A soul is an ineffable thing. It cannot be seen or smelled, but your senses detect evidence that it exists. A smile, a sob, a kinesthetic or verbal tic, a way of walking, the peculiarly human brightness in someone’s eyes. We’re not androids, all of these things come together to say. We are not manufactured things. We are organic and singular. We are human.
The same, argues N. K. Jemisin’s latest, The City We Became, can be said of the metropolis. You can see the contours of a city’s soul in its skyline at dusk. You can hear its soul in the ambient chatter of its Chinatown, the musical haggling in its souq. You smell it on its buses and you hear it creak beneath your boots as you ascend the five flights of your walkup, arms burdened with grocery bags.
The way a city affects, attacks, adores you, all captured in the way you utter its name.