Book: The City We Became (A Novel) 

Author: N.K. Jemisin

Review by: Doug Shipman, former CEO of the Woodruff Arts Center

Doug Shipman

This book was recommended during a conversation with my friend, the artist Jessica Caldas.

The City We Became is the first of a new trilogy series from N.K. Jemisin, who has become a sensation in the world of science fiction, a genre I’m often drawn to for its use of fantasy to explore the toughest issues humanity faces.

This particular book made a huge impression on me during COVID 2020. It explores the role of cities in our contemporary world and imagines them as living organisms, examining what would happen if they could be personified. 

The book also has an international perspective as characters from South America and Asia play a large role in exploring what New York means and the soul of this global city. The story delves deeply into issues of identity including race, sexuality, gender and ethnicity in ways that felt aligned with the social justice protests and conversations we’ve experienced during this year. 

Jemisin provides an incredible vehicle for imagination and exploration in this book, offering an escape from 2020 in some ways, but in others, a shot directly into the heart of the year’s myriad challenges. I continue to find myself thinking about this book more than any I read in 2020. Thanks Jessica!

Editor’s notes: Global Atlanta will receive a 10 percent commission on any purchase of this book through the links on this page. also contributes 10 percent of the purchase price of each book to independent booksellers around the United States.

Each year, Global Atlanta asks influential readers and community leaders to review the most impactful book they read during the course of the year. This endeavor has continued annually since 2010. 

See last year’s full list of books on BookShop here, and all 2020 reader picks here. 

All books were chosen and reviews written independently, with only mild editing from our staff.