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Brown Girl in the Ring

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  3,251 Ratings  ·  385 Reviews
"She's a powerful writer with an imagination that most of us would kill for. I have read everything she has written and am in awe of her many gifts. And her protagonists are unforgettable--formidable haunted women drawn with an almost unbearable honesty." --Junot Diaz


The rich and privileged have fled the city, barricaded it behind roadblocks, and left
Paperback, 256 pages
Published July 1st 1998 by Grand Central Publishing (first published January 1st 1998)
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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)

Community Reviews

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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
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
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
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
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!
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
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
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: own, 2014
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
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
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
So this book kind of reminds me of a short story I read by Hopkinson in the Dark Matter anthology as far as the relationship between grandmother and granddaughter. Like most of the books I read by her, I got sucked into the world and finished a great deal of the book in one sitting. The hero of the book, Ti-Jeanne is realistically written with faults and blindsides. There is an interesting twist I didn't see coming and a bittersweet ending.
Loved it.
Mar 16, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fab-14
A bit of a mixed bag. Delightful in places, but overall it has a slightly unfinished feel; I’m willing to chalk it up to debut novel rough edges and try another one of hers. Love the breastfeeding mother protagonist, taking time out from saving the city to put her baby to breast, simultaneously figuring out the new mother hurdles along with the fighting evil hurdles.
Sep 05, 2015 rated it liked it
Afro-Caribbean magic, combined with near-future urban decay and sketchy organ donation practices, turns traditional SFF conventions into something unique. Fans of magic systems will delight in something different, fans of scifi will appreciate the magi-tech elements. Labeled magic realism, it is definitely not, but it is fresher than the usual genre-wank, though not a true departure.
Kenya Wright
Jan 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
It was fun to enter an entirely fresh new setting filled with fantasy and folk magic. This was down in sci-fi for I guess. . .the dystopian qualities, but this is totally a futuristic folk urban fantasy. The prose was breathtaking. I would say my biggest problem was stumbling around some of the characters who spoke in the culture's heavy dialect. Other than that, I'll be reading more of Nalo Hopkinson!
Loved this book. It has flaws, but they are easily overlooked in favour of the cracking premise and writing. Afro-Caribbean magical realism in a dystopian future Toronto? So great, and the plot was heartbreaking and satisfying.
Bobby Bermea
In many ways, what Nalo Hopkinson achieves is akin to Tolkien. She takes the myths, history and language of a people and turns them into a rich literary tapestry that has a new resonance for readers today. Tolkien "remembered" stories from his communal past and retold them in a context he had created, re-introducing the world to goblins and trolls and elves and wizards, among others. Hopkinson does the same with Brown Girl. Instead of Middle Earth we have a Toronto of the future that has been de ...more
Mar 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
I can just imagine how stunning this book was when it first hit the scene. Even now the twisting of urban fantasy and the oral story-telling tradition is like a splash of cold water on a hot day, refreshingly unexpected. I loved that the heroine, Ti-Jeanne, carried a baby on her chest through most of the action. The fact that the events center around a grandmother and granddaughter is already unusual but in an action-adventure story it's unheard of. It is also equally rare to find the ghetto rep ...more
Aug 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Brown Girl in the Ring starts with a vision of a dangerous, walled off near future Toronto; as a once and future Torontonian I'll admit I found this disturbing. It's a dangerous and disturbing book, full of death and gore, but also gods and magic and a culture I know very little about, and a wonderfully flawed protagonist. I love that even though it contains all of those things, the scope of the story is small. There's one big-picture subplot that felt a little shoehorned in, though it did feed ...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 :)
I loved the language but unfortunately, I didn't really like the story. My expectations were super high so maybe that had something to do with it.
Danika at The Lesbrary
Except for a few transphobic moments, I really loved this. Nalo Hopkinson is definitely one of my favourite writers, and I can't wait to read her whole back list.
Sep 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read for the Women of Genre Fiction challenge, the 12 Awards in 12 Months challenge, the LGBTQ Speculative Fiction challengeand the Vernon Library Summer Reading challenge. I was going to read this for the Apocalypse Now! Challenge, but the world was not destroyed and therefore, it does not qualify.

I loved this book. I loved everything about it! I have encountered some of Nalo Hopkinson’s short fiction before and was intrigued, but this novel received a lot of awards and a lot of critical acclai
Fangs for the Fantasy
Sep 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
oronto has become a ruin, a dystopian city of extreme poverty. After the riots it was largely abandoned by the government - wealthy Torontonians fled to the outer ring, leaving the inner city core to descend into poverty and lawlessness

Ti-Jeane lives in Toronto with her baby and her grandmother, who makes a living from her herb-lore and healing. Trying to get by in the torn city, her life is complicated as the father of her child gets in over his head with the criminal boss, who all but rules d
Sep 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Part Caribbean folk story, part good old dystopian science fiction, "Brown Girl in the Ring" is a vibrant and wonderful novel. Near-future Toronto has been gutted by economic disparity and corrupt government policy, and everyone who could afford to move have long since fled to the suburbs. Those who are left struggle to survive in an inner city with limited resources, high crime rates, and no assistance from outside. (Sound like modern day Detroit? The Atlantic thought so, too. Read the article ...more
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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.

More about Nalo Hopkinson

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“The heaviness of loss in her heart hadn't eased, but there was room there for humour, too.” 1019 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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