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The Stars and the Blackness Between Them
Cover of The Stars and the Blackness Between Them
The Stars and the Blackness Between Them
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A Coretta Scott King Honor Book
Told in two distinct and irresistible voices, Junauda Petrus's bold and lyrical debut is the story of two black girls from very different backgrounds finding love and happiness in a world that seems determined to deny them both.

Port of Spain, Trinidad. Sixteen-year-old Audre is despondent, having just found out she's going to be sent to live in America with her father because her strictly religious mother caught her with her secret girlfriend, the pastor's daughter. Audre's grandmother Queenie (a former dancer who drives a white convertible Cadillac and who has a few secrets of her own) tries to reassure her granddaughter that she won't lose her roots, not even in some place called Minneapolis. "America have dey spirits too, believe me," she tells Audre.
Minneapolis, USA. Sixteen-year-old Mabel is lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out why she feels the way she feels—about her ex Terrell, about her girl Jada and that moment they had in the woods, and about the vague feeling of illness that's plagued her all summer. Mabel's reverie is cut short when her father announces that his best friend and his just-arrived-from-Trinidad daughter are coming for dinner.
Mabel quickly falls hard for Audre and is determined to take care of her as she tries to navigate an American high school. But their romance takes a turn when test results reveal exactly why Mabel has been feeling low-key sick all summer and suddenly it's Audre who is caring for Mabel as she faces a deeply uncertain future.
Junauda Petrus's debut brilliantly captures the distinctly lush and lyrical voices of Mabel and Audre as they conjure a love that is stronger than hatred, prison, and death and as vast as the blackness between the stars.
A Coretta Scott King Honor Book
Told in two distinct and irresistible voices, Junauda Petrus's bold and lyrical debut is the story of two black girls from very different backgrounds finding love and happiness in a world that seems determined to deny them both.

Port of Spain, Trinidad. Sixteen-year-old Audre is despondent, having just found out she's going to be sent to live in America with her father because her strictly religious mother caught her with her secret girlfriend, the pastor's daughter. Audre's grandmother Queenie (a former dancer who drives a white convertible Cadillac and who has a few secrets of her own) tries to reassure her granddaughter that she won't lose her roots, not even in some place called Minneapolis. "America have dey spirits too, believe me," she tells Audre.
Minneapolis, USA. Sixteen-year-old Mabel is lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out why she feels the way she feels—about her ex Terrell, about her girl Jada and that moment they had in the woods, and about the vague feeling of illness that's plagued her all summer. Mabel's reverie is cut short when her father announces that his best friend and his just-arrived-from-Trinidad daughter are coming for dinner.
Mabel quickly falls hard for Audre and is determined to take care of her as she tries to navigate an American high school. But their romance takes a turn when test results reveal exactly why Mabel has been feeling low-key sick all summer and suddenly it's Audre who is caring for Mabel as she faces a deeply uncertain future.
Junauda Petrus's debut brilliantly captures the distinctly lush and lyrical voices of Mabel and Audre as they conjure a love that is stronger than hatred, prison, and death and as vast as the blackness between the stars.
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  • Available:
    1
  • Library copies:
    1
Levels-
  • ATOS:
    5.0
  • Lexile:
    890
  • Interest Level:
    UG
  • Text Difficulty:
    3 - 5

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Excerpts-
  • From the book

    An excerpt from The Stars and the Blackness Between Them

    Chapter 1: Audre

    "Yuh fas' and arrow and sensual and mango," Queenie tells me, "so, Audre, please put some molasses in yuh feet for dis walk, it ain't supposed to go fas'," she says, as we walk through the woods. I is crying so hard, my body is shudder and breath and wet with tears. My glasses fog up and I wipe them with my shirt so I can see through them and see the back of my grandma, my guide. My heart feeling like it get bus' up for calling somebody mother a jagabat.

    Queenie is pure light and sweetness and obsidian skin. She smell like spicy earth things, like sandalwood and cinnamon and dirt itself. She is strong and warrior, moving through the trees like a river, carving her way through mud, elegant, dark and slow like the molasses she say we should invoke for this journey. She have on a long white dress, with a white scarf wrap around she short white hair and shoulders like a woman in prayer. The woods are a green and quiet bush between her house and ocean that I know very well. Too well. I have cover every part of them bush, with the bottom of my feet and the eyes of my soul since I young.

    Queenie got silver bangles 'round she wrist like broken Saturn rings, jingling each of her movements through the forest. She moves with her walking stick made of bamboo and mahogany and wrapped tight in thin copper, rose quartz, and citrine, so it could be strong and light and absorb power. She takes the lead on our journey and let me cry in her wake.

    Queenie stops quick and backs me up with her forearm. She looks up and reads the air. She smiles. She points and I see leaves whisper at us, shimmying with breeze and speaking Spirit. She looks at me to see if I am reading the signs. I barely able to lift my head, so soaked am I in my own river and ocean, my eyes cloudy. And to be real, I ain't want to see the full story yet.

    I'm already feeling a change. I've been soaked in the feeling of Spirit's song since we started walking into the bush and up through the hills by Queenie's house. When Spirit speak to Queenie, she says she sees it first, and it feel like life become a dream and has a whisper of iridescence, "like the world get soft before I get revelation." For me, it is different. The only way I can say it feels is like a tingle, a feeling, from the earth through water, and I is surrounded in a power that's bigger than me. Queenie can shape her magic like she feels, but I feel like mine shapes me, controls me. I can sometimes feel what anyone else feel, but I never know when or why I have to feel it.

