The Stars and the Blackness Between Them

by Junauda Petrus
Grade 9-12


Told in two distinct and irresistible voices, Junauda Petrus’s bold and lyrical debut is the story of two black girls from very different backgrounds finding love and happiness in a world that seems determined to deny them both.

Port of Spain, Trinidad. Sixteen-year-old Audre is despondent, having just found out she’s going to be sent to live in America with her father because her strictly religious mother caught her with her secret girlfriend, the pastor’s daughter.

Minneapolis, USA. Sixteen-year-old Mabel is lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out why she feels the way she feels—about her ex Terrell, about her girl Jada and that moment they had in the woods, and about the vague feeling of illness that’s plagued her all summer.

Mabel quickly falls hard for Audre when they meet and is determined to take care of her as she tries to navigate an American high school. But their romance takes a turn when test results reveal exactly why Mabel has been feeling low-key sick all summer, and suddenly it’s Audre who’s caring for Mabel as she faces a deeply uncertain future.

Discussion questions from SOMN

  • How did Mabel’s friends respond to her diagnosis and the progression of her illness? How did her family respond? In what ways did their responses respect and affirm Mabel’s wishes? In what ways did they struggle?
  • Did you know the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides protections for individuals with diagnoses like Mabel? Why might that be important?
  • In what ways does Queenie help Audre process the news of Mabel’s illness? How does she help Audre shift her ideas around what healing is? In what ways are the Dreamo parts of the story a part of healing? Why might Mabel go into those spaces instead of staying in her own reality?
  • Why do you think Mabel and Afua connected? In what ways are their stories similar? In what ways are they different?
  • What did you think about Mabel’s Make-a-Wish request? What would you have chosen in her situation?

Classroom activities from SOMN

  • Watch and reflect on this ED Talk by author Junauda Petrus. In what ways does the theme of youth having control and agency over their own bodies in the talk and in the book relate to the disability rights movement? Watch the movie Crip Camp as a reference point, or have students research the movement individually or in groups.