Cover Image: Assembly

Assembly

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Member Reviews

What is there to say about Assembly? I whipped through it in less than a day and was rendered speechless by Natasha Brown's breathtaking prose. In short, stream of conscious vignettes she so poignantly skewers the colonial legacy of the U.K. and its continued effects on Black people today. You will finish this novel angry and sad, realizing that no matter what our narrator does - it will never be enough to escape the racism and microaggressions she is confronted with in every aspect of her life. A brilliant book, it seems Assembly is just Brown getting started.
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I loved reading this book, I can't believe how much force is packed into 100 pages. I'm so excited for whatever Natasha Brown does next.
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3 1/2 stars. Brutal work. The novel's concision is a virtue, and while I don't think all the threads are woven together and tautly enough, there's so much mingled rage and beauty to the novel's existential angst. Edges SMALL THINGS LIKE THESE for my favorite slim novel/novella of the year.
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Gorgeous writing the world life of a black woman told in stream of consciousness.Thought provoking touches on many subjects a book you will want to discuss hand to friends.#netgalley #littlebrown
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Assembly is a short novella exploring race as the narrator goes about her life working, and going to a party her boyfriend's family is putting on. 

Natasha Brown is able to touch on so many themes of race, identity, colonialism, slavery, class, generational wealth, history, and more in such a small work. The narrator's inner dialogue reveals all the little moments she experiences as she goes about her days and what they mean in a wider social context of life as a Black woman in England.

This work is short, but packs a big punch with all it is able to do. Assembly has stayed on my mind. I've already re-read it and I believe it is a book I will continue to come back to.  I am looking forward to whatever Brown publishes next!
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I recommend Assembly for fans of literary fiction. This is a slim novel and a quick, enjoyable read. The main character is immediately sympathetic and I appreciated her honesty with the reader, i.e., her willingness to share her innermost thoughts. 

The narrative can feel a bit choppy in spots. I found myself wishing that certain interludes were either expanded or eliminated or perhaps combined with the day-to-day drama instead of interrupting it.

The back and forth of the narrative's timing takes a little getting used to, but I found it to be lovely once I settled in.

I very much appreciated the author's skill in examining both the quotidian details of the narrator's job with over-arching questions about the meaning of life. In this way, I can definitely see the comparison to Mrs. Dalloway.

I look forward to reading more from this author.
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A beautiful, difficult book. 

Contains the fragmentary, aphoristic, sometimes elliptical nature seen in Jenny Offill's work. Yet perhaps ASSEMBLY is still more dense and dark. 

Not dissimilar to this year's The Days of Afrekete, which also takes a page from Woolf.
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“I’ve watched with dispassionate curiosity as this continent hacks away at itself: confused, lost, sick with nostalgia for those imperialist glory days – when the ‘them’ had been so clearly defined!”

“I learn what I’m meant to do. How I am meant to live. What I’m supposed to enjoy. I watch, I emulate. It takes practice. And an understanding of what’s out of reach. What I can’t pull off. Born here, parents born here, always lived here – still, never from here. Their culture becomes parody on my body.”

This novella is a really powerful beginning to a career as an author, and I’d really like to read more by her.  It’s a story about national identity, race assimilation, accommodation and class. The nameless young woman of Jamaican descent is rising in the London financial industry. She ruminates about her life as she prepares to attend the 40th anniversary party of the wealthy parents of her white boyfriend. “His presence vouches for mine,  assures them that I am the right sort of diversity. In turn, I offer him a certain liberal credibility. Negate some of his old-money political baggage. Assure his position left of centre.”

I completely understood how sick and tired she was of the constant barrage of subtle (or blatant), chronic, continuous racism; the constant micro-assaults from security personnel in shops, the people who block entrances, the airport attendants, co-workers and on and on.  Maybe she has reached her breaking point. 

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
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Assembly is a powerful story about a British Jamaican who endures ruin, racism, intolerance, and microaggressions as a London banker.  A high-ranking employee, the narrator who is not named is mocked and othered by her white male colleagues who associate her presence in their white space with the fulfillment of a quota. But her bank has no problems using her for their advantage. She goes out on speaking tours, primarily encouraging young girls to achieve, while representing her employer, giving them an appearance of multicultural empathy when behind closed doors they mock her presence.

