For readers of Queenie and Honey Girl, a coming-of-age story about queer Black identity, love, passion, chosen family, and rediscovering life’s pleasures after loss.
Jade Brown, a twenty-four-year-old first-generation Jamaican woman living in Toronto, must find a way to pick up the pieces and discover who she is following the mysterious death of her twin sister.
Grappling with her grief, Jade seeks solace in lovers and friends during an array of hilarious and heartbreaking adventures. As she investigates some of life’s most frustrating paradoxes, she holds tight to old friends and her ex-girlfriend, lifelines between past and present. On the journey to turning twenty-five, she finally sees that she belongs to herself, and goes about the business of reclaiming that self.
Through a series of whirlwind love affairs, parties, and trips abroad, Jade stumbles toward relinquishing the weight of her trauma as she fully comes into her own as a young Black woman and writer.
A RARE MACHINES BOOK
About the author
Tanya Turton is a storyteller, educator, and mental health advocate. She fell in love with storytelling when she began to feel displaced in her own world and found creative writing. Jade Is a Twisted Green is her debut novel. Hailing from Jamaica, Tanya was raised and lives in Toronto.
Excerpt: Jade Is a Twisted Green (by (author) Tanya Turton)
Jade woke to the slight caress of Tay’s hands tracing each tattoo on her back. She could feel the tiny hairs standing at attention, electricity pulsating through each nerve. It was still dark in her bedroom, and she could see the silhouette of their bodies framed on the wall.
“A few years? Shit, a few weeks ago,” she thought, though this seemed impossible.
In that moment she lay there at peace. She felt something at her feet and assumed it was her panties, but upon further investigation she realized she was still wearing them. It was her purple satin bonnet. Somehow each night she would start out with it on her head, and it would end up the next morning anywhere but there. Jade gently kicked it off the bed as she rolled closer and eventually into the arms of Tay. This was the first night they’d spent together, but it felt familiar and natural. As Jade lay there watching the wind blow her curtains gently, listening to the window fan turn as the humidifier gulped water, all of life felt as it should be. Nothing strange or out of place. It seemed almost like no time had passed between them.
Their love had grown quickly over the weeks. After many long walks by the water and even longer evenings recollecting what had occurred during the time they’d been away from each other, the pieces were finally falling into place. They’d reconnected back in May and now it was the end of June; summer had officially started. It was Pride weekend in Toronto, their first Pride together. Making up for their many years of missed opportunities, they’d spent the night prancing down Church Street, sweating in a small club on College and then grabbing burgers on the way home. They wore distressed denim shorts and crop tops, Jade in her favourite Docs and Tay in her black casual heels. The June night was chilly, but passion and hormones kept them warm. Tay ran into an ex-lover on the corner of Church and Wellesley, which launched her and Jade into a lighthearted debate about studs and femmes in Toronto. A Vogue circle had broken out in the club, but in true island fashion, the boys were on their head top. The air of celebration and freedom wrapped around them, pulling them closer together and reminding them of what they could have had many years ago.
As they rose that morning Tay smiled, her full lips separating slowly as her braces peeked through. She smiled a smile of knowing, as if the universe had sent her a message. She placed her hand on the small of Jade’s back and pulled her in closer, placing gentle kisses on her forehead.
“You ready for today?” Tay spoke with the raspy tone of the first words spoken that day.
Jade stared blankly. “What are we doing to —”
As the sun peeked through the windows of her apartment, she remembered the wedding.
“Please tell me why straight people do shit like this, why? They know it’s the one weekend we have and now we spendin’ the whole day with them.” She tussled with the sheets, rolling and fighting the air as if it had personally offended her.
Two short months ago, she had been afraid of this upcoming wedding because it might be the place she ran into Tay, but now instead, they were going together. This was the silver lining, the only reason she would show up. Jordan had never been her favourite person, but she was always kind. Tay and Amethyst would be in attendance and that was reason enough for Jade to accept the invite.
“Last night, though! Thank you for convincing me.” Tay didn’t flinch at Jade’s morning wrestling match with the sheets as she lay contentedly on the left side of the bed.
Without waiting for a response, she moved into the morning action plan.
“Let’s do breakfast. Should we get ready here or at my place? My dress is still at home …” Tay paused for a second extra as if hoping for a response, but then continued. “I don’t want to be late. They’re not the type to start late, if you know what I mean.”
“Okay, okay, let me shower here and then we can get ready. I’ll link Amethyst.” Jade grabbed her phone.
“’Ight.” Tay got out of bed.
“Morning! Who you riding with today? Wanna roll with us?” Jade texted Amethyst. Without waiting for a response, she left her phone on the nightstand and jumped into the shower.
Tay returned to the edge of the bed to pull on her socks. The bedroom window opened on to an alleyway filled with beautiful, colourful graffiti. The streets were already buzzing on that early Saturday morning. Pensive energy began to build in her knees, which wobbled at the idea of standing.
The night before had been beautiful, and this view was mesmerizing, but nothing about the past two months had confirmed that Jade was willing to commit. The foundation they had stood on felt just as porous as it had in high school. Tay looked around Jade’s apartment and, while it was cute, comfortable even, she couldn’t help but notice there was nothing on the walls. There were no images of family or friends. Nothing deeply personal was on display.
