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Sweetness in the Skin: A Novel by Ishi Robinson (Hardcover)

Sweetness in the Skin: A Novel by Ishi Robinson (Hardcover)

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Fiction - Coming of Age - Family Life - World Literature - Caribbean & West Indies - Jamaica


“A delightful coming-of-age story set in Jamaica, amid heartbreak, hopefulness, and mirth.”—Charmaine Wilkerson, New York Times bestselling author of Black Cake

One of the BBC and Zibby Mag's Most Anticipated Books of 2024

A winning debut novel about a young teenage girl in Jamaica determined to bake her way out of her dysfunctional family and into the opportunity of a lifetime.

Pumkin Patterson is a thirteen-year-old girl living in a tiny two-room house in Kingston, Jamaica, with her grandmother (who wants to improve the family’s social standing), her Aunt Sophie (who dreams of a new life in Paris for her and Pumkin), and her mother Paulette (who’s rarely home).

When Sophie is offered the chance to move to France for work, she seizes the opportunity, and promises to send for her niece in one year’s time. All Pumkin has to do is pass her French entrance exam so she can attend school there. But when Pumkin’s grandmother dies, she’s left alone with her volatile mother, and as soon as her estranged father turns up—as lazy and conniving as ever—the household’s fortunes take a turn for the worse.

Pumkin must somehow find a way to raise the money for her French exam, so she can free herself from her household and reunite with her beloved aunt in France. In a moment of ingenuity, she turns her passion for baking into a true business. Making batches of sweet potato pudding, coconut drops and chocolate cakes, Pumkin develops a booming trade—but when her school and her mother find out what she’s up to, everything she’s worked so hard for may slip through her fingers. . . .

Sweetness in the Skin is a funny and heartbreaking story about a young girl figuring out who she is, what she is capable of—and where she truly belongs.


Ishi Robinson is a Jamaican writer living in Berlin. Her first published work was a short story in the national newspaper when she was eleven years old. Since then, she's written opinion pieces and short stories of fiction for various publications in Kingston, Toronto, Rome, and Berlin. SWEETNESS IN THE SKIN is her first novel.

"This triumphant and emotional debut from Robinson is recommended for readers who enjoyed Charmaine Wilkerson's Black Cake or Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing." -- Library Journal (starred review)

"Robinson's debut explores a variety of themes, including colorism, generational trauma, class, and ambition, through the eyes of plucky Pumkin, who is wise beyond her years. Her struggles are authentic, as are the friendships she develops with the people who help her along the way. Readers who were moved by Abi Daré's The Girl with the Louding Voice (2020) will be inspired by Pumkin's journey." -- Booklist (starred review)

"Debut novelist Robinson explores themes of class rivalry, racism, postcolonial damage, and self-determination. . . Sympathetic storytelling leavened with humor." -- Kirkus Reviews

"A coming-of-age story, a celebration of Jamaica that also examines its legacy of colonialism and classism." -- BBC

"Robinson's vivacious debut follows a Jamaican teenager who weighs her Kingston roots against the prospect of an exciting new life in France. . . . This perceptive coming-of-age novel marks Robinson as a writer to watch." -- Publishers Weekly

"Ishi Robinson has written a delightful coming-of-age story set in Jamaica, amid heartbreak, hopefulness, and mirth. This tender, at times humorous, coming-of-age tale celebrates the flavors and language of Jamaica while unveiling the impact of colorism and class divisions on one family. I found myself rooting for clever, vulnerable Pumkin as she reached for her dreams and yearned for acceptance." -- Charmaine Wilkerson, New York Times bestselling author of Black Cake

"Sweetness in the Skin is a mouth-watering delight of a novel, richly seasoned with the flavors, dialect and culture of Jamaica. Ishi Robinson's sumptuous writing is an utter joy, and the characters she's created are vivid and engaging. The twists and turns of Pumkin's quest to escape her predicament and realize her dream set my heart pounding as I raced to the satisfying conclusion. It's rare to find a book that's so thought-provoking, exciting and humorous in equal parts. A treat from start to finish!" -- Sarah Haywood, New York Times bestselling author of The Cactus

"Sweetness in the Skin is a celebration of the Caribbean--our food, our language, and our people. I read this book with my heart in my mouth, hoping all of Pumkin's dreams would come true." -- Breanne Mc Ivor, author of The God of God Looks

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