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Literature / Brown Girl in the Ring

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Brown Girl in the Ring is a 1999 novel by Nalo Hopkinson. Ti-Jeanne, a young mother, lives in what remains of Central Toronto after it was abandoned by the wealthy and powerful. Speaking of the wealthy and powerful, the premier of Canada needs a human heart to replace her own. She calls on Rudy, who is a powerful gangster who controls the flow of Buff to procure it for her. He deputizes Tony, Ti-Jeanne's baby father, to do the killing for the organ. Frightened, Tony calls on Ti-Jeanne and her grandmother Gros-Jeanne for help. And so Ti-Jeanne's journey begins.

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  • And I Must Scream - The duppy is conscious of what it's doing when Rudy sends it after his victims, although it despises him and wants to be free. The reveal that it's actually Mi-Jeanne's soul ramps this trope up to eleven. She is ordered by Rudy to kill Ti-Jeanne, and the helpless mother is fully aware and helpless to stop the spirit as she burns her own daughter alive.
  • Body Horror - Crazy Betty gouged her eyes out years ago and walks around blind with the holes in her head still visible.
  • Chekhov's Gunman - Crazy Betty who is revealed to be Ti-Jeanne's mother
  • Domestic Abuse - Rudy is depicted to have hit his wife Gros-Jeanne
  • Family Theme Naming: Gros-Jeanne, Mi-Jeanne and Ti-Jeanne - Big, Medium and Small Jeanne - Grandmother, mother and child.
  • Fate Worse than Death - Instead of allowing Dunston to pass to Guinea Land after killing him, Rudy forces his tormented soul to a purgatory-type world where he is forced to outrun murderous spirits for all eternity. He is finally freed of this torture when Ti-Jeanne shoots the duppy bowl, and his spirit returns to earth by occupying Baby's body.
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  • Flaying Alive: Rudy does this to his zombified housekeeper Mabel while a paralyzed Tony is Forced to Watch.
  • Forced to Watch: A paralyzed Tony is forced to watch while Rudy flays Mabel alive.
  • Hologram: Presumably, it's what a "deeplight projector" makes, as it creates the visuals and noise of angry kids made to scare people away from the actual kids who live in the subway.
  • Landmarking the Hidden Base: Toronto crime lord and obeah man Rudy has his offices in the main pod of the CN Tower.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Rudy is Ti-Jeanne's grandfather.
  • Missing Mom: Ti-Jeanne's mother left her in the care of Gros-Jeanne. She's actually Crazy Betty.
  • No Name Given: Ti-Jeanne's child is named only 'Baby'. Justified by the fact that it seems to be common practice to wait to name children until a certain amount of time has passed.
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  • Our Zombies Are Different: Type V Voodoo zombies.
  • The Paralyzer: Synapse Cordons and their portable version, the Dazer. Synapse Cordons uses "baseball-sized lump[s] of what looked like modelling clay" to create "stake[s] sprouting a good eight feet high" that define the cordon's borders, and kicking the cordon creates a "synapse surge of current", a.k.a a "daze charge" inside the field, that "short-circuit[s] [the] neuromuscular system".
  • The Pig-Pen: The street kids. Justified in that they live in the filth and squalor of the abandoned subway. Their odor and grimy appearance are often mentioned.
  • Raised by Grandparents: Ti-Jeanne has a Disappeared Dad and Missing Mom and so is raised by her grandmother.
  • Sleazy Politician: Downplayed with Premier Uttley. She's only seeking a human heart instead of the typical pig heart for her transplant to look good in her upcoming reelection campaign, not out of any moral stance on pig farming.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Ti-Jeanne is a teenager, pregnant with Tony's baby.
  • Voodoo Zombie: Rudy, the gang lord, controls several zombies, one of which is his own daughter, Mi-Jeanne, using a process taught to him by a Ioa.
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