Longing for independence, a young sheltered Kenyan woman flees the expectations of her mother for a life in New York City that challenges all her beliefs about race, love, and family.
“Readers will find a poignant, memorable voice they’ll feel lucky to have met.”—Harper’s Bazaar (Best Summer Beach Reads of 2023)
Soila is a lucky girl by anyone’s estimation. Raised by her stern, conservative mother and a chorus of aunts, she has lived a protected life in Nairobi. Soila is headstrong and outspoken, and she chafes against her mother’s strict rules. After a harrowing assault by a trusted family friend, she flees to New York for college, vowing never to return home.
New York in the 1990s is not what Soila imagined it would be. Instead of finding a golden land of opportunity, Soila is shocked by the entitlement of her wealthy American classmates and the poverty she sees in the streets. She befriends a Black American girl at school and witnesses the insidious racism her friend endures, forcing Soila to begin to acknowledge the legacy of slavery and the blind spots afforded by her Kenyan upbringing. When she falls in love with a free-spirited artist, a man her mother would never approve of, she must decide whether to honor her Kenyan identity and what she owes to her family, or to follow her heart and forge a life of her own design.
Lucky Girl is a fierce and tender debut about the lives and loves we choose—what it meant to be an African immigrant in America at the turn of the millennium, and how a young woman finds a place for herself in the world.
About the Author
Irene Muchemi-Ndiritu was born and raised in Nairobi and moved to the United States to attend college in 1998. She has an MA in journalism from the Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University and has worked as a journalist in New York City, Washington D.C., and Boston. She later received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Cape Town, graduating with distinction. Her fictional work has been published in Yale Review and Adda and she has been shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. She currently lives in Cape Town, South Africa. Lucky Girl is her debut novel.
“Irene Muchemi-Ndiritu’s debut novel, Lucky Girl,is a coming-of-age story about a privileged but sheltered teenager in Kenya, Soila, who is eager for escape. . . . Lucky Girl is at its strongest when Muchemi-Ndiritu addresses the topic of American racism. . . . [Soila’s] honesty about her ‘different brand of Blackness,’ and ultimately her ability to drop the idea of it being a brand, make for some of the book’s most compelling passages.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Muchemi-Ndiritu is a master of knitting together a narrative and then pulling away at the threads to unravel it . . . In her debut novel Lucky Girl, Irene Muchemi-Ndiritu['s] . . . ability to learn from life’s ordeals on two continents, shed encumbrances, and pack up the positives to carry with her into the future exemplifies the luck she finally forms on her own terms.”—Brittle Paper
“Lucky Girl is at times tender, at times funny, at times uncomfortably frank. . . . A fresh look at racism, privilege, and the challenges of coming-of-age and falling in love between two cultures.”—Charmaine Wilkerson, New York Times bestselling author of Black Cake
“From the leafy suburbs of Nairobi to the buzzing boroughs of New York City and back again, Lucky Girl is a glittering coming-of-age novel and a juicy indictment of the ‘tilted society of haves and have-nots.’ Muchemi-Ndiritu writes with spirit and nuance about privilege, race, and intergenerational heartache. I couldn't put it down.”—Alison B. Hart, author of The Work Wife
“Stimulating the heart and mind, Lucky Girl is an irresistible novel that captures the immense pressure—to be perfect, to live on our own terms, to love and be loved—of our times. Fiery conversations around race, belonging, and differing cultures give this debut its vibrant energy, but the hard-won wisdom is what allows it to soar. Most brilliantly, Irene Muchemi-Ndiritu shows us what it means to live in balance, and how duties and dreams don’t always have to be at odds, especially when love is involved. Surprises abound, Lucky Girl is the literary gift we all need, making us the lucky ones.”—Mateo Askaripour, New York Times bestselling author of Black Buck
“An incredibly nuanced, character-driven story with a courageous protagonist to root for, Lucky Girl is a powerful exploration of making the most of the hand you’ve been dealt.”—Lizzie Damilola Blackburn, author of Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband?
“A beautifully written and illuminating story about parental pressure, undeserved shame, and Kenyan culture.”—Jessica George, author of Maame
“A young Kenyan woman in New York City faces an identity crisis while coming to recognize how issues of race, culture, and religion are different for Black Americans than for Black Africans. . . . A thought-provoking exploration of the complicated experience of an African woman in America.”—Kirkus Reviews