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Yerba Buena


Yerba Buena

Printz Award-winning author Nina LaCour makes her adult contemporary debut with YERBA BUENA, a tender, literary meditation of two women finding themselves and each other.

Sara Foster’s childhood saw a bright emerging romance brutally cut short. She must push through waves of shock and grief to start over somewhere new. She finds a certain solace in bartending, the quiet alchemy of taking earthly things and the specificity of creation. Meanwhile, Emilie Dubois finds herself drifting, detached from her grandparents’ Creole community and searching for something to commit to amid her own grief and family tragedies. When the two women cross paths, fresh parts of each other come alive. But after lifetimes of reopened scars, it is no easy thing to choose care.

"Lovely and clever, YERBA BUENA is a queer, quiet contemplation on what it means to choose to love."

While centrally and structurally a romance, YERBA BUENA is first and foremost literary fiction. Told in alternating perspectives, it’s a dual coming-of-age story with romance at its core and undoubtedly deals with heavy subject matter. Sara and Emilie wrestle with family heartache, serious trauma, addiction and sexual abuse. There are affairs here, possible murder, drug abuse and impossible choices. LaCour’s writing is deeply intentional. This is a story about finding one’s place within the legacies of trauma and love. Grief and chaos haunt these women, yet over and over again, they must choose to survive beyond it. As Emilie says, “Not to start over, but to continue.”

Fans of LaCour’s YA fiction will adore this novel, and for readers of adult contemporaries who are new to her, this is a beautiful place to begin. I’ve loved her writing for a long time, and I hope this isn’t the last of her adult novels. Her voice shines here, along with her distinctly contemplative intimacy. She writes with careful, chosen prose, propulsive and poetic at once. You can almost feel her sunlight, taste the intricacies of a yerba buena, breathe in the weight of her characters’ wanting and their loneliness. She brings her trademark sapphic tenderness, brimming with ache, to deliver a lyrical, complex love story between a lesbian and a bisexual women, both granted rich interiority.

This story is about living as an act of creation. The gentle poetry of creating yourself. Of rebuilding trust in others and yourself. Of believing enough in a reckless, everyday sort of hope, to give yourself the courage to build a better life, day by day. About creating something that’s more than the sum of its parts. About reveling in those parts, be it the particulars of flipping a house or mixing a drink. That subtle specificity is what makes it matter. That tenderness is powerful. There’s so much pain here, but it’s rendered with such deliberate, careful compassion. It makes room for the wound and grants grace for the process of its healing.

In the absence of certainty, in a world that will not stop wounding, choosing to care is a risk, and it’s one you must take over and over. Not just to care for another person, but for yourself, enough to put the effort in to build a better life. It’s not an easy thing, but there’s solace to be found in that sort of tending, that nourishment, that deliberate tenderness. I adore the focus on self-love as much as romantic love here, the private, radical act of sapphic self-adoration. There still aren’t many literary novels about the lives of flawed, fully explored queer women, so I’m grateful for this beautiful addition to the growing canon.

Lovely and clever, YERBA BUENA is a queer, quiet contemplation on what it means to choose to love.

Reviewed by Maya Gittelman on June 17, 2022

Yerba Buena
by Nina LaCour

  • Publication Date: May 30, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Flatiron Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250810515
  • ISBN-13: 9781250810519