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Pride and Protest

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A Phenomenal Book Club pick for November 2022!A woman goes head-to-head with the CEO of a corpora... Read More

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A Phenomenal Book Club pick for November 2022!

A woman goes head-to-head with the CEO of a corporation threatening to destroy her neighborhood in this fresh and modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice by debut author Nikki Payne.

Liza B.—the only DJ who gives a jam—wants to take her neighborhood back from the soulless property developer dropping unaffordable condos on every street corner in DC. But her planned protest at a corporate event takes a turn after she mistakes the smoldering-hot CEO for the waitstaff. When they go toe-to-toe, the sparks fly—but her impossible-to-ignore family thwarts her every move. Liza wants Dorsey Fitzgerald out of her hood, but she’ll settle for getting him out of her head.
At first, Dorsey writes off Liza Bennett as more interested in performing outrage than acting on it. As the adopted Filipino son of a wealthy white family, he’s always felt a bit out of place and knows a fraud when he sees one. But when Liza’s protest results in a viral meme, their lives are turned upside down, and Dorsey comes to realize this irresistible revolutionary is the most real woman he’s ever met."A spectacular, unputdownable debut that just rocketed its way onto my 'Forever Faves' shelf. The sharpest, sexiest, wittiest, brightest Pride and Prejudice retelling I've ever read, period. Nikki Payne is the writer I aspire to be, and I'm going to recommend this novel to everyone I know, every chance I get!"—Ali Hazelwood, New York Times bestselling author of Love on the Brain

"An entertaining and politically charged retelling of Pride and Prejudice that tackles gentrification, prejudice, and the intersections of race, class, and gender...The redevelopment plot puts a fresh twist on familiar beats and the enemies-to-lovers romance sizzles. This is good fun.”—Publishers Weekly

"Payne has managed what I thought was no longer possible: to write a Pride and Prejudice retelling that feels completely fresh and yet absolutely grounded in Jane Austen’s beloved romance...Liza and Dorsey’s romance comes with the sizzling animosity we expect from this classic enemies-to-lovers storyline while deftly tackling heavy themes like generational trauma and classism with humor and heart. This debut is incandescent."—The Washington Post

"This new imagining of Pride and Prejudice is an inventive take on a classic love story."—BuzzFeed BooksBy day, Nikki Payne is a curious tech anthropologist asking the right questions to deliver better digital services.  By night, she dreams of ways to subvert canon literature. She's  a member of Smut U, a premium feminist writing collective, and is a cat lady with no cats.Man Shortage

A red light blipped on the top left of the control board. Liza B. had a caller. "Hello and good evening. You are live with Liza B., the only DJ who gives a jam. Tell me, what's on your mind . . ."

The producer mouthed a name to her.

". . . Keisha?"

"Girl, we are in a man shortage. I'm broke! I can't be buying my own steaks," a cheery woman's voice buzzed over Liza's earphones. Liza pressed a flashing orange button on the control board and slid the dial all the way to the top. This was her pulpit. Instead of airbrushed paintings of blond Jesus, posters of Afrobeat stars, Punjabi crooners, K-pop idols, and reggaeton bad boys competed for space on the cork wall of the small booth. Instead of scripture, someone had graffitied MegaRadio Sux on the table. Her parishioners called in with their "confessions" and she gave them the good word. She wasn't saving orphans in Soweto like she always imagined, but it was a kind of service to the community.

"It is a man drought, girl," Liza agreed. "What do you plan to do about it?"

"You know those new buildings that they're putting up at Netherfield Court?"

"You mean the overpriced luxury apartments that will force us out of our neighborhood and change the fabric of DC forever?" Liza said.

"Um . . . yeah, those . . ." Keisha stammered. "Anyway, there are a lot of men working construction. I'm just going to walk past there in my shortest shorts!" Liza remembered why she liked this job so much.

"So they can catcall you? Whoop and holler? What are you getting out of this deal?" Liza pressed.

"Do I need to spell it out, Alizé Bennett?" The woman dragged her whole government name out like an old boot. Being named after an alcoholic drink popular in the nineties was not a fact Liza wanted broadcast across her nation's capital. She had job applications floating around.

"That's Liza B. Leesa with a Z to you." She kept her name explanations ready. People saw a Z in your name and lost their damn minds. She could not count how many times she had been called "Lizard" with a straight face.

"Well, Liza B., I'm a woman. I have needs."

"Excuse me, I thought it's a kind of truth universally acknowledged that every broke woman wants a rich man, not just vitamin D!"

"Times are changing, honey," Keisha told her. "The construction company is having a get-together over at Netherfield. Will the radio station be there?"

"I have to pass," Liza said. She couldn't begrudge people for wanting to get fed and dance on someone else's dime. But she had her principles.

"Good! Maybe the rest of us will stand a chance without you and your sisters showing up looking snatched!"

