How You Grow Wings

by Rimma Onoseta

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An award-winning, "unforgettable" novel for fans of Ibi Zoboi and Erika L. Sánchez (SLJ, starred review) about two sisters when the line between family and foe is blurred.

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...

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Published By Algonquin Young Readers

Format Hardback


Number Of Pages 336

Publication Date 08/09/2022

ISBN 9781643751917

Dimensions 5.95 inches x 8.65 inches

Kirkus Prize Finalist
Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the year
A SLJ Best Book of the year
A Children’s Africana Book Award Honor Winner
A Rise: A Feminist Book Project honoree
A Chicago Public Library Best Book of the year
Amazon August Editors' pick for Best Young Adult

* “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

* “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

* "Debut author Onoseta’s novel offers exceptionally rich character development…. Modern social and political issues are masterfully woven into the narrative.... An unforgettable, character-driven exploration of sisterhood, survival, and self-advocacy perfect for fans of Elizabeth Acevedo or Ibi Zoboi."
School Library Journal, starred review

"Riveting debut novel....The rich cultural, linguistic, and social customs of Nigerian life are on full display.... The sisters’ stories take readers on a rewarding journey from brokenness toward wholeness and healing."
Horn Book Magazine

"An extraordinary debut."
The Buffalo News

"Debut Nigerian author Rimma Onoseta deftly explores classism, colorism and cycles of abuse."

"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."
Essence Magazine

"Intense yet tender, How You Grow Wings is an emotional story about family dynamics, loyalty vs. love, and handling truth. It explores generational trauma, specific to Nigerian families, domestic abuse, colorism, classism, and, most importantly, overcoming it all."
Youth Services Book Reviews, 5 star review

“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