ASSEMBLY BY Natasha Brown
Published by: Hamish Hamilton
Publication date: 2021
Come of age in the credit crunch. Be civil in a hostile environment. Go to college, get an education, start a career. Do all the right things. Buy an apartment. Buy art. Buy a sort of happiness. But above all, keep your head down. Keep quiet. And keep going.
The narrator of Assembly is a black British woman. She is preparing to attend a lavish garden party at her boyfriend’s family estate, set deep in the English countryside. At the same time, she is considering the carefully assembled pieces of herself. As the minutes tick down and the future beckons, she can’t escape the question: is it time to take it all apart?
Assembly is a story about the stories we live within – those of race and class, safety and freedom, winners and losers.And it is about one woman daring to take control of her own story, even at the cost of her life. With a steely, unfaltering gaze, Natasha Brown dismantles the mythology of whiteness, lining up the debris in a neat row and walking away.
It’s so much easier for you blacks and Hispanics.
He says that’s why I was chosen, over qualified guys like him. He says he’s not opposed to diversity. He just wants fairness, okay?
Okay? he says again.
I am still a few sentences behind. But okay, okay, okay.
This is a story told in vignettes, which I generally don’t have a very good relationship with, but this book is the exception that proves the rule.
Assembly is a short, sharp, punch in the face about racism, misogyny, autonomy and so much more. Natasha manages to portray so much hurt, frustration and anger through so few words. Our unnamed protagonist has little control over most of her life, so when she presented with a scenario which would allow her to take back control in a very decisive way, she is face with quite the dilemma.
I highly recommend that you read this short novel in one emotional sitting.