spirits and gang lords contend and Afro-Caribbean single mothers are the victors.

P.S.: I hated all the human men in the book :)
Dec 13, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, 2020-tbr
This was a solid, quick, 3-star read.
Hopkinson knows how to create and sustain tension and draw interesting characters. Still, I was never completely drawn in and missed a deeper emotional impact.
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Nalo Hopkinson is a Jamaican-born writer and editor who lives in Canada. Her science fiction and fantasy novels and short stories often draw on Caribbean history and language, and its traditions of oral and written storytelling.

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While books about anti-racism are trending on Goodreads and dominating the bestseller lists right now, some of our favorite Black authors are...
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“The heaviness of loss in her heart hadn't eased, but there was room there for humour, too.” 1010 likes
“The African powers, child. The spirits. The loas. The orishas. The oldest ancestors. You will hear people from Haiti and Cuba and Brazil and so call them different names. You will even hear some names I ain’t tell you, but we all mean the same thing. Them is the ones who does carry we prayers to God Father, for he too busy to listen to every single one of we on earth talking at he all the time. Each of we have a special one who is we father or mother, and no matter what we call it, whether Shango or Santeria or Voudun or what, we all doing the same thing. Serving the spirits.” 3 likes
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