One of our recommended books is What's Mine and Yours by Naima Coster


Instant New York Times bestseller and Read with Jenna Today Show book club pick, a multigenerational novel of motherhood, race and the American family.

A community in the Piedmont of North Carolina rises in outrage as a county initiative draws students from the largely Black east side of town into predominantly white high schools on the west. For two students, Gee and Noelle, the integration sets off a chain of events that will tie their two families together in unexpected ways over the span of the next twenty years.

On one side of the integration debate is Jade,

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Instant New York Times bestseller and Read with Jenna Today Show book club pick, a multigenerational novel of motherhood, race and the American family.

A community in the Piedmont of North Carolina rises in outrage as a county initiative draws students from the largely Black east side of town into predominantly white high schools on the west. For two students, Gee and Noelle, the integration sets off a chain of events that will tie their two families together in unexpected ways over the span of the next twenty years.

On one side of the integration debate is Jade, Gee’s steely, ambitious mother. In the aftermath of a harrowing loss, she is determined to give her son the tools he’ll need to survive in America as a sensitive, anxious, young Black man. On the other side is Noelle’s headstrong mother, Lacey May, a white woman who refuses to see her half‑Latina daughters as anything but white. She strives to protect them as she couldn’t protect herself from the influence of their charming but unreliable father, Robbie.

When Gee and Noelle join the play meant to bridge the divide between new and old students, their paths collide, and their two seemingly disconnected families begin to form deeply knotted, messy ties that will shape the trajectory of their adult lives. And their mothers—each determined to see her child inherit a better life—will make choices that will haunt them for decades to come.

As love is built and lost, and the past never too far behind, What’s Mine and Yours is an expansive, vibrant tapestry that moves between the years, from the foothills of North Carolina, to Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Paris. It explores the unique organism that is every family: what breaks them apart and how they come back together.

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  • Grand Central Publishing
  • Paperback
  • Jan 2022
  • 368 Pages
  • 9781538702338

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About Naima Coster

Naima Coster is the author of What's Mine and YoursNaima Coster is the New York Times bestselling author of What’s Mine and Yours. She is also the author of Halsey Street, and a finalist for the 2018 Kirkus Prize for Fiction and was a 2020 National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 honoree. Naima’s stories and essays have appeared in the New York Times, Kweli, the Paris Review Daily, Catapult, the Rumpus, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University, as well as degrees from Fordham University and Yale. She has taught writing for over a decade, in community settings, youth programs, and universities. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.


What’s Mine and Yours is a once-every-few-years reading experience for me. I was completely seduced by the honesty of Coster’s prose, the tenderness she has for her characters. To say Coster pulls off something special here is a massive understatement. I’ve placed this novel on a shelf among those most dear to me, and I imagine I’ll return to it many, many times.” — Mary Beth Keane, New York Times bestselling author of Ask Again, Yes

“Naima Coster’s What’s Mine and Yours patiently and unerringly tracks the boundaries, unearths the secrets, and stares unblinkingly at what’s essential to knowing oneself and the larger histories we’re forced to navigate. A beautifully-wrought investigation of family, race, inheritance, and belonging.” — Cristina García, author of Here in Berlinand Dreaming in Cuban

“Moving fluidly between perspectives and time, What’s Mine and Yours is a mesmerizing story of two families brought together through choice and circumstance in one North Carolina town. Naima Coster is a storyteller of astounding clarity and compassion.” — Lisa Ko, National Book Award finalist of The Leavers

“What’s Mine and Yours is a book about parents who try and fail and then try again. An extraordinary cast of characters, nuanced and full of insight. It’s about children who hold their loved ones accountable. It reveals in absolutely engrossing and tension-filled prose how a tragedy haunts a family. Coster is a master storyteller through and through. Read this book.” — Angie Cruz, author of Dominicana

What’s Mine And Yours is a powerful and timely family saga about the complex webs forged by love and tragedy – gripping, generous, and deeply felt. It’s a moving examination of what we inherit, and what it means to love both wholeheartedly and imperfectly. This is a book, in other words, for anyone who’s ever had a family.” — Rachel Khong, author of Goodbye, Vitamin

“Naima Coster’s What’s Mine and Yours moves from moment to moment of startling grace. This expansive, generous novel tackles big themes – systemic racism, the reverberations of gun violence, class inequity – but it always feels thrillingly personal. Multiple times, it moved me to tears. An exquisite and vital portrait of family, place, and the bonds that transform our lives, What’s Mine and Yours is more than a beautiful read – it’s an essential one, destined to be talked about for years to come as a book that saw the world and spoke the truth with tenderness, wisdom, and love.” — Julie Buntin, author of Marlena

