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Book Review: My Rainbow by Trinity and DeShanna Neal, Illustrated by Art Twink

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"My Rainbow" by Trinity and DeShanna Neal, Illustrated by Art Twink (cover)
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Genre: Lgbtqiap+ Fiction, Picture Book
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: A dedicated mom puts love into action as she creates the perfect rainbow-colored wig for her transgender daughter, based on the real-life experience of mother-daughter advocate duo Trinity and DeShanna Neal.

Warm morning sunlight and love fill the Neal home. And on one quiet day, playtime leads to an important realization: Trinity wants long hair like her dolls. She needs it to express who she truly is.

So her family decides to take a trip to the beauty supply store, but none of the wigs is the perfect fit. Determined, Mom leaves with bundles of hair in hand, ready to craft a wig as colorful and vibrant as her daughter is.

With powerful text by Trinity and DeShanna Neal and radiant art by Art Twink, My Rainbow is a celebration of showing up as our full selves with the people who have seen us fully all along.

 

REVIEW: A touching story in which a loving mother goes above and beyond to make her child happy. It’s based on the true story between the mother-daughter authors of My Rainbow.

Trinity is a delightful, young transgender and autistic girl who feels incomplete (not fully herself: a girl) without longer hair like hair doll. It’s extra frustrating for her because she has trouble growing her hair out. I love how patient her mom is, giving Trinity the time she needs to express herself and communicate her thoughts and feelings.

“Trinity’s gender was part of what made her a masterpiece, just like her autism and her Black skin.” It’s such a powerful moment between the mother and daughter. You can practically feel the mother’s anguish at not knowing how to help her daughter be who she truly is. Luckily, Trinity’s brother, Lucien offers the perfect solution: a rainbow colored wig of her own.

The wig the mom sews – which, by the way, she learned to make on the go watching tutorials – how awesome is that?! – is glamorous, beautiful, and so meaningful. I must have one of my own! Trinity was so adorably ecstatic about it.

My Rainbow was wonderfully illustrated and deeply moving. I also loved the bright rainbow of flowers decorating Trinity’s hair on the cover. What a caring and supportive family Trinity has!


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Book Review: All Because You Matter by Tami Charles, Illustrated by Bryan Collier

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"All Because You Matter" by Tami Charles
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Genre: Picture Book
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: A love letter to Black and brown children everywhere: reminding them how much they matter, that they have always mattered, and they always will.

Tami Charles pens a text that is part love letter, part anthem, assuring readers that they always have, and always will, matter.

 

REVIEW:They say that matter is all things that make up the universe: energy, stars, space…If that’s the case, then you, dear child, matter.

This story is a must-read for everyone. All Because You Matter is an important reminder to black and brown children that they matter in all aspects of life and deserve to be represented in all aspects of life.

The tone is gentle, hopeful, and reassuring. The story details all the ways in which You matter, through successes and failures, through their ancestors who fought so hard for so long and continue to fight so that they (future descendants) would matter too.

The art style is so interesting and I like the petal motif throughout. I wrote down a lot of great quotes from the story and the author’s and illustrator’s notes (see end of post).

All Because You Matter is a helpful conversation starter about past, present, and future racial and social issues. This was a noteworthy read.

Favorite Quotes:

  • “…thinking of you, years ahead. Because to them, you always mattered.”
  • “…and all the moments in your life that would matter…”
  • “…and you wonder if they, or you, will ever matter. But did you know that you do?”
  • “Did you know that you are the earth? That strength, power, and beauty lie within you?”
  • “All because, since the beginning of time…You mattered. They mattered. We matter…and always will.”
  • (Author’s Note) “…to provide parents with a starting point for conversations about the racial climate in our country today…if we are to raise empathetic future leaders.”
  • (Author’s Note) “…to remind all children, especially those from marginalized backgrounds, that no matter where they come from, they matter.”
  • (Illustrator’s Note) “…a wonderful journey of promise and empowerment for our children, one that zooms through time and space.”

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Book Review: Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, Illustrated by Vashti Harrison

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"Hair Love" by Matthew A. Cherry (cover)
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Genre: Picture Book
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: When mommy is away, it’s up to daddy to do his daughter’s hair in this ode to self-confidence and the love between fathers and daughters from former NFL wide receiver Matthew A. Cherry and New York Times bestseller Vashti Harrison.

Zuri’s hair has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils, and curls every which way. Zuri knows it’s beautiful. When mommy does Zuri’s hair, she feels like a superhero. But when mommy is away, it’s up to daddy to step in! And even though daddy has a lot to learn, he LOVES his Zuri. And he’ll do anything to make her—and her hair—happy.

