A bold, unsettling, surprisingly tender debut novel for readers of Jesmyn Ward and Nightcrawling.
Salomé Atabong is the sixteen-year-old daughter of a Cameroonian father and a Dutch mother, living in the Netherlands. She arrives at a juvenile detention center to start a six-month sentence for a violent crime, which she did commit but does not regret. Expected to visit with a racist psychologist and perform her apologies, Salomé refuses to atone. But even if Salomé could get home, it would be no refuge: her father has recently been diagnosed with liver cancer, and her elder sister Miriam's main preoccupation is to get out of the village as soon as possible.
After months in the prison system, she realizes she must come to terms with the real reason behind her rage.
Raw and unsentimental yet lyrical, Confrontations captures the paradoxical demands society makes on Black women, the way communities, schools, and the prison system perpetuate racism, and the cost of Black female defiance.
About the Author
Simone Atangana Bekono studied creative writing at the ArtEZ University of the Arts in Arnhem. Her debut poetry collection, how the first sparks became visible, was awarded the Poëziedebuutprijs Aan Zee for best first book of poetry. She lives in Amsterdam.
Suzanne Heukensfeldt Jansen is a bilingual freelance translator, focusing on literary fiction and nonfiction. She obtained her postgraduate certificate in literary translation from University College. She lives in London.
“A short book, a compact explosive device, and a brisk eye-opening narrative . . . Atangana Bekono gives voice to the voiceless, but also exposes the moral rot and racist foundations of a society too complacent and oblivious to care.” —New York Journal of Books
“A tightly wound, forcefully lyrical debut novel by an award-winning Dutch poet . . . A psychological mystery whose solution resides in self-discovery.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Salomé's sharp, voice-driven narration captures the tedium and frustrations of her sentence as well as the depth of her adolescent angst. The slow revelation of Salomé's crime maintains tension throughout. The final act, which chronicles her release, interweaves her feelings, thoughts, and memories from before and during her incarceration to skillfully portray the difficulty of returning to life on the outside. This one's hard to put down.” —Publishers Weekly
“Lyrical . . . perfect for readers who value in-depth characterization. Salomé struggles with the quirks of teenagehood, a troubled home life, and the politics of navigating a world where underlying racist views are treated as normal and acceptable. In her complex and intricate first novel, Atangana Bekono does a fantastic job of exploring the internal conflict of wanting to fit in while also hoping to hold society to account.” —Booklist
“Deep and meditative, this book weaves through multiple themes to deliver a pinpoint gut punch to the reader.” —Debutiful
“This debut centers on a mixed heritage teenage girl in a juvenile detention center in the Netherlands [who] refuses to play the games of the racist, carceral system she must endure. Atangana Bekono handles violent content with care and explores themes of family, identity, carcerality and dreams.” —Ms.
“Those who have lived under the ugly shadow of racial bullying know that words can hurt so much they break your mind, as is the case for Salomé . . . Short chapters mimic the distracted attention span of an intelligent and troubled teen . . . Like the corridors of the Donut that perpetually curve right, Salomé is trapped in a hostile world that points her in only one direction.” —Washington Independent Review of Books
“A sensitive, moving, and insightful story about an incarcerated teenage girl coming to terms with her social identity, self-understanding, and dreams. The writing captures, believably, the thoughts of a young person facing the devastation of her confinement and what led up to it. Oscillating between unfiltered expression and philosophical realization, and with moments of utter beauty, Atangana Bekono captures the anguish of degradation, the desperation of rage, and the loneliness of Salomé's experience at the margins of two cultures.” —Erin I. Kelly, Pulitzer Prize Winning co-author of CHASING ME TO MY GRAVE
“In the pages of Simone Atangana Bekono's daring, beautifully-written and incredibly observant novel, Confrontations, you'll meet the main character, Salomé, who pays a high price for standing up for herself and the people she loves. Each of Atangana Bekono's characters are drawn with so much acuity and honesty. I love this page turner and the colorful cast of characters who populate it.” —De'Shawn Charles Winslow, author of DECENT PEOPLE and IN WEST MILLS
“One of the best debuts I've read in years. Atangana Bekono's raw scenes are written with enormous tenderness. “Do you see it now?” she asks you. And leaves you with a broken heart.” —Hanna Bervoets, author of WE HAD TO REMOVE THIS POST
“Fascinating . . . The contrast between the poetic style and the brutal content makes the passage subtle and lively . . . The refined depiction of these feelings makes the book intense and penetrating.” —de Volkskrant (Netherlands)
“A dazzling coming-of-age novel.” —Trouw (Netherlands)
“Hits like a punch . . . a clever and disruptive debut.” —De Telegraaf (Netherlands)
“Confrontations is a moving study of how quietly pivotal events build over time to fuel rage. Simone Atangana Bekono immerses us in the different worlds Salome navigates, gripping us through the character's distinctive voice. There is a tender stubbornness she possesses, and it sealed my attention from the start. I sighed with Salome, laughed with her, dreamt with her, was frustrated for her. This novel will compel you to reconsider what rehabilitation means, and will follow you beyond the final page.” —Theresa Lola, author of IN SEARCH OF EQUILIBRIUM
“Confrontations unpicks the stitches of a young life prematurely defined by violence. Crime, punishment, privilege and racism are explored with the unsentimental, stark precision of a poet's pen. Simone Atangana Bekono is one to watch.” —Alice Slater, author of DEATH OF A BOOKSELLER