Winner of the Michael L. Printz Medal
★“King’s narrative concerns are racism, patriarchy, colonialism, white privilege, and the ingrained systems that perpetuate them. . . . [Dig] will speak profoundly to a generation of young people who are waking up to the societal sins of the past and working toward a more equitable future.”—Horn Book, starred review
“I’ve never understood white people who can’t admit they’re white. I mean, white isn’t just a color. And maybe that’s the problem for them. White is a passport. It’s a ticket.”
Five estranged cousins are lost in a maze of their family’s tangled secrets. Their grandparents, former potato farmers Gottfried and Marla Hemmings, managed to trade digging spuds for developing subdivisions and now they sit atop a million-dollar bank account—wealth they’ve refused to pass on to their adult children or their five teenage grandchildren. “Because we want them to thrive,” Marla always says.
But for the Hemmings cousins, “thriving” feels a lot like slowly dying of a poison they started taking the moment they were born. As the rot beneath the surface of the Hemmings’ white suburban respectability destroys the family from within, the cousins find their ways back to one another, just in time to uncover the terrible cost of maintaining the family name.
With her inimitable surrealism, award winner A.S. King exposes how a toxic culture of polite white supremacy tears a family apart and how one determined generation can dig its way out.
The family tree under examination in the latest novel by King (Still Life with Tornado) is diseased distorted by racial hatred, drug abuse, poverty, illness, and domestic violence. The patriarch of Pennsylvania's Hemmings family, Gottfried, earned millions selling the family potato farm to housing developers, alienating his siblings. Marla, his mean-spirited wife, enjoys the spoils while looking down at everyone else, including her offspring and grandchildren. "Marla has no idea she's white," observes Malcolm, a grandson, "and the whole world was made for people like her." The first-person narrative shifts perspectives frequently to introduce four other teens, living in the same small town but largely unknown to each other, and their parents, many of whom are, by turns, judgmental, abusive, or neglectful. Like King's other novels, this one has a hallucinatory quality that keeps the reader guessing what's real and what's not. The payoff is in the profound ending, which pulls together the disparate threads and offers hope that at least some of these characters will dig themselves out from under the legacy of hate they have unwillingly inherited. Ages 14 up.)