Book Review: Sugar Town Queens, Malla Nunn

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Sugar city Queens by is a spectacular and heartbreaking tale of three generations of women struggling against prejudice, violence and injustice. It’s a story of fierce resilience that will have you grabbing the tissue box.

Amandla, 15, is mixed race and lives with her white mother in Sugar Town, an infamous slum in South Africa. Amandla discovers that her mother comes from a wealthy family, which leads her to wonder why they are stuck in Sugar Town instead of Durban (where the rich live). With her best friend Lil Bit by her side, Amandla sets out to uncover the truth.

Queen of the sugar city performs a perfect balance between character and intrigue. Amandla is a fascinating protagonist whose voice is obvious. Her confidence and determination make her a strong female lead. But her vulnerabilities make her accessible, and you can’t help but support her fight for the truth. Lil Bit adds an element of humor with his witty intelligence and heartwarming romantic plot. Interactions between them and the addition of a new friend Kindness is an integral part of Sugar city. Nunn beautifully portrays the power of friendship, especially for young adults, as well as the benefits of working together.

Read more: Book review: The little joys of real life, Allee Richards, Hachette

Nunn explores several themes throughout the book, poignantly weaving together the social injustices that prevail in today’s society, including racism, mental health and social class inequalities. Other than that, the nicest part of the book is how Nunn incorporates Zulu culture, tradition, and language. As Amandla reveals family secrets, the reader has a window into life in South Africa after Mandela. The difficulties of bringing together a divided nation play out against the backdrop, reflecting the personal tensions of the characters.

The intricate and endearing characters make Queens of the sugar city an enticing read. From family drama to hidden secrets and the perils and joys of love. Nunn not only beautifully illustrates the strength of the community, but simultaneously educates the reader about South African history and culture. Queens of the sugar city is a heartfelt coming-of-age story that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

Queens of the sugar city by Malla Nunn
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
ISBN: 9781760526832
Pages: 312 pp
Format: paperback
List price: $ 19.99
Release date: August 2021

Giselle Bueti is the Content Growth Editor at ArtsHub. She has written for publications such as The Advertiser, The Adelaide Review, RIP IT UP, BMA Magazine and Yewth Mag. Previously, Giselle worked as an art writer for The AU Review and has a background in higher education, creating digital content for leading universities across Australia. She is based in Melbourne, Victoria.

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