When the narrator is diagnosed with cancer and decides not to treat it, the supposition author Natasha Brown seems to be making is that racism causes cancer. It makes you sick. A powerful scene has the narrator at the subway and a fellow passenger, someone of a lower class, calls her the n-word, as if to remind her that her degrees are irrelevant in social spaces. All that matters is the color of her skin and in that she will never be equal, she will always be an immigrant.

The narrator has a privileged white boyfriend and she accompanies him to a party at his parent's country house. The parents are condescending and polite, reminding the narrator of one more space she doesn't belong. 

The story is told in neat vignettes; Assembly is a slim book that is easy to read. You can finish it in a weekend. There will be readers who won't understand the narrator and why she refuses cancer treatment but I'm not one of them. There are worse things than cancer. Living your life as a black woman means swallowing the snide remarks in professional spaces. It means cozying up to being invisible. It means ignoring the tropes and the small aggressions whispered in conference rooms and dinner parties. Live like this for decades. Then we'll talk about if cancer isn't an easier hill to climb.
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An extraordinarily powerful story - how brave (and correct) to publish it as is, and not as part of a collection. 

I requested it as background reading for a review on BookBrowse, so I did not review it myself but you can find our review and "beyond the book" article at 

Review:
https://www.bookbrowse.com/mag/reviews/index.cfm/ref/sh277760/assembly#reviews
Beyond the Book:
https://www.bookbrowse.com/mag/btb/index.cfm/ref/sh277760/assembly#btb

Both have been sent to publicity along with the timing when we will feature the book.
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I wrote about this on GoodReads, here: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/1758756-beth Because of travel and other issues, I didn't review this one on my blog. I did however review the audiobook for AudioFile Magazine.
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"This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind."

3.5 stars rounding up. In Assembly, an unnamed young woman of Jamaican descent who is living in London tells the reader the comings and goings of her life and the subsequent impact on her psyche. Although she came from modest beginnings, she's working in a top position at a bank - only to be told by colleagues that she's there to fill a quota. When attending an anniversary celebration for her old-money white boyfriend's parents, a gentleman employed to set up the event questions why she gets a day off while he has to work. While white people pat themselves on the back for being so progressive and open minded now days, our unnamed narrator gives the reader a glimpse into the micro-aggressions that happen to her so frequently, she wonders if living her life is really even worth it.

I really dug the overarching message of this short piece. Brown is very skilled at showing the reader how seemingly tiny micro-aggressions build up over time. In a non-preachy way, she is able to provide insight into just how much shizzle an educated woman has to face in all aspects of her life simply because of her skin color.

What didn't work for me was the format in which this story was told. It felt like a mish-mash between poetry and straightforward story telling. Some chapters were just a page or two, whereas the last chapter was roughly 40% of the book. The story also jumps around in time - the last chapter has one paragraph with her at the anniversary party and suddenly a paragraph will be thrown in with her experience seeing her doctor, for example. Although I'm assuming this stylistic choice was made intentionally, it felt too jarring to me personally.
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3.5 stars!
The narrator in this shorty story is a black British woman. She is travelling to her white boyfriend’s parents’ house in the countryside for the weekend. Her life is joyless and she is going through the motions. When she is faced with a serious health problem, she has to decide if she is going to take control or just continue on the pre-determined path that is set out for her.