Tender and empowering, Hair Love is an ode to loving your natural hair—and a celebration of daddies and daughters everywhere.

 

REVIEW: I have been wanting to read Hair Love for the longest time and it did not disappoint. It was an excellent story of Black joy and black hair love that I wish I had growing up.

Zuri, the main character, loves her hair because it can do anything and let her be anything. She says, “Daddy tells me it is beautiful. That makes me proud. I love that my hair lets me be me!

Zuri loves her daddy so much and wants to do something special for him because he’s always taking care of her. But she needs the perfect hairstyle for the occasion.

I love seeing the close father-daughter relationship as her dad helps Zuri style her hair. There’s so much joy and love radiating from the lovely illustrations. Their smiles made me smile wide. And I loved when Zuri proclaims, “My hair is Mommy, Daddy, and me. It’s hair love!

Hair Love was a delightful, captivating read that is a must-have for personal and classroom libraries.


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Book Review: Blended by Sharon M. Draper

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"Blended" by Sharon M. Draper (cover)
Image via Goodreads

Genre: Middle Grade
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: “You’re so exotic!” “You look so unusual.” “But what are you really?”

Eleven-year-old Isabella is used to these kinds of comments – her father is black, her mother is white – but that doesn’t mean she likes them. And now that her parents are divorced (and getting along WORSE than ever), Isabella feels more like a push-me-pull-me toy.

One week she’s Isabella with her dad, his girlfriend Anastasia, and her son Darren living in a fancy house where they are one of the only black families in the neighborhood. The next week she’s Izzy with her mom and her boyfriend John-Mark in a small, not-so-fancy house that she loves.

Being split between Mom and Dad is more than switching houses, switching nicknames, switching backpacks: it’s also about switching identities. If you’re only seen as half of this and half of that, how can you ever feel whole?

 

REVIEW: Isabelle (Izzy) feels torn by her parents’ divorces, which in turn splits her identity. Also, for the first time, she becomes acutely aware of being biracial.

Izzy is such a sweetheart and a very relatable kid. I love how much music brings her joy. She’s a talented pianist who finds solace in playing when everything else around her doesn’t make sense.

Izzy clearly loves both her parents. It’s good that she also has a positive relationship with her dad’s girlfriend and her son. But Izzy hates when her parents fight and dreads the exchange day. She doesn’t like going back and forth between houses every Sunday because it makes her feel like a visitor. No place is home anymore.

It’s sad to see her grin and bear it when inside she’s full of chaotic and confusing emotions. Additionally, she’s starting to notice how race dictates how others may treat people like her.

Blended is an engaging story and had me deeply invested in everything Izzy was experiencing in her new normal.

One thing that left me stumped was the climax and its aftermath. The story built up to this intense moment that was incredibly painful to read. This unfortunately is something that happens to Black people and a real fear some people have. So you’ve reached the height of the story and then, instead of a gradual descent of falling action and resolution, it’s this rushed and unsatisfying ending. I thought there’d be more I guess? From a storytelling pov, things wrapped up in a way that to me lessened the impact of the climax and made me question why? There are a few silver linings that point to quite possibly a better tomorrow and change. I’m just not sure what to make of where things ended for Izzy after everything she experienced.

I really did enjoy this story, Izzy’s character, and how the author tackled children of divorce, race and society. But I have mixed feelings about the ending.

CW: racism, police brutality

Favorite Quotes:

  • (p.18-19) “Yeah, they love me and all that, but it doesn’t stop them from slicing my life in half every seven days and then acting like that’s normal or something. Every Monday I wake up in a different bed than the one I slept in the week before. I hate that! Birds make nests in trees, right? One nest. One tree. Who ever heard of a robin moving her eggs every week to a new tree? That’d be crazy, right? Yep. Crazy. Welcome to my life.”
  • (p.61) “I never say ‘I’m going home’ anymore. It’s ‘I’m going to my mom’s.’ Or ‘I’m going to my dad’s.’ Going. Not staying. Actually, it’s not funny at all.”
  • (p.63) “I’ve colored the Mom weeks with green highlighter. And Dad weeks with neon orange. Twenty-six for each one. Split exactly in half. Know what’s sad. There are no weeks for me.”

