Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history. (History.com) The 2023 Black History Month theme is "Black Resistance."
The Upper Elementary/Middle Grade/Young Adult books pictured are examples from novels I have read and recommend that focus on events or persons in Black History. However, I have included two books—a novel and a memoir—set during Apartheid in South Africa and Kwame Alexander’s new novel set in Africa. Below are reviews of twelve novels I have recently read.
Ghost Boys, Sugar, Elijah of Buxton, The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963, Chains, Forge, Ashes, Stella by Starlight, Brown Girl Dreaming, One Crazy Summer, Unbound, Waiting for the Rain, Kaffir Boy, The Long Ride, Becoming Muhammad Ali, Betty Before X, Above the Rim, Hidden Figures, Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom, Loving vs Virginia, The Magic in Changing Your Stars, X: A Novel, The Awakening of Malcolm X, A Long Way Gone, Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina, Copper Sun, Witness, March Book One, March Book Two, March Book Three, We Were the Fire-Birmingham 1963, The Door of No Return
Swim Team, Fast Pitch, It Doesn’t Take a Genius, American Ace, Genesis Begins Again, The Parker Inheritance
Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhoads
Jerome, a black 12-year-old child who is bullied and has made his first friend was playing with a toy gun when a white policeman in a car shot him in the back and then offered no medical help. However, a 911 call misrepresented the 5’, 90-pound Jerome as a person with a gun, rather than a toy gun, and the policeman, against all evidence to the contrary, under oath swore, “I was in fear for my life.” And Jerome questions “when truth is a feeling, can it be both—true and untrue?” (132)
Jerome roams the world as a ghost, and when he and Officer Moore’s daughter Sarah become acquainted, he also meets the ghost of Emmett Till who shares his story. Jerome watches over this family and questions his new role —“Why haven’t I moved on?” (95), his relationship with Sarah, the relationships within Sarah’s family, and his relationships with the Ghost Boys, the hundreds of other black youth who have been killed. As he roams, he sees a Chicago filled with beauty and parks and flowers that was denied him as a child of color and poverty, and a recognition of injustice and tragedy is sparked. As Emmett says, “Someone decided they didn’t like us…. We were a threat, a danger. A menace.” (160) They are children.
I don’t advocate for employing many whole-class novels during the year, but this is a book that will generate important conversations about prejudice, discrimination, stereotyping, fear, and the historical span of racism in this country that need to be held.
Ghost Boys also would be a valuable addition to a social studies class study of civil rights and social justice. ----- Unbound by Ann E. Burg
Considering history through novels lets the reader experience, and make sense of, history through the perspective of those most affected by historic events. When I studied history through a textbook, I learned dates, names—at least the names those in publishing the textbooks thought important, and events. I never understood what that information meant or appreciated what the persons involved experienced; I felt that I never got to know them as real people—their hopes, desires, ambitions.
Ann Burg’s verse novel Unbound does just that. The story invites the reader into the hearts and thoughts of the characters, especially the main character, Grace, a young slave in the 1860’s. Grace, who has light skin and blue eyes, lives with her Mama, her two young half-brothers and their father Uncle Jim, and old Aunt Sara who helped raise her. When she is called to work in the Big House, her Mama warns her to keep her eyes down, ”to always be good, to listen to the Missus, n never talk back…n not to speak less spoken to first,” (3)
Observing the heartless Master and hateful Missus, Grace can’t help but question why they can’t do anything for themselves “Why do grown folks / need help getting dressed?” (91) She wonders why Aunt Tempie silently ignores the unfairness and abuse, “Things’ll change, Grace / maybe even sooner’n later / but till thy do—‘ (91) and why Anna and Jordon have to bear beatings and mistreatment. Reading the Missus’ words and threats is more chilling than reading about the treatment by slaveowners in textbooks.
Eventually Grace angers the Missus, “You are nothing but a slave / who needs to learn her place.” (204), and when Jordan runs away and the Master needs the money to replace him, the Missus suggests selling Grace’s family. Grace recognizes that they also need to run away (“Not sure where my place is / but I know it’s not / the Big House.” (204), and they leave in the middle of the night. Helped by OleGeorgeCooper and others, they have to decide whether to go north or go deep. And even though Grace has a chance for passing as white and “a chance / of escaping for real / of livin like the good Lord / intended folks to live. / [She] has a chance to own herself…”(212-3), the family decides to stay together.
