Nia Forrester’s In the Nothing is one of those stories that sticks with you. This emotionally-charged story is set in Washington, DC and focuses on Trinity, a young woman temporarily living with her verbally abusive aunt and her disaffected cousin while she tries to figure out a better situation for herself. Trinity has been living with them since her mother died of AIDS and has had to deal with her aunt’s fluctuating moods and her cousin’s resentment. All Trinity wants is a better life and, when her aunt tells her one time too many that it’s time for her to look for a new place to stay, Trinity goes uptown and stumbles upon a job at a health food store called the Green Banana. There she meets the charismatic and sometimes very cruel Skylar, who pulls Trinity into her sphere and exposes her to a completely different kind of life.
All I can say is…WOW. In the Nothing shakes you and doesn’t let go. Trinity’s story is so riveting that you can’t help but feel empathy for her, even when she is doing things you wish she wouldn’t. And her cousin, Chanelle, who is silently struggling with depression yet has no way of dealing with it, has perhaps the most heartbreaking story. Her search for love doesn’t go as she’d planned but at the end of the day there is hope for her. And then there is Skylar–dynamic, spoiled, entitled Sklyar. We all know someone like her. She is a whirlwind of unnecessary drama and her bouts of generosity are almost always followed by thoughtless (and sometimes intentional) cruelty. We all know someone like her.
One of the things that I really love about In the Nothing is how Nia handles this story of haves and have-nots. Too often, less-experienced writers simply portray the haves as being entitled whites without considering that entitlement is not simply relegated to whites. Having grown up in a working-class Philadelphia neighborhood and gone to school in a very diverse, affluent neighbourhood in downtown Philadelphia, I could relate to this story. Trinity and Chanelle’s uneasy relationship was almost too close to home for me–I understood Trinity’s desire for something more than the limitations her old neighbourhood represented and I understood Chanelle’s initial inability to realise that her fate was in her own hands.
Pure magic, Nia. Pure magic.