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Book Review: I Am Perfectly Designed by Karamo Brown, with Jason “Rachel” Brown, Illustrated by Anoosha Syed

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“I Am Perfectly Designed” by Karamo Brown, with Jason “Rachel” Brown, Illustrated by Anoosha Syed (cover)
Image via Goodreads

Genre: Picture Book
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: I Am Perfectly Designed is an exuberant celebration of loving who you are, exactly as you are. A boy and his father take a walk through the city, sharing memories, and discovering all the ways in which they are perfectly designed for each other and to be themselves.

 

REVIEW: “An ode to loving who you are, exactly as you are,” I Am Perfectly Designed an adorably heartwarming story inspired by the life lessons the author’s father taught him. This story had a beautiful, positive father-son relationship.

I love the cover art for this story. It features a diverse group of people on a lovely fall day at the part. There’s a nice contrast between the foreground – the father and son – and the background – the other park goers.

The illustrations were so well done, visually appealing, and inviting. The happy expressions on the characters’ faces were infectious.

I liked how this story was a conversation between a son and his dad. The boy is reminiscing with his dad while they hang out and go about their day. The boy is unafraid to be happy and himself because his dad has been such a good role model. He takes pride in knowing they were perfectly designed or destined to be family.

I Am Perfectly Designed is a good story to have in one’s personal library.


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Book Review: The Fastest Way to Fall by Denise Williams

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"The Fastest Way to Fall" by Denise Williams (cover)
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Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: Britta didn’t plan on falling for her personal trainer, and Wes didn’t plan on Britta. Plans change and it’s unclear if love, career, or both will meet them at the finish line.

Britta Colby works for a lifestyle website, and when tasked to write about her experience with a hot new body-positive fitness app that includes personal coaching, she knows it’s a major opportunity to prove she should write for the site full-time.

As CEO of the FitMe app, Wes Lawson finally has the financial security he grew up without, but despite his success, his floundering love life and complicated family situation leaves him feeling isolated and unfulfilled. He decides to get back to what he loves—coaching. Britta’s his first new client and they click immediately.

As weeks pass, she’s surprised at how much she enjoys experimenting with her exercise routine. He’s surprised at how much he looks forward to talking to her every day. They convince themselves their attraction is harmless, but when they start working out in person, Wes and Britta find it increasingly challenging to deny their chemistry and maintain a professional distance.

Wes isn’t supposed to be training clients, much less meeting with them, and Britta’s credibility will be sunk if the lifestyle site finds out she’s practically dating the fitness coach she’s reviewing. Walking away from each other is the smartest thing to do, but running side by side feels like the start of something big.

 

REVIEW: The Fastest Way to Fall was a heartfelt, adorable, and inspiring read.

Britta is an editorial assistant who wants to be promoted to writer for Best Life. I loved Britta and could relate to her so much. She’s likable, hardworking, and a talented (enviable) writer. Britta isn’t focused on weight loss when she signs up for the FitMe app. Instead, she merely wants to look and feel good naked. Her journey is incredible and inspiring. Again and again, she pushes herself beyond her limits to achieve her goals. Britta is a wonderful character and I would love to be her friend.

Wes is a great coach and I love his dedication to his job. But his mother’s addictions and the unknown whereabouts of his runaway sister have been taking a toll for a long time now. He feels compelled to carry this burden without taking care of his own health. But towards the end I didn’t like him as much.

Britta and Wes had a smooth, easy, natural connection. I like how they built a relationship and fell in love before even meeting.

I loved the body positivity in this story. Britta is comfortable in her own skin and loves her curves, butt, and boobs, but isn’t immune to hurtful words. I liked that the author showed what negative body image looks, feels, and sounds like. How the way we view ourselves can affect our nutrition and physical health. I loved that FitMe is about making healthy choices/changes and setting realistic goals/expectations.

I was really into the story in the beginning, but then the pace slowed to a point where I was getting bored and restless for something to happen. The building of the romance was very slow-going. It felt like a full story but I’m wondering if maybe some scenes could have been shortened or cut.

I have mixed feelings about the last 80 or so pages, particularly with what happened when Wes and Britta’s secret came out. Wes is the CEO of FitMe and Britta was his client. Both took personal responsibility when things went south. Both were equally at fault for crossing boundaries. However, to me it felt like most (if not all) the blame was placed on Britta. I didn’t like the way Wes treated Britta when they realized each other’s position, as if it was more her fault than his. Britta gracefully accepted the criticism and bias she received from everyone. It pained me to see her basically suffer in silence.

