YA novel How You Grow Wings is Rimma Onoseta’s scintillating debut work that explores the journey of two sisters and their struggle to escape from an oppressive family. The novel was published on August 9 by Algonquin Young Readers, an imprint of Algonquin Books and part of Workman Publishing.
Written for a readership between the ages of 14 to 18, How You Grow Wings represents difficult topics using the trope of a sisterly bond to capture the teenage reader’s attention. The publisher’s note describes the novel as a deft exploration of “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.”
Onoseta’s novel is about two sisters Cheta and Zam, who grow up in rural Nigeria with an abusive mother and a silent father. To deal with their familial trauma, they use different strategies to survive. While the older sister Cheta engages in conflict with the abusive mother, the younger and quieter sister Zam avoids conflict and remains a dutiful daughter. The novel features non-linear storytelling, alternating between the two sisters’ points of view. When a rich aunt and uncle invite Zam to live with them, Zam’s fortunes change for the better while Cheta is left behind with the abusive mother and eventually leaves home. When the sisters reunite, “Zam alone will recognize just how far Cheta has fallen—and Cheta’s fate will rest in Zam’s hands.” Read the excerpt here.
In an interview with Writer’s Digest, Onoseta mentions that writing How You Grow Wings was a transformative experience for her, that pushed her to listen to her characters’ motivations, fears, and inner selves. Most of all, it taught her that “so much of writing is listening—listening to what the characters want and the way the story demands to be told.”
Onoseta hopes that readers will find her novel life-changing as it felt for her during the process of writing:
Reading is such a personal experience. The books that have changed me are the books that made me feel seen, books I could lose myself in. My hope is that the readers who need it, find it. I hope that the words and the characters act as a source of solace, a much-needed distraction, a catalyst to consider a different perspective, whatever it is, I hope readers get exactly what they need from it.
Rimma Onoseta is a Nigerian author. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Finance from Northeastern University and a Master’s degree in Marketing from Suffolk University. Possessing multiple talents and skills, Onoseta has worked as a forensic accountant, marketing analyst and supply chain specialist, along with being a writer. Her work explores identity and familial bonds, focusing on stories about young Nigerians girls who are chaotic and fierce.
If you are interested in books that explore intergenerational trauma and mental health struggles such as Yaa Gyasi’s Transcendent Kingdom and Homegoing, then we definitely recommend you check out How You Grow Wings! If you have or know any teens who might relate to this book or learn from it, please send Onoseta’s novel their way since it might help them grapple with difficult circumstances at home.