Malaya Clondon hates when her mother drags her to Weight Watchers meetings in the church’s stuffy basement community centre. A quietly inquisitive eight-year-old struggling to suppress her insatiable longing, she would much rather paint alone in her bedroom, or sneak out with her father for a sampling of Harlem’s forbidden street foods. For Malaya, the pressures of going to an exclusive, predominantly white prep school are compounded by the high expectations passed down over generations from her sharp-tongued grandmother and her mother, Nyela, a professor struggling to earn tenure at a prestigious university. But their relentless prescriptions – fad diets, African dance classes, endless doctors’ appointments – don’t work on Malaya. As Malaya comes of age in a rapidly gentrifying 1990s Harlem, she strains to fit within society’s suffocating confines that hold no room for her body.
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