"The world still ain't safe with you on the loose!" Liza pressed the button and said good night to Keisha. "You heard it right here, fellas. Come check Ms. Keisha out! She'll be dressed to kill at the Netherfield Gala. Remember to drink up their champagne, not their Kool-Aid. We're not selling this city to the highest bidder! Liza B. is out of here, folks! If I'm not in the studio, hit me up on the 'Gram. I'm giving out prizes to my thirty thousandth follower, and it could be you!"

Liza swiped the overhead mic away and twirled in her spinning chair. No matter what the future held for the radio station, if they let her go, she could take pride in what she'd done. Liza never meant to be a local personality. She'd taken this job three years ago out of sheer desperation and worked her way up to airtime. Slowly, listeners tripled under her voice. Booth G was cramped, overflowing with leftover radio station swag and advertising scripts for Busboys and Poets. The pay was on the low side of moderate, and not even an entire can of Febreze could get the sweaty smell of the sports jockey out of the seat. But it was home to Liza. People listened to her here. In Booth G, she was never a disappointment.

“Deya is the only child of mine who still bothers to come to church with me.” Liza’s mother, Beverly Bennett, slapped her heavy purse down on the rickety table. Liza raised her eyebrow but otherwise didn’t stir. A saltshaker rolled off the table, and her older sister, Janae, absently caught it before it hit the peeling linoleum floor. Their apartment in Longbourne Gardens had had the same decorations, furniture, and even saltshaker placement for twenty-seven years. Granny, Bev, and now Liza, sometimes her brother Maurice, Janae, and her baby sister, LeDeya, all called the sprawling three-bedroom apartment home. Bev kicked at the boxes in the hallway, a reminder of Liza’s recent eviction from her own apartment.

"When you say 'church,' you still mean Operation Snatch-a-Pastor right?" Liza shifted her laptop and checked her email for the third time. She was supposed to be hearing from USAID about an international project manager position at a bank for women in Malawi. It had several things going for it: she could use her international studies degree and women's studies master's, she would have someplace to stay without fear of her rent rising above her ability to pay, and she would be thousands of miles away from her mother.

"Yes, Mother, what was the sermon about?" Janae chimed in, in a rare moment of fun at her mother's expense. Bev ignored Janae's tone and zeroed in on Liza.

"Liza, I want these boxes out of my hallway. This ain't the UPS Store." Bev pulled at her wig. The cascading platinum blond tresses shifted slightly to the left, then right. "What I heard in Bible study is that you were out there picketing for the gays," Bev informed her.

She made it sound like a Motown girl group. "Mom, you can just say 'gay,'" Liza said.

"Correct me again, and I'll correct your behind!" Bev spat out impatiently. "I don't want you involved in anything that's gonna ruin the family's reputation, you hear?"

Liza's mouth twisted sideways. "Mom, 'birthing the three prettiest daughters in Southeast' is not a reputation, it's an opinion."

"Southeast? My Janae was almost Miss DC-the entire district-for three years straight. And if you'd stop wearing those no-prescription granny glasses and put on a high heel every once in a while . . ." Bev didn't need to finish. This was a well-traveled conversational tributary that would eventually lead to her wailing that Liza didn't try hard enough-for a job, for a man, or for herself.

Janae sighed. "'Three-time runner-up' will be on my gravestone."

Bev eyed Liza again. "Your foolishness almost made me forget the good news. Where is your granny?" Bev stepped out of her shoes and handed them to LeDeya. "She's on the Longbourne Gardens Green Committee, and those nice little people next door at Netherfield Court invited all the gardeners to their groundbreaking gala."

Maurice sauntered into the front room then, dressed in a tan suit with a brown bow tie. He was going for a Nation of Islam look with none of the entanglements of having read any of the doctrine. He shook his locked hair out. At twenty-two, his face still flirted with handsomeness but never really settled there.

"Salutations, ladies," Maurice said.

"Maurice, you missed church," Liza said. "Momma, why didn't you wake Maurice up for church?"

They all knew why she didn't wake Maurice. Since he'd gotten back home from serving thirteen days for failure to pay traffic tickets, Maurice had been aggressively "woke." He went vegan for exactly six days, paid for an Arabic class he never showed up for, and kept calling women "fe-males" in a way that sounded a lot like "bitches."

"I think we should go to the gala," Bev said, ignoring Maurice entirely.

Liza closed her laptop slowly. "Momma, you cannot allow those developers to try to sweet-talk these senior citizens out of their apartments!" Liza stood up. "The only reason they want the seniors there is to scope them out. Longbourne Gardens is the last low-income complex in the area. My rent rose forty percent above what I paid before, and here I am living with you. Where are the poor supposed to live if they tear this down too?"

"Big sis is entirely correct . . ." Maurice piped in. Liza groaned. "This has its origins in African colonialism. The white man's need to colonize Black space is insatiable. That's why I see my dating of exclusively white women as reverse colonization. We need to rec-"

"Liza, do you hear that? Maurice is cosigning." LeDeya stomped her foot. "That should let you know how lame you're being right now. Why do you never want to have any fun?" LeDeya reached for Liza's laptop. At sixteen, she had already taken after their mother-all curves, height, big hair, and incredible nosiness. "Momma says those people over there are loaded-I'm talkin' Red Lobster rich."

