Book Reviews

Book Review: Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America

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Ahhh, this is my first book review of 2019! Reading Black Enough: Stroies of Being Young & Black in America was like taking a sip of refreshing lemonade. This anthology was so original in the fact that it was centered around multiple facets of being a Black teen, and each story was written by a Black author. So conceptually, I loved it.

  • Half a moon by Renée Watson: 4/5

I really liked the idea of having a wilderness camp for Black girls and I liked the sister dynamic between Raven and her younger half-sister, Brooke. Super original, albeit the ending was a bit rushed.

  • Black Enough by Varian Johnson: 3.5/5

All in all, I really enjoyed this piece. It touched on topics of desensitization and police brutality. The main character, Cameron, feels like he exists in two worlds, and this story is about one way in which he learns to navigate that feeling.

  • Warning: Color May fade by Leah Henderson 5/5

LOVED!!! I’m here for Black art and Black artists, and I’m a sucker for prep school settings. And there’s an art competition and this story touches on appropriation. And the main character, Nivia, was fully fleshed out and so were the side characters. Just yes. This is one of the short stories that I wish was a full-length novel.

  • Black. Ned. Problems. By Lamar Giles: 2.5/5

This story is set at the mall that Shawn and his friends work at, which I thought felt very realistic and grounded. But I felt that the plot meandered, and the story felt very “slice of life.” Except that Shawn’s life didn’t necessarily hold my attention very strongly.

  • Out of Silence by Kekla Magoon 4/5
    TRIGGER WARNING: Death

This story had a slightly whimsical and light feel to it, even though it dealt with very heavy topics. It’s about a main character who’s processing the death of the girl that made her question her sexuality. I don’t think we ever get the main character’s name, which gives it that slightly unbounded feeling and I thought it was a very cool stylistic choice. All in all, I really enjoyed this piece.

  • The Ingredients by Jason Reynolds: 3.5/5

This story didn’t really have a plot, it was about Black boys living their lives, and enjoying their summer, and talking about sandwiches. Very much filled with #BlackBoyJoy.

  • Oreo by Brandy Colbert: 5/5

LOVEDDDD! I related to this story the most. It had family reunions, feeling like in outsider in both worlds, trying to decide one’s future re: college. It just felt so true to life, and I connected to it so deeply. This one might be favorite.

  • Samson and the Delilahs by Tochi Onyebuchi: 3.5/5

I felt this story was really unique. Sobechi is a debater and the son of Nigerian immigrants. His neighbor moves in and she plays rock, and exposes him to the genre. He realizes that he likes music and it pushes him to learn more about his history. This story didn’t evoke super strong feelings for me, but it was an enjoyable read.

  • Girl, Stop Playing by Liara Tamani: 3.5/5

I thought this was a really great story about recognizing one’s self-worth and it touched on sexting, which is something that has grown with the rise of social media and smart phone usage. Really solid story with a really solid message.

  • Wild Horses, Wild Hearts by Jay Cole: 4/5

Black boys and horse racing, yes! This is a really wonderful m/m story about fighting against hate and being true to one’s self.

  • Whoa! by Rita Williams-Garcia: 3.5/5

This was a really cool historical fiction piece. The main character, Danté, has a basin from his great-grandmother and he talks to an enslaved person through it. It took me a while to fully understand what was going on, but once I did I really enjoyed it.

  • Gravity by Tracey Baptiste: 4/5

TRIGGER WARNING: sexual assault

This story was about sexual assault. It takes place in the span of a few minutes and follows the inner thoughts of the protagonist, while also giving her back story before she immigrated to the US. A very impactful and poignant piece.

  • The Trouble With Drowning by Dhonielle Clayton: 2.5/5

TRIGGER WARNING: suicide

I really wanted to like this piece, but I couldn’t follow it. I got that it was about mental health awareness in the Black community, which is a really important topic, so I’m glad it was included.

  • Kissing Sarah Smart by Justina Ireland: 4/5

A cute f/f story about living in the moment and going with the flow. The story also discusses mental health awareness, which is a plus. It’s really tight and concise, and a super fun read!

  • Hackathon Summers by Coe Booth: 2.5/5

Yes! Give me all the Black STEM nerds. I really enjoyed this book up until the last few sentences. Iyaana, the love interest, is a Black Muslim. She chooses to wear the hijab, possibly the niqab, it’s never specified, by the end of the story. But the main character says that her choosing to wear that meant that she didn’t choose him. I’m not sure if the author of this story identifies as Muslim, but the ending felt very iffy to me.

  • Into the Starlight by Nic Stone: 4.5/5

YESSSSSSS! This story was so cute and all about recognizing and addressing internalized oppression and stereotypes. It put such a big smile on my face. I need this as a full-length novel.

  • The (R)Evolution of Nigeria Jones by Ibi Zoboi: 3/5

This was another really unique story. It touched on really important themes, like Black empowerment and extremism. The main character, Nigeria, runs away for a day to get away from her father, who’s the leader of a Black Power Movement. Conceptually, really cool. The story is also about the freedom of one’s people and the freedom of one’s self, and the intersection between the two. I thought it was a super cool story to end with.

 

And those are the reviews of all the short stories within the anthology! Black Enough came out two weeks ago, and I highly highly recommend that everyone check it out. For me, it was a bright light in an increasingly dark time.

As always,

Happy reading, happy writing, and happy blogging!

-Breeny

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