They travel through the treacherous swamp, but as OleGeorgeCooper tells them, “There’s nothing in the swamp / what’s worse’n / the stink / of bein a slave.” (261), and as they move through, “[Grace] feels part / of another world, / a beautiful world, / A world / what whispers ‘ Freedom.” (271)
Safe (relatively) and free in a settlement in the Great Daniel Swamp, Grace explains to her new friend and family member Brooklyn, another runaway, ”Everyone’s got a way of mattering. / The only thing / what doesn’t matter / is what color / the good Lord paints us.” (336)
Well-research and written in dialect, this is an inspiring story of the maroons, enslaved people seeking freedom in the wilderness. ----- The Long Ride by Marina Budhos
“You know, it’s a lot easier to be one side or the other. It’s harder to be in the middle. People don’t like the middle. That’s the bravest thing of all.” (178)
Jamila, Josie, and Francesca are best friends of mixed race in 1971 Queens, NY. Their plans for starting seventh grade with each other and their white schoolmates at the neighborhood junior high school change when they become part of social experiment—integration. Francesca’s parents send her to a private school where she doesn’t fit, while Josie and Jamila take a long bus ride to a predominately black school in a much rougher neighborhood. They hope they may fit in better there, but Jamila is too white for the girls and Josie is no longer in the advanced classes and worries about her future. The girls don’t fit into their new school neighborhood and their new friends don’t fit into their neighborhood.
As they try to navigate seventh grade, boyfriends, teachers, classes, narrator Jamila’s anger, and Josie’s shyness, Jamilla realizes, “if anyone had told me this was what being in junior high would be like: Your best friend is silent beside you. You’re skinny and knock-kneed and you get lost easily. You aren’t at the top of the Ferris Wheel. I’d have said: You can have it. (60)
The world seemed to have changed. “…I’m starting to notice that something bigger s going on in the city. Everyone is edgier, angry. You can feel it in the way people squint through the bus windows. ----- Becoming Muhammad Ali by James Patterson and Kwame Alexander
I have no interest in boxing. I absolutely fell in love with this novel which I read in two days and recommend for all libraries and readers, grades 5-12.
Becoming Muhammad Ali relates the story of boxer Cassius Clay from the time he began training as an amateur boxer at age 12 until he won the Chicago Golden Gloves on March 25, 1959—with glimpses forward to his 1960 Olympic gold medal and his transformation to Muhammad Ali.
The novel is creatively co-written by two authors in the voices of two narrator-characters: James Patterson writes as Cassius’ childhood best friend Lucius “Lucky” in prose and Kwame Alexander writes in verse, sometimes rhyming, most times not, as Cassius Clay. Dawud Anyabwile drew the wonderful illustrations.
Cassius Clay’s grandaddy always advised him, “Know who you are, Cassius. And whose you are. Know where you going and where you from.” (25) and he did. From Louisville, Kentucky, from Bird and Clay, and (in his own “I Am From” poem) from “slavery to freedom,…from the unfulfilled dreams of my father to the hallelujah hopes of my momma.” (28-29)
Readers learn WHY Cassius Cassius fought, “for my name for my life for Papa Cash and Momma Bird for my grandaddy and his grandaddy… for America for my chance for my children for their children for a chance at something better at something way greater.” (296-297)
As Lucky tells the reader, “He was loud. He was proud. He called himself the Greatest. Even when he wasn’t. Yet. But deep down, where it mattered, he could be very humble. It was another part of him that he didn’t let most people see.” (231) “He was also a true and loyal friend.” (305)
Throughout the novel, readers also learn boxing moves, information about famous boxers, such as Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano, and matches, and even more about the person who was Cassius Clay and became Muhammad Ali. ----- Above the Rim by Jen F. Bryant
“In one smooth move, like a plane taking off, He leaped… Higher and higher and higher-- As if pulled by some invisible wire, And just when it seemed he’d have to come down, No! He’d HANG there, suspended, floating like a bird or a cloud, Changing direction, shifting the ball to the other side, Twisting in midair, slashing, crashing, Gliding past the defense, up—up—above the rim.”
Above the Rim is the story of NBA player Elgin Baylor and how he changed basketball, but it is also the story of Civil Rights in the United States and how Elgin contributed to that movement.