Liza and Janae exchanged looks, but Maurice seemed to reconsider. LeDeya pressed on. "She just wants us to go to this little groundbreaking and be introduced to some people." LeDeya quickly tapped on Liza's laptop, then turned it around to show the evite in Liza's email like a Price Is Right model.

Liza lunged for her computer. "That only shows me you figured out my password again."

"There was nothing to figure out." LeDeya easily held the machine above her shorter sister's head. "It's always some lame variation of 'QWERTY123.'"

"Stop your snooping, Deya." Granny ambled into the living room from the back room. Her tennis shoes squeaked on the clear plastic runner supposedly protecting the grungy brown carpet. She wore a purple velour tracksuit with a polyester turban and large pearl earrings. She looked like she should pace around a neighborhood mall at all times or possibly tell fortunes in a storefront. "You too fast, girl." She eyed her youngest granddaughter. "You will not be introduced to any grown men-rich or broke."

LeDeya bent her head down, and she punched Liza in the arm before plopping herself on the sofa. She opened Liza's laptop again and began immediately scrolling through Instagram. Granny's word was like iron. In the ongoing saga between Liza and her mother, Granny was always saving Liza before total catastrophe struck.

"And you oughta listen to Liza every once in a while, Beverly," Granny continued. "She's the only one of you with some actual sense. Them people ain't nothing but vultures. Them fat cats want to know two things: what else they can tear down to make some money, and if we stupid enough to let 'em."

"Ma," Bev pleaded, "they're supposed to be all green and affordable. They have units set aside for the poor. Even Rosa Parks over here can't deny they're trying harder than those other guys."

"Okay, they want some good PR," Liza replied. "They want some poor Black people huddled around the microphone being thankful to their white saviors who are going to revitalize the community. And when they say 'revitalize,' they mean to take all the black and brown out of the décor," Liza said.

"Amen, sister," Maurice said. "But on second thought, this could be a chance to strike from within. Think of how uncomfortable it will make everyone there to see me, a hardened criminal raised by the streets-"

"Maurice, you were raised by your granny, and you didn't pay your parking tickets," Liza retorted.

Maurice looked taken aback, then shook his head in resignation. "That's the problem with sistas-they're too myopic. Can't see the long game."

"Oh Liza, USAID regrets to inform you they went with another candidate," LeDeya broke in.

Liza snatched her laptop away from her sister and slammed it closed with too much force. "Stay out of my email, Deya!" Heat crept up Liza's neck. It was the third no this month.

"It's funny that my daughter who finds fault with everything and everybody can't even find a job as a dog catcher or keep a man longer than a summer. Maybe look at your own self before you offer your famous opinions up?" Bev said. Her neck slid from side to side like an abacus bead.

Janae patted Liza gently while shooting a warning look at Bev. "Keep at it, Liza. You'll find your fit. As for the event, I think we can compromise. I think they want to build a community garden with the elders before the gala-no cameras. You know how Granny feels about gardening." Once Granny's eyes lit up, it was all but over. Bev smiled in triumph.

Liza was already deflating. "How do you know this?" It maddened her that her sweet-faced sister could convince people of something with such little effort, while Liza had been shouting all her life to no avail.

Janae unfolded a small flyer and handed it to her sister with a look. The subtext was clear. Let Granny shine. There were no World's Best Widows or Top Seamstress awards coming for her anytime soon.

African prints and gardening tools-two of Granny's obsessions-outlined the trim of the paper. "'Each one, teach one, Harambee,'" Liza mumbled under her breath. "'Developers and community members learn from each other! Let's build together! Join us for a community gardening event before the gala! Winner of the best home garden competition wins a trip to Philadelphia for Pemberley Development's fifty-year corporate anniversary.'"

The flyer was perfectly calibrated for the fifty-and-older set:

Nebulous Pan-African language

Magical Black mentors meet well-meaning white people

Some distant promise of cash and travel

"Okay, one assistant writes a good flyer, and now they have permission to trample all over us?" Liza knew this was a lost cause, but she just had to be on record saying this was a bad idea. The battle against Netherfield Court was the only thing that was going right. It was the cause the community had finally rallied around her on, and with her recent eviction and looming job loss, she just wanted this one thing to go right.

Granny was already moving toward her overgrown jungle of a patio. "I suppose there are some things I can show these youngbloods . . ." Granny scratched the loose turban, shifting it comically to the side. "I guess I can go. But just to the gardening," she said, plucking a wilted leaf from the money tree she spoke to every morning.

LeDeya and Bev huffed, but Bev was the only one to speak. "Ma, how can you deny these girls the chance to meet men looking their best? Don't nobody wanna get all dirty gardening! Oh, my nerves!" Bev grabbed the worn fabric of the armchair. Her bracelets clinked and glittered. "You want these kids stuck in this apartment for the rest of their lives? Grown women and men sleeping two to a bedroom?" Her voice wavered. "You want them just like me. Trapped."

Product Details

Title: Pride and Protest
Author: Nikki Payne
SKU: BK0465402
EAN: 9780593440940
Language: English

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