Yandé Seck's novel "White Clouds": Cheerful to cloudy: two sisters from the big city learn what makes them special

Zazie can't do much with Dieo's life: her big sister has three children, a cargo bike, an old apartment and a husband who runs a financial start-up.

Yandé Seck's novel "White Clouds": Cheerful to cloudy: two sisters from the big city learn what makes them special

Zazie can't do much with Dieo's life: her big sister has three children, a cargo bike, an old apartment and a husband who runs a financial start-up. A middle-class idyll in Frankfurt's Nordend. And Dieo? She thinks Zazie is making it too difficult for herself with her manic wokeness. She sees injustice, capitalism, patriarchy everywhere. She can't even switch off at Christmas.

Yandé Seck observes and dissects the world of the black sisters. She tells how Dieo, a therapist, is looking for new furniture for her practice, in the style of "Woody Allen meets Mary Poppins: The flair of a New York practice, but the coziness of British children's rooms." Elsewhere she tells how Zazie is setting up an “Afro-diasporic FLINTA* network” during the pandemic. It sounds academic, but all Zazie really wants to do is dance to Lizzo in her kitchen, bake cookies and watch Love Island.

Despite all the vanities, the reader quickly grows fond of the exaggerated characters. Also Ulrike, the white mother who spends her holidays in an Ayurveda hotel in Sri Lanka, which she unwaveringly calls "Ceylon". As well as all the cranky Karl-Georgs and Giselas who populate the sisters' world. You even like Simon, Dieo's husband, from whose perspective passages of the novel are told. "Putting myself in his shoes was an adventure," explains Seck, "but actually all three were close to me when I was writing."

The author is looking for the "white clouds", as the book title says, of her characters. These are small injuries to the nails that appear as white spots. "It's the traces that our so-called identity leaves on us," explains Zazie. Because of all the everyday life and relationship dramas, sick children and small life crises, it takes two thirds of the book before the two sisters set off on the journey that is promised in the blurb. When their father dies, they set off for his homeland, Senegal. And learn that there is much more to it than just all the urban trivialities.

The novel is told like a Netflix series from everyday life in the big city, pointed and contemporary, full of beautiful dialogues and clever observations. If you don't live in a big city, you might hear one or two jokes about wool boiled overalls and concept stores. But it's all funny nonetheless.

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