Image credit: Inkyard Press

One of the Good Ones – Honouring Black Lives the Right Way

Articulate. Nice kid. Star student. Human.

Sister-author duo Maika and Maritza Moulite return with a poignant and honest exploration of police brutality, sisterhood and history in their crime novel One of the Good Ones.

It tells the story of teen activist and rising YouTube star Kezi Smith who mysteriously dies after attending a social justice rally. As the news of Kezi’s death spreads, she is immortalised as a model student with a promising future and deemed, quote, ‘one of the good ones’. To honour their sister, Happi and Genni venture to complete Kezi’s passion project of a road trip mapped out using an heirloom copy of The Negro Motorist Green Book. 

One of the Good Ones is told through multiple perspectives and shifts from present-day Los Angeles, California, to the late 1960s, where we trace the Smith family in the deep South. In both periods, the novel thrusts black history to the forefront by focalising The Negro Motorist Green Book, an annual guidebook for black travellers during Jim Crow Law. The Green book features in the novel not only as a guide for Happi and Genni’s trip but also spotlights the unchanged attitudes to racial injustice. 

The Moulite sisters began writing One of the Good Ones in 2018 and were working on it when Breonna Taylor and George Floyd were killed. As soon as I found this out, I reached out to them and asked why they decided to write a story about commemorating a loved one. ‘We end up knowing their names.’, Maika told me, ‘but these people are more than hashtags. They are human beings who are missed’. The phrase ‘one of the good ones’ refers to the black lives we accept. The ‘well-behaved’ ones whose perfect track record prove stereotypes wrong. However, Maika and Maritza seek to point out the fact that no one should have to prove their worthiness of life. 

The patchwork of viewpoints weave in and out of each other, and I loved when different narrators came in contact by chance. Whilst reading, I was in awe of the writing style. The moment you think you know what will happen next, the story changes gears and makes you do a double-take. At times, it was a challenge to hone in on some of the novel’s issues, particularly the discussion surrounding Kezi’s homosexuality. I would have liked to see the LGBTQIA element fleshed out a little more, as it would have been interesting to see how Kezi’s choices conflict with her faith.

It’s not very often I sit down to read a book and gape, laugh and cry as I turn from page to page, but I know that when this is the case, I have come across a powerful piece of writing. One of the Good Ones is a multi-layered book with a twist that will have you stunned. The themes of systemic racism, justice, and police brutality open the door to important conversations in the fight for black lives. Maika and Maritza probe us to consider what true allyship looks like whilst questioning what makes us worthy. Overall, this book is for anyone wanting to educate themselves on black issues. It’s for the sisters and the ‘sistahs‘ in search of an illustration of black womanhood, but most of all, it’s for those who may never be recognised as ‘one of the good ones’. 

Authors: Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite

Published by: Inkyard Press