Novel Literary Breakdown

Novel Literary Breakdown
Jill Murray loves breakdancing. There’s just one problem. "I'm not very good at it. I injure myself constantly,” she says. "But I love it and I thought I’d like to give something back to dancing, but it’s not obviously going to be dancing itself.” The result is Break On Through, a novel centring on Nadine, a fiercely independent teenage b-girl from Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood whose world is turned upside down when her parents decide to uproot and move to the fictional and decidedly uncool suburb of Rivercrest. The novel explores how Nadine wrestles with assertively reclaiming her b-girl identity through her relationships with family, friends and the inherently hip-hop theme of locale. Murray hopes the book will put more focus on b-girling and on how women involved in this aspect of hip-hop culture interact with it.

"There are far more b-girls practicing and taking classes and having their own little underground clubs than show up to battles,” Murray says. "I'm not sure exactly what it will take to break down that barrier, but I think for sure more women should be encouraged to cross it.” Montreal-based Murray is keen to draw parallels between the dance aspect of hip-hop culture and other more established and traditional forms of movement such as ballet and gymnastics and believes its validity need not be questioned. "Here we have a dance that's only really about 30 years old and so it's too early to say ‘Oh, it's going underground or it's resurging. It's so young we have to give it time to figure itself out,” she says. Murray’s incorporation of hip-hop culture also extends to its other elements in Break On Through. The book is sprinkled with references to classic hip-hop tracks and a nod to graffiti as well as a subtle and thought-provoking critique of the b-boy history documentary The Freshest Kids, so it’s no small wonder it has been welcomed in hip-hop circles. Murray has also been handing out Nadine’s Mixtape — a CD deftly blended and created by Toronto’s DJ Dalia and Murray’s partner, acclaimed MC More Or Les — at Break On Through’s book launch events. The mixtape features an all-Canadian line-up including Shad, Abdominal, Eternia and fittingly enough, More Or Les, rhyming about themes central to Break On Through. "[More or Les] recruited all these great MCs and we were really lucky they were excited about the project.”