This was an enjoyable story for the most part. I like that the author uses mixed media – email, blog posts, prose, text messaging – to tell the story. I enjoyed seeing Jake and Naya again (from How to Fail at Flirting). The conflicts and all of the characters were realistic. There were a lot of adorable moments between Britta and Wes. But towards the end it was tough reading. The epilogue was fantastic!

Content Warnings:

  • intentional changes in exercise and nutrition habits by a main character (that do not include dieting) including on-page reflections on exercise and eating habits
  • off-page Alcohol and drug abuse of a side character; the heroine participates in brief and off-page over-exercise
  • reference to the eating disorder of a side character

Favorite Quotes:

  • (p.60) “Libby had always hated gym class – she’d complain, and I never got it. Eventually, she confessed she hated that she felt judged and forced to focus on her body, when she didn’t want to in this very public way. I’d never thought about it like that.”
  • (p.100) “I share it because that night, I felt desirable, attractive, and wanted for the first time in my life. So, the next day, when he said it was a mistake, I was certain feeling wanted was a mistake, too…It took me years to fully shake that and realize his assessment didn’t have to shape how I felt about myself.”

More by Denise Williams

How to Fail at Flirting


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Book Review: Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon

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"Instructions for Dancing" by Nicola Yoon (cover)
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Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: In this romantic page-turner from the author of Everything, Everything and The Sun is Also a Star, Evie has the power to see other people’s romantic fates–what will happen when she finally sees her own?

Evie Thomas doesn’t believe in love anymore. Especially after the strangest thing occurs one otherwise ordinary afternoon: She witnesses a couple kiss and is overcome with a vision of how their romance began . . . and how it will end. After all, even the greatest love stories end with a broken heart, eventually.

As Evie tries to understand why this is happening, she finds herself at La Brea Dance Studio, learning to waltz, fox-trot, and tango with a boy named X. X is everything that Evie is not: adventurous, passionate, daring. His philosophy is to say yes to everything–including entering a ballroom dance competition with a girl he’s only just met.

Falling for X is definitely not what Evie had in mind. If her visions of heartbreak have taught her anything, it’s that no one escapes love unscathed. But as she and X dance around and toward each other, Evie is forced to question all she thought she knew about life and love. In the end, is love worth the risk?

 

REVIEW: This was an interesting and thought-provoking story. A lot of heart and emotions drives the plot through its exploration of love and all its values and risks.

Evie doesn’t believe in love anymore after catching her father cheating on her mom and their subsequent divorce. Her picture perfect view of love is shattered. Lost, Evie contemplates why people fall in love if it only ends in excruciating pain. She then gains the ability to see a couple’s love story and how it ultimately ends.

I don’t think I was ever completely on board with the magical aspect of the story, but was curious about how it might affect the plot. Evie’s visions provide a good source of conflict as she copes with the divorce and interacts with others. For instance, Evie gets rid of her beloved romance novels, isn’t as present with her friends as she used to be, and is confused/annoyed by how undisturbed her sister and mother seem to be by the state of their family. Evie also refuses to reestablish a relationship with her dad and tries to ignore her growing attraction to her ballroom dancing partner, X, and his seize the day mindset.

I liked Evie – except for her initial random/out of character judgment of X – and found her love story fascinating. She’s dealt a blow to everything she thought she knew to be true. Seeing the downfall of so many relationships makes the idea of love even more disdainful. And when the visions get personal, it takes a whole lot of strength to not entirely give up on friendships, love, and happiness. So it’s kind of surprising how deeply she clicks with X – though to be fair, X is easy to like.

I really liked X’s character. I liked that he’s in a band and how passionate he is about music. I liked how kind, caring, and open he is. His philosophy on life – while tragic in origin – was also a nice counterpart to Evie’s stubbornness and pessimism. His character depth, growth, and meaning.

The ballroom dancing practices and competition were awesome. They were bright spots amidst all the teen angst. Fifi – who instructed Evie and X – was hysterical and fire! I’ll always remember her vehemence for the office bell fondly.

The last quarter of the story was an epic punch in the feels! This is the first book of Yoon’s that I’ve read and I totally get why her books are so loved. The high emotions nearly cause the waterworks to flow.

Overall, Instructions for Dancing was a good, entertaining read. I would read more by Yoon.


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ARC Review: Bet on It by Jodie Slaughter

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Thank you to St. Martin’s Griffin and NetGalley for the eARC to read and review! Bet on It is set to be releases July 12, 2022.