Readers follow Elgin from age 14 when he began playing basketball “in a field down the street” to college ball at the College of Idaho to becoming the #1 draft pick for the Minneapolis Lakers (later the LA Lakers) to being named 1959 NBA Rookie of the Year. At the same time readers follow the peaceful protests of Rosa Parks, the Little Rock Nine, and the African American college students sitting at the “whites only” Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, NC.
In his first season Baylor sat out a game to protest the hotel and restaurants serving “whites only,” leading the NBA commissioner to make an anti-discrimination rule. “Elgin had already changed the way basketball was played. Now by sitting down and NOT playing, he helped change things off court.”
“Artists [such as Baylor,] change how we see things, how we perceive human limits, and how we define ourselves and our culture.” (Author’s Note)
This picture book, exquisitely illustrated by Frank Morrison, belongs in every classroom and home library for readers of all ages. Lyrically written in free verse by Jen Bryant, it would serve as a mentor text for many writing focus lessons:
repetition, free verse, and rhyming lines for musicality
technical language (jargon), i.e., hanging jumper, spin-shot, backboard
active verbs, i.e., gliding, shifting, floating, twisted, reverse dunked
Figurative language, i.e., floating like a bird or a cloud
Sensory details, i.e., steamy summer day, padlocked fences, clickety-clack trains, flick of his wrist, beds that were too short, cold food
Following the story, the author provides a lengthy Author’s Note about Baylor, a bibliography of Further Reading, and a 1934-2018 Timeline of Elgin’s life, black athletes, and Civil Rights highlights. ----- Loving vs Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case by Paricia Hruby Powell
Loving vs Virginia is the story behind the unanimous landmark decision of June 1967.
Told in free verse through alternating narrations by Richard and Mildred, the story begins in Fall 1952 when 13-year old Mildred notices that her desk in the colored school is “ sad excuse for a desk” and her reader “reeks of grime and mildew and has been in the hands of many boys,” but she also relates also the closeness of family and friends in her summer vacation essay. This closeness is also expressed in the family’s Saturday dinner where “folks drop by,” one of them being the boy who catches Mildred’s ball during the kickball game and “Because of him I don’t get home.” That boy is her neighbor, nineteen-year-old Richard Loving, and that phrase becomes truer than Mildred could have guessed.
On June 2, 1958, Richard who is white and Mildred marry in Washington, D.C., and on July 11, 1958 they are arrested at her parents’ house in Virginia. The couple spends the next ten years living in D.C., sneaking into Virginia, and finally contacting the American Civil Liberties Union who brings their case through the courts to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The documentary novel brings the story behind the case alive, interspersed with quotes, news headlines and news reports, maps, timelines, and information on the various court cases, and the players involved, as the case made its way to the Supreme Court. Students can learn history from textbooks, from lectures, or more effectively and affectively, through the stories of the people involved. Novels are where readers learn empathy, vicariously living the lives of others. ----- X, a Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon
This fascinating novel, or fictionalized biography, of Malcolm X should have been titled “Before X” since it covers the time before Malcolm Little became Malcolm X or as written in the Author’s Note, “[it] represents the true journey of Malcolm Little, the adolescent, on the road to becoming Malcolm X.” (352)
Written by one of his daughters, Ilyasah Shabazz with one of my favorite writers, Kekla Magoon, author of Camo Girl, How It Went Down, and the new The Season Of Styx Malone, X covers the years from 1931 to 1948, the year Malcolm went to prison, focusing primarily on his teen years in Boston and New York City.
The reader experiences the significant influence of Malcolm’s father, a civil rights activist, and his mother who kept the family together after his father’s death, or murder, despite severe poverty until she was taken away to a mental institution and the children were divided among foster homes. The story also demonstrates the powerful influence of a high school teacher who, despite the fact that he was a top student and president of his class, told Malcolm that he could not aspire to be a lawyer and should aim for a profession as a carpenter. Taking that advice to heart, Malcolm drops out of school and renounces his father’s principles.
The timeline fluctuates from past to present which may be a little challenging for some readers; it might help to write in Malcolm’s ages next to the dates for readers. This novel is definitely for mature readers as teen Malcolm becomes involved in drugs and sex although there are no explicit depictions.