The themes explored in this piece of writing are very important and heavy. The inherent racism that Brown exposes as being part of everyday society was upsetting. There are also instances of classism and sexual harassment that provoke the reader to think about how women can be objectified. I loved the stream of consciousness writing style. The narrator of the audiobook fell a bit flat for me and I would have preferred someone with a bit more varied intonation.
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See review under audio book. Excellent storytelling with depth and brevity— but I wanted to keep reading!
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Happy to include the thought-provoking read in the September instalment of Novel Encounters, my column highlighting the month's top fiction for Zed, Zoomer magazine’s reading and books section.
Full review feature at link.
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Well-intended but reads like a dull essay rather than an engaging story, Assembly is an authentic overview of contemporary British society, through the eyes of a middle-class Black woman. Focus heavily on societal commentary, the novella touches on topics such as sexism, racism, and the inherited aristocratic values. While I appreciate some of the artistic choices, such as the intentional fragmentation and mixing of literary format, the sterile, depersonalized writing style keeps readers at arm's length, never fully involved emotionally with the protagonist's circumstance. Overall Assembly succeeds as a comprehensive record of an experience belonging to an often under-represented individual, but unfortunately I can't say it's anything close to a compelling read.
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Thank you to Little Brown and Company and NetGalley for the chance to read this stunning debut.  Assembly is mesmerizing in writing style, in challenging the reader to be in the thoughts and experiences of the protagonist, and to be in a way surrounded by experiences of intersectional identity: sexism blended with racism, being of minority status in places with tone deaf attempts at diversity workshops, navigating a white work force while trying to understand heritage.  This book blends in these experiences within the daily life of the protagonist at a cross roads in life within a health crisis... what does it mean to have done everything "right" and to still struggle, to still feel unseen in many ways, to be forced to always behave and present herself one way even if it means ignoring who she wants to be?  

This is a slim novel but every sentence is powerful, demands attention, and is through provoking and challenging.  I read this book in one sitting because I found it hard to stop being in this headspace, it felt as though I could not stop reading as much as it was not possible for the protagonist to stop thinking, questioning, and wondering.

This is the perfect book for book clubs who take on challenging books, Indie book fans, and those looking for books that highlight diverse authors and voices.
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Natasha Brown’s Assembly has been out in the UK since June and I first heard about it in the Booker longlist predictions of UK-based booktubers, bloggers, and bookstagrammers and what I heard intrigued me greatly. I put it on my Booker prediction list based on the strength of those recommendations and, although it didn’t make the list, it definitely made my “must read” list. I am so glad to have found out about it and because it’s a powerful read.

Assembly is a short book—just over 100 pages—but it packs a lot into that compact space. Our unnamed narrator is a Black woman in her thirties who works in the banking sector in London. In descriptions of the book, it’s usually said that it is about her going to a party being held in the country by her white, moneyed boyfriend’s family, but really, that was only part of what the book was about. It is much, much more.

With a lot of flashbacks and cuts between scenes in the office, at doctor’s offices, and with her friend and boyfriend, Assembly addresses a wide range of topics around sexism, classism, xenophobia, and especially, racism. Like Kiley Reid’s Such a Fun Age, it embeds examples of glaring prejudice and countless daily microaggressions into the story, concepts that have been thoughtfully discussed in non-fiction works like Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race and Me and White Supremacy. Like when I read Such a Fun Age, I wished I’d had a copy of Me and White Supremacy open beside me to be able to make those connections and bring those concepts to life.

Assembly isn’t an easy book, but that’s a good thing. It’s important, especially for white readers, to see the world through the narrator’s eyes, to understand how she experiences the world and to feel the anger, sadness, loneliness, and hopelessness that she feels. Assembly is a powerful book I’ll be recommending widely.

Thanks to Little Brown and Company and NetGalley for this eARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Assembly is a heavy little book.  Brown writes about class, race, and life in general in such a sharp and biting way that she doesn't need a lot of pages to make an impact. Told through a series of vignette like memories and stories and set over the course of one day, Assembly captures the every day struggles of a black woman working in finance in the UK in a very universal way. The narrator describes situations and emotions that are so personal to her life but yet feel so real and well written it's impossible not to empathize with and relate to her.  Brown magnificently writes the feelings of emptiness and hopelessness.  

The story felt winding and a bit stream of consciousness which gave the lovely effect of being inside the narrator's mind as she went about it day. It felt unfiltered and raw in the best possible way. I will define revisiting this story.  

I adored Assembly and am looking forward to seeing what Natasha Brown writes next.
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This was an interesting and impactful book.  It tells the story of a black British woman as she considers her current situation, including her personal relationships and career, what she wants from her future, and how she fits into the various worlds she inhabits.  This was an insightful look at several important issues and how the intersection between the personal and the structural shapes people's lived experiences.

Recommended!
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