An emotionally riveting novel for fans of Ibi Zoboi and Erika L. Sánchez about two sisters in Nigeria on their journey to break free of an oppressive home.
Sisters Cheta and Zam couldn’t be more different. Cheta, sharp-tongued and stubborn, never shies away from conflict—either at school or at home, where her mother fires abuse at her. Timid Zam escapes most of her mother’s anger, skating under the radar and avoiding her sister whenever possible. In a turn of good fortune, Zam is invited to live with her aunt’s family in the lap of luxury. Jealous, Cheta also leaves home, but to a harder existence that will drive her to terrible decisions. When the sisters are reunited, Zam alone will recognize just how far Cheta has fallen—and Cheta’s fate will rest in Zam’s hands.
Debut author Rimma Onoseta deftly explores classism, colorism, cycles of abuse, how loyalty doesn’t always come attached to love, and the messy truths that sometimes, family is not a source of comfort, and that morality is all shades of grey.
About the Author
RIMMA ONOSETA is a Nigerian writer whose work explores identity, familial bonds, and the colonial corruption of African spirituality. She holds a degree in Finance from Northeastern University and an MBA from Suffolk University. Onoseta grew up reading late into the night, under her covers, with a flashlight and snacks. She writes stories she wanted to read when she was younger, stories about young Nigerians girls who are chaotic and fierce, and who question what they’re taught. When she’s not writing, Onoseta enjoys traveling and watching documentaries.
“Onoseta’s devastatingly vulnerable debut, told nonlinearly in two teen Nigerian girls’ dual perspectives, portrays a tempestuous sisterhood amid colorism, familial trauma, and financial precarity…. Onoseta uses visceral prose to sensitively depict Zam and Cheta’s home life and the abuse they endured. The teens’ complicated familial relationships, further ravaged by wealth disparities and societal presumptions, presents an arresting look at two girls embarking on diverging futures in a character-driven story that promises—and delivers—hope for a brighter tomorrow.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“The novel tells each sister’s story in ways that are moving and show how understandable the decisions they make are, even when they can’t empathize with one another…. Onoseta explores a range of social issues, including class, colorism, intergenerational trauma, and colonization, through a masterfully crafted and diverse cast of characters. This nonlinear narrative presents a universal story: girls striving to find their way in a patriarchal society. A stunning and emotional debut.”
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"How You Grow Wings might be labeled a YA title, but the themes it explores—abuse, colorism, mental illness, classism—make it a compelling read for all."
“Intense, immersive, absorbing. From the moment I met sisters Zam and Cheta, I was completely invested in their fates. I read compulsively as they shared their struggles with each other, their mother, and their society. A story of mothers and daughters, sisters and enemies, women and girls striving, against all odds, to break generational trauma and abuse and find their own path in life.”
—Yamile Saied Méndez, Pura Belpré Award-winning author of Furia
“A raw and riveting look at the complexity of sisterhood and the bonds that keep us together.”
—Louisa Onome, author of Like Home
“A heartbreaking portrait of the trauma of colonization and colorism on the black family and body. Onoseta renders sisterhood as both the open wound and the salve that allows Cheta and Zam to take flight.”
—Christina Hammonds Reed, New York Times bestselling author of The Black Kids
“A powerful meditation on how oppression and violence are passed down in families, and how two sisters find very different paths to escaping its grip.”
—Shannon Gibney, award-winning author of Dream Country
“Masterfully written, evocative, and searing. How You Grow Wings is the story that I've been waiting for my whole life. Rimma Onoseta captures all-too-familiar, yet complex, family dynamics with candor, tenderness, conviction, and nuance. A brave strike against deep-seated generational trauma that has plagued families across several cultures for far too long.”
—Candice Iloh, author of the National Book Award Finalist Every Body Looking