Through this well-written and an engaging text, the reader observes the changes Malcolm undergoes as he moves from a family life in Lansing, Michigan, to the influences of big-city life in the Roxbury and Harlem jazz neighborhoods of the 1940’s; from being Malcolm Little to signing first time he signed his name, on a letter to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, Muslim leader, as Malcolm X. The extensive 6-page Author’s Note takes the reader through Malcolm’s transition, or “awakening,” during his prison experience. ----- We Were the Fire—Birmingham 1963 by Sheila Moses
“On May 2, 1963, more than one thousand students skipped classes and gathered at Sixth Street Baptist Church to march to downtown Birmingham, Alabama. As they approached police lines, hundreds were arrested and carried off to jail in paddy wagons and school buses. When hundreds more young people gathered the following day for another march, white commissioner, Bull Connor, directed the local police and fire departments to use force to halt the demonstration. Images of children being blasted by high-pressure fire hoses, being clubbed by police officers, and being attacked by police dogs appeared on television and in newspapers, and triggered outrage throughout the world. Despite the violence, children continued to march and protest in an organizing action now known as the Children’s Crusade.” (National Museum of African American History & Culture) I am just now learning the history I should have been taught in my years in school, thankful for the novels, memoirs, and authors which have become my guides. One of the most important of these is Sheila P. Moses’ upcoming novel We Were the Fire: Birmingham 1963, a Civil Rights story for upper elementary and middle-grade readers. This is the story of one fictional child crusader and his family and friends, but it is also the story of thousands of other real children on the days from May 2-4, 1963.
Twelve-year-old Rufus Jackson Jones Jr. was born and grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, the place Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called the most segregated place in the country. (1)
His Daddy having died in an accident at the mill when he was 9 year old, Rufus lives with his Mama and his younger sister Georgia in Bull Hill. The neighborhood is run by a slumlord. I knew [Mama] was tired of our house and all that came with it. hauling water from the well. Tired of sharing an outhouse with other families and having to pour bleach and scatter lavender into the toilet hole every day so it would not smell so bad. Tired of our wash freezing outside on the clothesline… (28)
When Mama remarries, they are offered a house by, and next to, the white mill owner, Miss Boone. “Somebody got to be the first or second person to move into these white neighborhoods. Integration is hard, but someone got to do it. We going to be the second to move to Ivy Town, Daddy Paul looked at us. “Do y’all know what integration means?” (22) Every day Miss Boone drives the children to their school and, despite a cross being burned on their yard, manages to keep them (and herself) protected.
Daddy Paul, Uncle Sam, and their friends begin attending meetings at night to organize a peaceful march to City Hall. “We need to change things. I want you and the other children to live in a different kind of Birmingham than the one I was raised in. A free Birmingham.” (53-54)
The children make plans to join the march in Kelly Park We wanted our rights just like the white children. We were young, but we understood that Bull Connor was wrong. We understood that having to walk through the back doors just to get ice cream was wrong. We wanted to walk and live and get educated where we wanted. We wanted to be free. (73) I wanted my little sister to have a doll that looked like her. I wanted her to go to the amusement park one day. (133)
With their teachers’ blessings, the students leave school. “When I turned around, I could see more children behind us than I could count.” (126) And, as the police load up school buses with children to take them to jail, even more arrive. “The children of Birmingham could not be stopped!” (127) Even after being jailed, clubbed, blasted with fire hoses, and bitten by police dogs, the children return to Kelly Park for a second and third days of marching and singing. When the firemen first turn on their hoses, Rufus realizes, “We were the fire!”
On May 4, safe back at home, Rufus wishes on a star, “I wished for a better world for all of us. Where we’re all treated the same.” (152)
This is a novel for all upper elementary and middle grade classrooms and could be read in ELA or Social Studies classes. Reading this short novel reminds me of the Soweto Riots. “On 16 June 1976 between 3000 and 10 000 students mobilized by the South African Students Movement's Action Committee supported by the BCM marched peacefully to demonstrate and protest against the government’s directive. The march was meant to culminate at a rally in Orlando Stadium. On their pathway they were met by heavily armed police who fired teargas and later live ammunition on demonstrating students. This resulted in a widespread revolt that turned into an uprising against the government. While the uprising began in Soweto, it spread across the country and carried on until the following year.” (South African History Online) In this way We Were the Fire and other middle-grade Civil Rights novels, such as The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963, can be paired with Sheila Gordon’s Waiting for the Rain and Beverly Naidoo‘s novel Journey to Jo’burg and Out of Bounds, her book of short stories that take readers through the decades of Apartheid. ----- Swim Team by Johnnie Christmas
“But…Black people aren’t good at swimming.” (78)
When Bree and her father move from Brooklyn to Florida, she is excited about her first day of school. She has already made a friend, another 7th grader who lives in her apartment complex. Excited about joining the Math Team, Bree finds that the only elective that is still open is Swimming. And even though she tries to think about the things that make her happy—doing homework with her Dad, cooking, reading, and math—frequently “negative thoughts take over. And I think about the things that make me nervous and scared. I second-guess and doubt myself, even when I don’t want to.” (7) And some of the things that Bree doesn’t like are sports, pools, and she worries about not having friends. She is especially worried about Swimming class because she has never learned to swim.
