New books: On the road with the Moulite sisters
One of the Good ones is a road trip that links the Jim Crow era to the struggles of the new BIPOC generations in a two-way street of sisterhood and adventure.
Sisters Maika and Maritza Moulite have four hands that type loudly to make their stories, but share a common brain.
Daughters of a large family of four women of Haitian origin, this double 'M' jumped to the top of young adult literature with their first novel, Dear Haiti, Love Alaine, where they recovers their Haitian past through the eyes of a girl who must uncover several family secrets related to her mother and a disturbing curse.
Their latest novel, One of the Good Ones (Harper Collins), released on Jan. 5, proposes another kind of journey that unites the past and present of racism in the United States through a road trip following the Green Book, a guide during segregation used by people of color to travel safely.
It's an emotional story about sisterhood and memory that is anchored in the modern era. It begins when Kezi, a young black activist and YouTuber, is killed in police custody at a social justice demonstration.
As Kezi becomes an idealized icon of institutionalized violence, her sister Happi begins to question her memory, leading her and a group of friends to take a road trip following the route Kezi was to take upon graduation.
Kezi, a history enthusiast, planned to take a road trip using the Green Book as a guide, passing through the so-called "sundown towns," where in the Jim Crow era, Blacks were forbidden to enter at night at the risk of their lives.
One of the Good Ones offers layers of stories with sharp dialogues, luminous flashbacks and is full of humor that explores two histories — one's own and that of an entire family — and is a reflection of the mourning and relationship between two sisters.
One of the important points of the novel is the question of identity and negritude beyond the clichés, and raises the point of how each of us is responsible for our own identity made up of inheritances and experiences.
Maritza and Maika Moulite explained the dynamic an interview with NPR.
"We knew we wanted to address racial injustice in America. There's no way you can have that conversation, even if you're writing a contemporary novel without looking at the past because it informs a lot of what we're going through today," they said.
The trigger for this powerful thriller and initiation novel was, as they explained, the 2012 murder of Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watchmen George Zimmerman, who came from a community near the Moulite's childhood home in Florida.
"His Miami was our Miami," Maika said. "The fact that this continues to happen is not surprising because of the nature of this country and our history here. But it's also heartbreaking."
"When we were going through this process for One of the Good Ones, we had to consider how so many more people were being brutalized and victimized...either by the police or by someone who was a vigilante and took things into their own hands," she concluded.
The narrative is without a doubt, an absorbing story and a literary highway for the past to take over the present and of stories that feed others beyond the hegemonic stories of today and forever.
Like when Happi says about Kezi's death: "She was my sister before she became your martyr."