Short Story Review: “Jamaica Ginger” by Nisi Shawl and Nalo Hopkinson

3 of 5 stars.

The young adult coming-of-age story is always about finding oneself. However, for some that journey has more hurdles both socially and psychologically–privilege greases wheels, a lack thereof gums up opportunity.

Plaquette is young, black, female and poor in segregated New Orleans. The one thing she has strongly going for her is her innate talent at understanding the mechanics of clockwork men, aka steampunk robots. But she is lorded over by the shopkeeper, Msieur, who nickel and dimes her for every perceived waste of material or delay of time. With her father no longer medically able to hold down a job, she needs every coin available.

Msieur additionally promises a life of relative ease for her family if she’ll be his mistress. Not that she’d get to quick working for him, nor would he claim any kids from their union. But it would satisfy the burden on her parents.

However, Plaquette cares deeply about Billy the delivery guy and he returns the affections. His low wage job would keep the money problems persist in their lives.

More than anything, she needs time away from everybody with a stake in her . . .

This tale appears in The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume 10 edited by Jonathan Strahan. I received this new anthology from Netgalley. I’ve previously read Shawl’s “Street Worm”.
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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