Bree eludes the class, and, when she can no longer avoid it, Ms Etta, her neighbor and a former professional swimmer who happens to have swum on the team at Bree’s middle school back when the team almost won the championship, teaches Bree to swim. Ms Etta also explains the reasons that Bree assumes that Black people aren’t good at swimming. “From ancient Africa to modern Africa, from Chicago to Peru, in seas, rivers, lakes and pools, Black people have always swum and always will.” (80-81) But she also explains the history of segregation and discrimination that limited Blacks’ access to pools, Telling about Eugene Williams’ murder (1919), David Isom’s breaking of the color line (1958), and John Lewis’ protest (1962).
Bree becomes quite a good swimmer, and the coach of the school swim team tricks her into trying out. She joins the team with her new best friend Clara, and, with the help of Ms. Etta, the team makes it to the championship. But when a student, Mean-Girl Keisha, transfers from the rival private school and joins the team and the girls find out that Clara has won a swimming scholarship to the same private school for the next year, the team relay threatens to fall apart.
That is when they learn what happened to Ms. Etta’s team years ago that cost them the championship. Reuniting the former Swim Sisters reunites the present team as they learn about relationships. “A team is like a family. Sometimes family shows you how to do a flip turn. Or tells funny jokes—And is a little annoying. (215)
Johnnie Christmas’ graphic novel tells the story of middle-grade friendships, socioeconomic prejudice and racial discrimination, and swimming through those negative thoughts that hold us back. In the classroom this novel could lead to some research on Black athletes in sports through history and discrimination.
Swim Team is the winner of the Coretta Scott Book Award Illustrator Honor. ----- Fast Pitch by Nic Stone
Twelve-year-old Shanice Lockwood is captain of a softball team, the Firebirds, the only all-Black softball team in the Dixie Youth Softball Association. She comes from a long line of batball players—her father, her grandfather PopPop, her great-grandfather. Her one goal is for her team to win the state championship.
But her goal shifts when she meets her Great-Great Uncle Jack, her Great-Grampy JonJon’s brother.
Shanice’s father had to quit baseball when he blew out his knee, his father had to stop playing to support his family, but why did JonJon quit when he was successfully playing for the Negro American League and was one of the first Black players recruited to the MLB? When Shanice is taken to Peachtree Hills Place to meet her sometimes-senile uncle, he tells her that JonJon “didn’t do what they said he did…He was framed.” (46) “My brother ain’t no thief. He didn’t do it…But I know who did.” (47)
And Shanice is off on a quest to research the incident that caused her great grandfather to leave baseball and to see if she, with Jack’s information and JonJon’s leather journal, can clear his name while still trying to lead her softball team to victory.
Fast Pitch is a fun new novel by Nic Stone, full of batball, adventure, a little mystery, peer and family relationships, Negro League history, prejudice, and maybe a first crush. ----- It Doesn’t Take a Genius by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
“I don’t even like debate, to be honest. But I’m good at it, and I learned early on that’s what matters. People love a winner. When you win, everyone sees you. And if people don’t see you, maybe you’re not really there.” (8)
Thirteen-year-old Emmett Charles is a winner, or at least at his school where his vocabulary, three debate trophies, science fair award, and Spelling Bee record have him feeling he might even be a genius.
