There’s something remarkably compelling about characters that are brave enough to dream big despite their humble reality. That's in large part what the American dream is all about. And it's definitely what great American novel The Great Gatsby is about.
In her new book, No One Is Coming to Save Us, author Stephanie Powell Watts takes The Great Gatsby and reworks it for today, moving from East Egg and West Egg to a North Carolina town surrounded by striking poverty that is being kept alive by the dreams of those usually content to be satisfied by the simple things.
The main character, JJ Ferguson, comes from meager beginnings and is an orphan who is in search of a family, making the glitzy extravaganza of Gatsby is non-existent. But the desire to vividly imagine and to manifest a life much brighter and more significant than the present is the fueling sentiment expressed amongst the characters in the contemporary story.
In the novel, JJ returns to Pinewood, North Carolina both to build his dream home and to reconnect with Ava, a childhood friend and his Daisy. Ava, like Daisy, is halfheartedly married to another man, a with whom she is struggling to conceive a child with, despite her reservations. In a twist, Watts' Nick Calloway is Ava’s mother, Sylvia, a matriarch figure who tries to hide her longing for her dead son by treating JJ like an adopted son.
Photo: Doug Benedict
Through themes of marginalization, race and class, Stephanie Powell Watts validates the historical struggles of African Americans while exploring the complexities blacks face in working to attain their American dream in the 21st century.
If you'd like to check out this black Gatsby and find out if he ever grabs that green light, Watts' novel is out now from Ecco.