“Naima Coster weaves a beautiful tapestry of voices together in What’s Mine and Yours. This is a sprawling, moving narrative about the messiness of love and family, mothering, race, and community. Here we follow two families connected by place and circumstance as they try to free themselves of those bonds. The result? Rich, complex individual stories that merge to form a satisfying, startling end.” — Crystal Hana Kim, Author of If You Leave Me

What’s Mine and Yours explodes with love, passion, and their piercing aftermath. Naima Coster renders two unforgettable families, their labyrinthine bonds and heartaches, with propulsive and startling clarity. This is a novel of scorching beauty.” — Patricia Engel, author of It’s Not Just Love, It’s Paris and Vida

Discussion Questions

1. At the beginning of What’s Mine and Yours, Robbie Ventura tells Ray Gilbert to get property that no one will ever take away from his children, in order to build a legacy. What other legacies do the parents in this novel leave their children? What would you want to leave your loved ones?

2. The parents and children of What’s Mine and Yours exist with a significant chasm between them. Discuss the ways that the Ventura daughters and Gee don’t often see the motivations behind their parents’ choices, nor the sacrifice, and how did it resonate with you and your own life?

3. When Inéz visits Noelle in Golden Brook, she’s afraid that her friend is losing her sense of self while out in the suburbs, especially after hearing the story of a Black woman and her son threatened with the police by a neighbor. How did you feel about the party’s reaction to that story and Inéz’s criticism of Noelle’s silence?

4. There are many versions of caregiving in this novel that go beyond just parent and child. Discuss the ways that these characters are playing the role of mother for one another.

5. The two mothers in the novel, Lacey May and Jade, both wanted what was best for their children, regardless of how it’s received by them and the broader implications of their actions. Do you believe Noelle and Gee ultimately reach an understanding as to why their mothers behaved how they did?

6. The town hall in which the school integration is discussed is set in 2002, yet this issue is still present today. How did this storyline relate to your understanding of the current school integration debate?

7. When Noelle, Margarita, and Diane come together in their search for Robbie, Noelle attempts to heal the rift between them, despite their fraught relationship. She tells Margarita, “I’ve been thinking. Our parents are always going to have their problems, but that doesn’t mean we have to stay away from each other. We can be family on our own terms.” Noelle is attempting to heal a long-standing wound. How do other characters in the book attempt to do the same with the people in their lives?

8. Noelle is labeled as white multiple times, most notably by Inéz and Ruth, which results in two different reactions in the moment. Why did Noelle’s response vary in each instance? Have there been moments where you have not been seen in the way that you identify?

9. Identity politics is an important thread throughout this novel. Discuss the ways in which Diane has internalized some of Lacey May’s prejudices. How does that affect her relationship with Alma?

10. Jade fights for her son’s place in the world, wanting him to have more opportunities than she or Ray had. Discuss how this influences Gee and shapes what he expects from the world and other people.

11. This novel is filled with mostly fraught relationships that ultimately show the depth and complexities of love. Was there a particular relationship in the novel that spoke to you the most? Did it remind you of a relationship in your own life?

12. When Noelle and Ruth speak about Lacey May’s acceptance of Alma, Noelle comments, “It’s not the same as being black.” Discuss what Noelle means by this.

13. By the final scenes at the wedding, it appears that Noelle has reconciled with her family. Yet she grapples with their limitations and the way they can progress in certain ways, accept some things but not others. Discuss what is meant by the line, “They’d never admit how willingly they’d played their parts.





What inspired you to write What’s Mine and Yours?

I knew that I wanted to write a novel about the integration of a public high school. I was deeply moved by the reporting of Nikole Hannah-Jones. I first encountered her work on This American Life where she covered an integration program in Missouri, in the school district where Michael Brown graduated from high school. The episode, “The Problem We All Live With,” included audio footage of white parents at a community meeting opposing the admission of Black students. I was haunted by the things the parents said, the riotous applause. I wondered about the Black children sitting in that auditorium. I wondered about the opportunities that would open up for them, as well as the hardships and experiences that would leave a mark. When I was a girl, I participated in an education program that led me to a privileged, largely white school. It changed the trajectory of my life, but it was also hard, and that time is still with me. From there, I started to imagine Central and the story of Gee and Noelle.