And when his social skills and small size fail him, his older brother Luke is always there to bail him out , especially with Mac, his bully. “Luke has come out of nowhere. Like a superhero. He’s even taller than Mac, wears his shirts a little small so girls can peep his muscles, and his fade is tight and gleaming.” (6-7) “Sometimes it feels like I’m in a river, and the current’s real strong. And I have a choice between clinging to a rock and getting left behind, or letting myself get swept up in it and carried along without any control. Luke’s my rock.” (138)
But when his brother Luke gets a scholarship to a private art school in Maine for his last year of high school, summer is all Emmett, or E as he wants to be called, will have for Luke to turn him back into a winner after he passed on competing in this year’s debate championship. “We’re a team. Batman and Robin.” (29)
But when he discovers that Luke has gotten a job as a junior counselor at Camp DuBois, a historic Black summer camp in New York, and Emmett schemes to get himself a scholarship to attend as a camper. When he arrives he discovers that
His brother will be too busy to spend any time with him
The camp is filled with “geniuses” and nerds—and new friends who have his back
He will be discovering more of his culture and history through classes like “Black to the Future” and the camp focuses on community, not individual success. He finally realizes that “DuBois is preparing me for something more than bubble tests, more than I’d ever thought it would.” (190)
Even though he is a great dancer, he is an even better choreographer
Although he sees himself as a winner, without effort and spreading himself too thin, he can lose, more than he thought
He will have to take swimming lessons (with the Littles) and pass a swimming test
“What my friends, and my family for that matter, don’t seem to understand is that I don’t swim. I guess they get the fact that I can’t. But they keep thinking that I will, one day. That I even want to. And they’re WRONG. Dad was supposed to teach me, and he’s not here.” (19) Emmett’s father died when he was 5, and Like and his mother don’t discuss his father with him which saddens him. In fact, seeing other kids with their dads sadden him.
And most important he discovers, as Natasha says, “It doesn’t take a genius to be a friend.” (291) E’s story is filled with great characters: the socially-awkward Charles who can “do you” the best I have seen; Charles’ love interest and budding playwright Michelle, Emmett’s crush Natasha who does win at everything but is just as happy when the camp director decides there will be no final competitions; the alleged-bully Derek who is able to spend more time with Luke than Emmett does, but, as is often the case, is more complex than presumed; and the assortment of other campers, counselors, and group leaders. Readers will learn not only a lot of Black history but the importance of studying one’s cultural roots.
There will be adolescents in the classroom and community who need to read this book. I know that I learned quite a lot which led me to want to know more—about Black culture and my culture and the cultures of others. ----- Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams
“We’re gonna get evicted again. If we get evicted again, you said you’re gonna leave…. I’m tired of coming home and our stuff’s on the lawn…. I’m tired of staying in people’s basements! Why can’t you just pay the rent! Just stop gambling and pay the rent!” (280)
Eighth-grader Genesis Anderson’s family has been evicted four times already. Her father has a gambling problem and is an alcoholic but somehow he moves them from Detroit to a house in the fashionable Farmington Hills. But again the rent is not paid, and they will probably lose this home also.
Genesis has other problem, problems with other kids at her schools calling her names based on the darkness of her skin. Her parents are from complicated families with ideas about skin color and class. Genesis hates the color of her skin and the texture of her hair, wishing she looked like her beautiful light-skinned mother. “’I can’t stand you, ‘ I say to my reflection.” (10) She thinks her father has rejected her because she is dark like he is. “What if I inherited all Dad’s ways? What if no one recognizes that I’m…one of the good ones?” (154) “Every single night I’ve prayed for God to make me beautiful—make me light. And every morning I wake up exactly the same.” (157)
Even though she is finally making friends in her new school, two friends—Todd and Sophia—who know what it’s like to be stereotyped and bullied and like Genesis for who she is, she tries to bleach her skin and relax her hair to fit in, become popular, and please her father and grandmother.
Through her chorus teacher’s discovery of her singing talent and introductions to the music of Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Eta James, Genesis finds the courage to audition for the school talent show and sing. “I can’t believe it. I did it. I, Genesis Anderson, stepped out onto that stage and sang. Out loud. In Public. Alone.” (249) At the actual performance, she discovers her strength. “I let each word soar. I swoop down to hug the little girl sitting on the curb with all her furniture. I visit the girl in the basement with the wrinkled brown bag passing from hand to hand. I kiss the lonely girl who hears ugly taunts from the mirror. I experience every moment. And I’m not afraid.” (348) ----- MORE IDEAS for READING: For novels on other topics, see the pull-down menu at BOOK REVIEWS.