The book opens in the year 2024, and the first chapter is preceded by a quote from a book called Earthseed: The Book of the Living, which asserts that “the only lasting truth is Change” and that “God is Change.” In her diary, Lauren Olamina writes that on the night before her 15th birthday and her father’s 55th, she had one of her recurring dreams. In the dream, she is teaching herself to fly, but ends up flying into a wall of fire. She tries desperately to escape, but is consumed by the flames. Sometimes she wakes up at this point, but on this night she keeps dreaming; she at first descends into darkness and then begins to see stars.
It is too early on in the book to know what Lauren’s dream means exactly, but there are several important clues. At 15, Lauren is still a young person learning how to exist in the world, and this perhaps explains the fact that in her dream she is teaching herself to fly. Flight may thus represent maturity, independence, and freedom from her family. The presence of fire also suggests that this process is dangerous and might be destructive.
On another night, while they are hanging out laundry, Lauren’s stepmother Cory tells her that due to light pollution, it didn’t use to be possible to see as many stars as they can now. They speak in Spanish, Cory’s first language. Cory says her mother used to say that stars were windows into heaven, and that she believed her for “almost a year.” She tells Lauren that kids can’t imagine how bright the cities used to be. Lauren says she’d rather have stars. Cory says that they can “afford” stars because they’re free, but that she’d rather have the city lights again.
This passage introduces the idea that there are positive sides even to seemingly negative change. Although it’s not yet clear what has happened to the world to cause the darkness and poverty described in this passage, it’s clear that Cory laments these changes and wishes the world would go back to how it once was. However, Lauren is able to see the positive side to this change.