If you’re looking for a rewarding read for the start of 2024, look no further than Confrontations by Simone Atangana Bekono. Set in the Netherlands circa 2008, it tells the story of Salomé, a young Black woman sent to a young offender’s unit for what one girl in the institution labels a “hate crime”. As the novel progresses, you learn more and more about Salomé’s life, her family history and the Black experience within the country, painting a picture of an unjust society with structures that fail to support – or even identify – the most vulnerable within them.
Salomé begins as distant and out of touch, and this can make the first third of the book quite a tough read. It’s worth it, however, as it’s deeply rewarding to see this character develop and change. Bekono’s writing deftly reflects the changes in Salomé’s mindset and perspective, and shows the growth that she achieves during her time in rehabilitation, not just in content but in style – an impressive feat for any author, let alone a debut.
A tough but important read, one that offers all of us a moment to reflect on who we dismiss, who we elevate, and why; Confrontations is a beautiful debut.
Confrontations, Simone Atangana Bekono [trans. Suzanne Heukensfeldt Janssen] (Serpent’s Tail)
Price: £14.99/£12.99 Ebook/£24.99 audiobook. Info: here
words HARI BERROW