"Bet on It" by Jodie Slaughter (cover)
Image via NetGalley

Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: The first time Aja Owens encounters the man of her dreams, she’s having a panic attack in the frozen foods section of the Piggly Wiggly. The second time, he’s being introduced to her as her favorite bingo buddy’s semi-estranged grandson. From there, all it takes is one game for her to realize that he’s definitely going to be a problem. And if there’s anything she already has a surplus of, it’s problems.

In Walker Abbott’s mind, there are only two worthwhile things in Greenbelt, South Carolina. The peach cobbler at his old favorite diner and his ailing grandmother. Dragging himself back after more than a decade away, he’s counting down the days until Gram heals and he can get back to his real life. Far away from the trauma inside of those city limits. Just when he thinks his plan is solid, enter Aja to shake everything up.

A hastily made bingo-based sex pact is supposed to keep this…thing between them from getting out of hand. Especially when submitting to their feelings means disrupting their carefully balanced lives. But emotions are just like bingo callers—they refuse to be ignored.

Jodie Slaughter’s Bet on It is a heart-stoppingly fun, emotional romance that will have readers falling in love until long after the last page is turned.

 

REVIEW: Bet on It was an earnest and entertaining summer romance.

Aja wants to put down roots in a quiet town and be more social and less anxious. Walker wants nothing to do with his hometown beyond his short return there to take care of his grandmother.

I liked how open they were with each other about their mental health, the cause and how it’s impacted their life. I also loved that Aja (who has Generalized Anxiety Disorder) and Walker (who has Complex PTSD) find another safe space with each other. Any time they discussed their mental health I felt like that safe space extended to me. This feeling is testament to how well the author did depicting mental health, life with anxiety, and discussions that need to be had about mental health. I wholly appreciate all of the secondary characters whose patience and understanding allow Aja and Walker to work through their emotions. That kind of support is so important to have.

Aja and Walker were spectacular main characters with delightful personalities and wonderfully developed storylines that show the power of finding your people. Their friends with benefits pact through bingo made for several entertaining and red-hot scenes oh my goodness!

Even though they’re exactly what the other needs, they are understandably afraid to give up all the progress they’ve individually made. Not to mention Walker is adamant about leaving Greenbelt he hates for treating him badly and avoiding anything to do with his father. Knowing all of this slowly chipped away at my heart because the more time Aja and Walker spent together the closer and more clearly in love they became. The tension and inevitable downfall approaching loomed like darkening clouds before a storm.

I enjoyed reading Bet on It with each passing page. It took my emotions on a thrill ride. The plot twisted and turned in all the right places. I love the cover – it’s so cute and perfect for this story! The mental health rep was great and relatable. I felt a connection to both main characters in big and small ways. A few of my favorite moments were at the bingo hall with Walker’s grandmother, Ms. May, and Aja and Walker’s trip to the drive-in movie. And the romance was sweet fire! A lovely read for summer.

CW: anxiety, panic attacks, drug abuse, child neglect


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ARC Review: Turning by Joy L. Smith

Book Review logo*ARC copy won in a Goodreads Giveaway
Turning is set to be released March 1, 2022.*

"Turning" by Joy L. Smith (cover)
Image via Goodreads

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: In this raw, searingly honest debut young adult novel, a former aspiring ballerina must confront her past in order to move forward from a devastating fall that leaves her without the use of her legs.

Genie used to fouetté across the stage. Now the only thing she’s turning are the wheels to her wheelchair. Genie was the star pupil at her exclusive New York dance school, with a bright future and endless possibilities before her. Now that the future she’s spent years building toward has been snatched away, she can’t stand to be reminded of it—even if it means isolating herself from her best friends and her mother. The only wish this Genie has is to be left alone.

But then she meets Kyle, who also has a “used to be.” Kyle used to tumble and flip on a gymnastics mat, but a traumatic brain injury has sent him to the same physical therapist that Genie sees. With Kyle’s support, along with her best friend’s insistence that Genie’s time at the barre isn’t over yet, Genie starts to see a new path—one where she doesn’t have to be alone and she finally has the strength to heal from the past.

But healing also means confronting. Confronting the booze her mother, a recovering alcoholic, has been hiding under the kitchen sink; the ex-boyfriend who was there the night of the fall and won’t leave her alone; and Genie’s biggest, most terrifying secret: the fact that the accident may not have been so accidental after all.

 

REVIEW: Turning left me speechless. This raw, achingly beautiful story of a promising, black ballerina’s uphill battle to reclaim herself after a fall leaves her paralyzed and wheelchair-bound.

Genie is devastated, angry, and depressed. Dance was her everything. Now, she’s left adrift, lost without her identity, and struggling to come to terms with her new normal. There’s more to her accident that she’s closely guarding that makes dealing with the demons of her past in her present extremely painful.