    I look at her, and my body still trembles. She pulls me up in her arm, while she holds us steady. She ain't afraid of my bawling, and she kisses me on both my cheeks and forehead, blessing me with my own tears and her Queenie love. She turns forward and keeps walking. My sob follows us and is whisper, then wail. We move into the curve of the hill like we're walking into heaven, then the path bends down and we are walking easier and I is feeling it, the pull of Our Water Mother, in my skin. I keep crying, following Queenie to the sea.

    Queenie swing an orange blanket onto the ground. She grab dried cocos, big rocks, and shells to secure the blanket into the sand. I is numb and just looking at the ocean and feeling like I is going to fall over. Queenie sit me down and pull out her machete and start busting fresh cocos she bring.

    "Drink dis, nuh. I sure you did dry yourself out, with all of that crying and grieving of love, my dahlin'," she say, handing me a coco. "Your first tabanca is a heartbreak that feel like a bit of death, yes. It hurt me...

Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    July 1, 2019
    In Petrus' bewitching debut, Aquarius meets Scorpio and contemplates what comes next. Audre has found religion in the form of Neri, the pastor's granddaughter, much to the chagrin of her religious mother. Sent from Trinidad to Minneapolis to live with her father, Audre is afraid of leaving her beloved grandmother, being cut off from her home culture, and starting over in a new country. Meanwhile, fascinated with Whitney Houston and the singer's supposed romance with a female friend, Mabel is attempting to fit the pieces of her sexuality together. Although she's been feeling sick, she agrees to entertain her father's friend's newly arrived daughter, and Audre and Mabel grow close over the summer. As the school year ramps up, Mabel can no longer ignore her chronic fatigue and pain and must grapple with life-altering news. She finds comfort in reading an old book of her parents', learning about astrology, and seeking Audre's healing presence. Audre's voice is lyrical, and readers will practically hear her Trinidadian accent as she overcomes her fears and self-doubt. Through a nonlinear storyline and two secondary characters, Afua and Queenie, the author beautifully interjects elements of magical realism while delving into the complexities of spirituality. Readers seeking a deep, uplifting love story will not be disappointed as the novel covers both flourishing feelings and bigger questions around belief and what happens when we face our own mortality. Main characters are black. A cosmically compelling read. (Fiction. 14-adult)

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    September 1, 2019

    Gr 8 Up-Sixteen-year-olds Audre and Mabel are from different parts of the world, but over the course of a single bittersweet year they meet and fall in love. Audre has been sent from her home in Trinidad to Minneapolis after her very religious mother finds out she has been having a romantic relationship with another young woman. Meanwhile, Mabel, who has had a boyfriend but has never really been in love, finds herself diagnosed with terminal cancer. At a time when both young women are in desperate need of connection, they find it in each other. Both characters have unique and recognizable voices. Audre's "Trini" accent and culture, in particular, come across loud and clear on the page. Intercalary poetry also enhances the story and will appeal to fans of verse novels. The love story is juxtaposed against the tragic story of a fictional wrongfully incarcerated man, whose death row memoir resonates with Mabel's experience of knowing her death is likely near. This becomes a part of Mabel's last wish through an organization like "Make a Wish Foundation." The wrongful incarceration theme makes this title particularly relevant given the current conversations centered around the wrongful convictions of the "Central Park 5." VERDICT Told in alternating viewpoints and deeply romantic, this title will appeal to fans of Nicola Yoon's The Sun Is Also a Star or Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera's What If It's Us.-Kristin Lee Anderson, Jackson County Library Services, OR

    Copyright 2019 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from September 2, 2019
    After 16-year-old Audre’s homophobic mother catches her in the arms of her girlfriend, she is shipped from her home in Trinidad to her father in Minneapolis. There, Audre is reunited with her childhood playmate, Mabel, who is slowly coming to terms with her own sexuality, based on her feelings for her ex-boyfriend, her best friend, and the late, great Whitney Houston. Mabel is quickly smitten with Audre, and the girls begin to grow closer until an unexpected medical diagnosis threatens to halt their budding love story. Faced with her own mortality, Mabel seeks out her life’s meaning in the stars and in the words of an infamous death row inmate, while Audre explores her loving conjurer grandmother’s spiritual teachings for an impossible cure for Mabel’s disease. Enfolding lyrical poetry entries told in the girls’ alternating voices that correspond to each “season” of the zodiac, Petrus’s earnest debut successfully, touchingly combines elements of fantasy, bittersweet realism, and potent, affecting spirituality to tell the coming-of-age story of two complex, beautifully drawn young black women whose friendship and love draw them together even as Mabel’s failing health pushes them apart. Ages 14–up.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from August 1, 2019
    Grades 9-12 *Starred Review* Trinidadian native Audre uses the labels placed upon her as a shield, fearing those around her will discover the real reason her mother sent her to live with her distant father in Minneapolis: she was caught wrapped in the arms of another girl. Struggling with her own questions surrounding her sexuality and depleting health, Mabel holds no faith that she's going to have anything in common with Audre, the daughter of a family friend who's just arrived from Trinidad and has a bit of a church-girl reputation. But they find themselves drawn to each other in inexorable ways. Told through unflinching prose and poetry laced with astrological themes, Petrus' work breaks the mold of traditional writing and uses unconventional dialogue and voice to bring life to the story of two authentic, unapologetic Black girls as they face the hardest truths head on and discover everlasting love that reaches even the most distant corners of the cosmos. Through the intersplicing of poetry, Petrus provides compelling depth to both Audre and Mabel while conveying the powerful message that those we love on earth remain with us through a connection that can only be described as celestial. Striking an agile balance between humor and heartbreak, Petrus delivers an immersive queer romance set in in a world much like our own but touched with the slightest tint of magic realism.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2019, American Library Association.)

  • DOGO Books ellsworth2424 - My aunt received an advanced reader's copy (ARC) of this book. I wasn't sure if I would like it, but it turned out I did. The ending was best of all!
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