She stood up slowly and started to really study the space. Roots were important to her, part of the process of finding peace. As she slowly made her way around the bedroom, she noted that while there was personality, there were also no signs of commitment. No signs of staying or even a desire to stay.
“Maybe she’s a minimalist,” she said to herself as she searched for meaning in what she saw.
Hearing the pipes turn off and seeing the flow of steam under the bathroom door slowly taper off, she turned back to her belongings and continued dressing herself.
“That’s strange,” she heard Jade say, entering the bedroom.
“What?” Tay asked without turning around.
“Amethyst,” Jade replied dryly.
“She said, and I quote, ‘I’m good.’ Who’s she rolling with? Cuz I’ve never known her to turn down a ride.” She was speaking mostly to herself but likely out loud for Tay’s benefit.
Jade leaned on her closet door frame, naked and confused.
“Did it hurt?” Tay asked almost as if she was wincing in pain.
“When I fell from heaven?” Jade looked up from her phone, giggled and rejoined the moment.
“The tattoo …” Tay pulled on her shorts, giving Jade the side-eye.
“Ah, girl! That shit was horrible. But at the time I needed to feel the pain on the outside of my body, you know?”
They both allowed the air to thicken. Far too aware of exactly what Jade meant, Tay let silence take over once again.
Packing up what they needed for the day, they played a nineties mix on YouTube and let the blend of neo soul and R&B be their soundtrack. It felt like a scene from Love Jones in the best way — the gay in Toronto, slowly falling in love but scared as fuck way. They both felt it, but neither spoke. Neither of them wanted to ruin what they had going, taint it with talks of the future or the past. They wanted to just be in it and it felt easiest to simply be if they just let the music do the talking. Jill Scott seemed to say what they both wanted to and better than either of them could.
With her tiny curls well moisturized, simple powder and bronzer on, Jade threw on jeans and a T-shirt. With her shoes and dress packed, they walked to Tay’s car while ignoring two brothers in front of the restaurant trying to holla.
“Ain’t it too early ta try an’ chop anybody? Sun not even wake up good yet.” Tay opened the trunk for Jade.
“They are literally always here, pay dem no mind,” Jade assured her.
Jade’s dress remained in its plastic dry-cleaning bag. She placed it neatly on top of the random belongings Tay had in her trunk.
“Does this spot have cah’meal pawridge?” Tay asked, looking at the restaurant Jade lived on top of.
“Most days, yes.” Jade paused, holding open the passenger-side door.
Tay resolved to deal with the discomfort and spaghetti knees that came from walking past the two brothers. The morning dew on the restaurant window was still wet but nothing was getting between her and the chance for proper breakfast food.
“Gud mawnin’, dear,” the lady at the register said with a surprisingly pleasant smile.
Tay was shocked at her polite demeanour but delighted by the good vibes. “Morning, small cah’meal pawridge, please?”
Peter Tosh’s “I Am That I Am” played over the sound system, transporting Tay’s senses back home.
“Oh, sorry, darling, wi nah sell it inna small, only medium or large.” The woman half looked up as she started to wipe down the counter.
“You want porridge?” Tay texted Jade. It felt strange to have someone to check in with.
Jade responded quickly with a smiling emoji. “Yes please!”
“Large, please.” Tay pulled cash out of her purse and handed over a twenty.
“Carlton! Large cah’meal, please,” the woman yelled into the back without bothering to stick her head through the square hole cut out of the wall.
“Keep the change.” Tay held the plastic bag tied tightly over the upright container.
“Tanks.” The lovely aunty smiled, dropping the change in a plastic container behind the counter.
“Enjoy your day.” Tay pushed the door with her bum and smiled as she left.
One of the brothers in dark denim grabbed the door. “Le’ me get that for you, sis.”
“You new round here, sweetie?” the other said with a smile.
“Thank you,” Tay replied, trying to walk quickly but not obviously to her car.
“I thought we were going to sit down and eat somewhere,” Jade said, taking the bag as Tay climbed into the driver’s seat.
“I’m not coming all the way to Likkle Jamaica to not get food … plus by the time we get to mine, we will need to be out the door in like forty-five.” She pulled out of her perfect parallel parking job.
Tender and heartfelt, Jade Is a Twisted Green is a meditation on finding yourself and love after unimaginable grief. Told from the rich, unique vibrance of Toronto's Caribbean diaspora, Tanya Turton gifts us with a tale that is bold, meaningful and moving. A sparkling debut novel.
Junauda Petrus-Nasah, author of The Stars and the Blackness Between Them
A liberating story about community and grief and discovering what freedom is to you, which challenges the ways Western society looks at self-care, recovery, and relationships today...poignant and meaningful.
The Ampersand Review
Jade Is a Twisted Green is full of everything I love most: note-perfect dialogue, unforgettable voice and some of the most beautifully observed, sensory descriptions of Toronto since Dionne Brand's What We All Long For or Catherine Hernandez's Scarborough. Jade Is a Twisted Green is a gorgeous, insightful look into queer relationships and identity, cultural expectations, and complex family relationships. Tanya Turton is a powerful, incredible talent.
Danila Botha, author of For All The Men (and Some of the Women) I've Known
A deliciously queer narrative, Turton’s storytelling perfectly captures the kinetic energy of Toronto while delivering a coming-of-age journey that hits you in the gut.
Natasha Negovanlis, actress