Cultural anthropologist Nikki Payne unapologetically attempts to subvert the canon in her first novel, Pride and Protest, a modern Pride and Prejudice retelling. The story--witty and freshly plotted with a vivid urban setting and some enjoyable takes on Jane Austen's classic characters--features a reluctant Filipino CEO and a fiery Black radio show host who continually butt heads over urban development.
Dorsey Fitzgerald's company, Pemberley, is proposing some drastic construction projects in Merrytown, a tightly knit Washington, D.C., neighborhood full of such housing projects as Longbourne Gardens, a place people have lived for years. Indignant over the potential gentrification of her beloved Merrytown, Liza B., a local DJ with a huge social media following, decides to use her platform to fight back against the Pemberley corporation. Liza reluctantly shares a Longbourne apartment with five other people--her cantankerous grandmother; her mother, who is eager to climb the social ladder; pageant-winning sister Janae; her brother Maurice, a member of the Nation of Islam; and her sister LeDeya, a makeup influencer. Anything Liza can do to help bring down local housing prices and allow some of them to move out would be a win. Liza, with her sharp tongue, and Dorsey, with his glamorous aesthetic, meet at a gala that Liza attends just to protest--and sparks fly.
Payne captures the subtle angst of Pride and Prejudice but does so with a modern, sexy vibe. Fans of Austen retellings, especially those who enjoyed Pride by Ibi Zoboi, are sure to like Pride and Protest. --Jessica Howard, freelance book reviewer