The novel is made of intricate layers that build on each other. Was there a moment where all of these disparate strands and characters finally came together, or did the shape of the narrative come to you fully formed?

The book started with Lacey May, although I didn’t realize it was a book at the time. During my first winter living in North Carolina, I was snowed in for three days in our little house at the bottom of a gravel road. We kept the heat on low to save money because we hadn’t anticipated how expensive it would be to fill the tank with propane. I was stranded and lonely and very cold. Over those three days, I wrote a short story called “Cold” about a woman named Lacey May who needs to find a way to keep the gas on for her girls. When I started dreaming about What’s Mine and Yours and the drama at the high school, I thought about bringing Lacey May and her family into the landscape of the novel. The notion that a mother would do nearly anything to protect her family is so often considered heroic. But it’s also an insidious idea—that any choice or action is defensible if it’s done to secure a good life for one’s children. All manner of harms have been done in this country to Black and brown families under the guise of keeping the futures of white children safe.

Were there characters that you understood and could write easily, and any that took longer to reveal themselves?

The mothers in this book came readily to me—Jade, Lacey May, Noelle. As a writer, I’m obsessed with motherhood, the way it bestows a new identity while also taking away a former sense of self. This book picks up that early obsession that dominated my first novel, Halsey Street, and takes it further. And I became a mother as I worked on What’s Mine and Yours. The hardest character for me to crack was Gee. At first, I thought it was because he was so different from me: a teenage boy growing up in North Carolina. But this wasn’t the case at all. It took me a long time to recognize that Gee was actually unnervingly close to me; he held so many difficult and familiar experiences and emotions. I was resistant to looking inside him because it would require looking further into myself, my family history. I’m thinking about his attempts to bury loss and violence, a pain so deep it seems to have the power to destroy us. I’m thinking about the strength it takes to live on after trauma, and the desire to leave behind the past so that we can inhabit a much brighter future. I’m thinking about how we can’t ever quite drop the load we’re carrying. And yet, even if we’re so heavily burdened, we manage to build lives—however delicate, however fraught—beyond our wildest imaginings. For me, Gee is the heart of this book.

This novel has a significant amount of empathy for all of its characters, even the ones that are difficult to like or you disagree with their world view. As a writer, how do you maintain this for a character, especially when they’re behaving at their worst?

We all contain multitudes, and as a fiction writer I try to express that reality in my work. Someone like Lacey May, for instance, is a fierce advocate for her daughters; she is also racist. Both things are true. They don’t cancel each other out or redeem her. I’ve never gotten caught up much in whether my characters are likable, which seems to be code for whether they’re “good” people. I’m not sure I believe in the idea of good people or find it useful. If you know anyone long enough, you’ll begin to see the discrepancies between who they say they are and who they actually are. I think we find the same is true for ourselves if we take an honest look at our lives. As a fiction writer, I’m not interested in writing paragons of virtue or monsters; I’m much more interested in the full range of our humanity, the ways we long for and chase after the things we need to survive. It helps that I write close to characters’ perspectives. When we’re in someone’s mind, we can see the acrobatics, the distortions, and desires that drive them to behave so badly. It doesn’t excuse what they do, but there’s usually something recognizable in those impulses and longings, however misguided.

What’s Mine and Yours takes place in various cities and towns in the U.S. Do you have a connection to these areas in the United States?

In my early thirties, I lived in Durham, North Carolina, and my time there was so formative. While I lived in Durham, I worked in Winston-Salem, and I often traveled to the coast and to the mountains. During those years, I was sorting through questions about marriage and motherhood, social mobility and white supremacy, complicated racial dynamics within mixed families. I was also thinking about race and belonging in my new context, how different it felt to be myself in North Carolina versus New York City. Those preoccupations became the stuff of the novel. And while the book isn’t explicitly set in Durham, I was certainly inspired by the city. I hope the novel reads somewhat like a love letter. It’s certainly a love letter to those years that I was sifting through those questions and feelings while driving on I-85, hiking the Eno River State Park, working with high school and college students, and finding community in Durham.

Were there any major changes to plot or characters between your first draft and the novel now?

I had lots of different ideas about how the drama at the high school should play out—I imagined a fire, an incident at a party, an assault in the woods. But what ultimately felt right was for there to be an incident in the school itself directly involving Gee, just as he begins to come into his own and forge a connection with Noelle. That’s what happens with incidents of violence—they interrupt a life already in progress, a set of dreams and goals and promise, sometimes irreparably. Thankfully, that’s not what happens to Gee—he’s assaulted, but he comes back. That was important for me.