A Country You Can Leave: A Novel (Hardcover)
“From page one, A Country You Can Leave is a riveting, exasperating, and deeply heartbreaking tale of mother-daughter strife and resilience.” —Xochitl Gonzalez, author of Olga Dies Dreaming
A stunning debut novel following the turbulent relationship of a Black biracial teen and her ferocious Russian mother, struggling to survive in the California desert.
When sixteen-year-old Lara and her fiery mother, Yevgenia, find themselves homeless again, the misnamed Oasis Mobile Estates is all they can afford. In this new community, where residents are down on their luck but rich in humor and escape plans, Lara navigates what it means to be the Black biracial daughter of a Russian mother and begins to wonder what a life beyond Yevgenia’s orbit—with her insistence on reading only the right kind of books (Russian) and having the right kind of relationships (casual, with lots of sex)—might look like.
Lara knows that something else lies beneath her mother’s fierce, independent spirit, but Yevgenia doesn’t believe in sharing, least of all with her daughter. When a brutal attack exposes the cracks in their relationship, Lara and Yevgenia are forced to confront the family legacy of violence and the strain of inherited trauma on the bonds of their love.
A Country You Can Leave is a dazzling, sharp-witted story suffused with yearning, as Lara and Yevgenia attempt to forge their own identities and thrive in a hostile land. Compelling and empathetic, wry and intimate, Asale Angel-Ajani’s unforgettable debut novel examines the beauty and dangers of womanhood in multiracial America.
About the Author
Asale Angel-Ajani is a writer and Professor at The City College of New York. She’s the author of the nonfiction books Strange Trade: The Story of Two Women Who Risked Everything in the International Drug Trade and Intimate: Essays on Racial Terror. She has held residencies at Millay, Djerassi, and Playa, and is an alum of VONA and Tin House. A Country You Can Leave is her first novel.
“A Country You Can Leave is a master class of a bildungsroman... Like childhood, Angel-Ajani’s novel is alternately horrifying and spellbinding in its lessons about love, family and growing up."
—Angela Lashbrook, The New York Times
"Asale Angel-Ajani’s prismatic debut, A Country You Can Leave is truly unforgettable."
—Rachel León, The Millions
"Angel-Ajani’s unflinching portrait of this hypernuclear family is captivating and complex, with a richly drawn supporting cast and occasional arch humor that leavens the intensely emotional backdrop."
—Thane Tierney, BookPage (starred review)
"The tensions between teenage Lara and her Russian-born mother Yevgenia sizzle in Asale Angel-Ajani’s wry and tumultuous first novel.... A Country You Can Leave is filled with passion and humor, rawness and loss; it is a fresh and vivid reminder of how good storytelling works."
—Jane Ciabattari, Literary Hub
"[A] piercing debut novel . . . In perceptive prose and wry dialogue, Angel-Ajani brings to life a mother and daughter trapped by their circumstances. This is exemplary."
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"[A] sharp, observant debut novel, which deftly blends humor and hard truths while examining economic inequities and the emotional toll they take."
"Angel-Ajani captures a delicate mother-daughter relationship that is fissured from both internal and external forces... A Country You Can Leave is about love in the face of American precarity, oppression, and violence."
—Sarah Neilson, Shondaland
"This remarkable debut focuses on the turbulent and complicated relationship between a Black, biracial teen and her erratic, fierce Russian mother... [it's a] gripping coming-of-age novel."
—Margaret Kingsbury, BuzzFeed News
"A tour de force of character, and a captivating story to match. Vivid, tender and unflinching, I loved this journey. "
—Ann-Marie MacDonald, author of Fayne
“A Country You Can Leave is an enthralling and heartfelt novel. In this striking debut, Asale Angel-Ajani’s phenomenal skills shine on every page. This book will leave you profoundly moved and feeling like you better understand the word loneliness.”
—Sarah Jackson, author of A Bit Much
“A Country You Can Leave shattered me with its pain and sweetness. At its heart are a mother and daughter like none I’ve read before, each striving for selfhood in a world that seems bent on crushing them. It’s rare to encounter a debut so fearless and insightful and truly new, but here is Asale Angel-Ajani to show us what’s possible in the landscape of American fiction.”
—Tania James, author of The Tusk That Did the Damage
"A journey through the California everyone should know, a place America needs to see, a world of desperation and beauty, collaboration and redemption. In the best tradition of fiercely perceptive daughters fighting to survive dangerous lives, from Betty Smith to Janet Fitch to Helena Maria Viramontes, the debut of Asale Angel-Ajani was ever surprising, a novel I read in one day."
—Susan Straight, author of Mecca
"From page one, A Country You Can Leave is a riveting, exasperating, and deeply heartbreaking tale of mother-daughter strife and resilience. Asale Angel-Ajani is an explosive talent and her story of Afro-Cuban Lara coming of age in a ruthless headlock with her survivalist Russian mother, Yevgenia, will disintegrate your strong-held emotional walls, down to her very last act of resistance."
—Xochitl Gonzalez, author of Olga Dies Dreaming
"Refined and raw, cosmopolitan and claustrophobic, A Country You Can Leave is a novel of contrasts, built around a mother and daughter who see themselves as nothing alike. Asale Angel-Ajani portrays the complexity of the whole world through this one core relationship. Her debut is as loving as it is demanding, as vulnerable as it is merciless, and its complications will break your heart."
—Julia Phillips , author of Disappearing Earth