It wasn’t easy to read this heartbreaking story. Some characters, including Genie, didn’t know how to exist in the After of Genie’s fall. I like that we get a well-rounded view of other characters’ thoughts and feelings. Moreso, major injuries like Genie’s sometimes take a village to recover from. But ultimately, Genie must decide what she wants and who she wants to be going forward.

Genie trying to navigate through toxic intimate and familial relationships were honestly heart-wrenching. You can see clearly how much those relationships have affected her mental health in the past and continue to do so in the present. Many setbacks occur in order to wade through those murky waters and rekindle relations with those who deep down loved and supported her and refused to give up on her.

Genie’s character growth is slow, arduous, and deftly developed. I couldn’t help but feel so proud of all the breakthroughs (mighty baby steps!) she experiences as she begins to heal. To escape the despair, move past the anger, and see that dreams and a future are still possible.

It was hard to put into words everything I thought and felt while reading this amazing book. This review may not do it justice and there’s probably some things I’m forgetting to mention. But I can say without a doubt that I loved this book.

I loved Genie’s character. I especially loved Kyle and the relationship he and Genie built together. And I loved the intensity and joy this remarkable story evokes. Joy L. Smith’s Turning is a must-read, memorable debut!

CW: trauma, toxic relationships


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ARC Review: Carefree Black Girls: A Celebration of Black Women in Popular Culture by Zeba Blay

Light blue text that says "Book Review" over a stem of while orchids.

Thank you St. Martin’s Griffin and NetGalley for the eARC to read and review! Carefree Black Girls is set to be released October 19, 2021.

Image via NetGalley

Genre: Nonfiction, Essays
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: An empowering and celebratory portrait of Black women—from Josephine Baker to Aunt Viv to Cardi B.

In 2013, film and culture critic Zeba Blay was one of the first people to coin the viral term #carefreeblackgirls on Twitter. As she says, it was “a way to carve out a space of celebration and freedom for Black women online.”

In this collection of essays, Carefree Black Girls, Blay expands on this initial idea by delving into the work and lasting achievements of influential Black women in American culture–writers, artists, actresses, dancers, hip-hop stars–whose contributions often come in the face of bigotry, misogyny, and stereotypes. Blay celebrates the strength and fortitude of these Black women, while also examining the many stereotypes and rigid identities that have clung to them. In writing that is both luminous and sharp, expansive and intimate, Blay seeks a path forward to a culture and society in which Black women and their art are appreciated and celebrated.

 

My Review: Nonfiction is a genre way outside my comfort zone. Essays I am familiar with, but pop culture…uh, not so much.

I’ve never reviewed a collection of essays before so bear with me while I try to compile my thoughts into something organized and coherent.

Carefree Black Girls is comprised of an introduction and 8 essays:

  • Body: The historical perception and misuse of Black women’s bodies and its negative, harmful impact.
  • She’s A Freak: The regulation of Black women’s bodies and their sexuality. The backlash over any agency exerted that goes against those regulations.
    Man, This Shit Is Draining: Black women don’t have the freedom to express their anger with repercussions compared to others who do the same or worse.
  • Extra Black: Colorism and its correlation to beauty, desirability, and marketability of lighter skin tones versus darker skin tones, such as in Hollywood castings.
  • #Cardibissoproblematic: The author’s feelings about Cardi B, her fame, her place in pop culture, her words and actions, and her feud with Nicki Minaj.
  • Girlhood: The images of Black women that left an impression on the author growing up versus what she knows now of the realities those images represented. The author’s feelings of recognition towards Mel B and how Mel B navigated spaces not meant for people like her.
  • Strong Black Lead: Black women and mental health as well as the author’s struggles with her own mental health. (CW: anxiety, depression, suicide – 24/7 resources below)
  • Free of Cares: What does it mean for Black women to be carefree? and the concept of freedom.

These were very well-written essays with enviable poise, details, structure, clarity, and sureness that I wish I’d had even a speck of whenever I had to write essays in school. Each essay focused on an idea that was heavily reinforced by a ton of source material – interviews, books, essays, artwork, movies, songs lyrics, tweets, Instagram stories, speeches, and so much more. Even when I didn’t know what the author was referencing – like with some Twitter happenings or much of the Cardi B essay – I could still more or less grasp the point she was trying to make. She makes a lot of compelling arguments and states the sad but real truths that tend to be ignored, glossed over or outright dismissed.

Carefree Black Girls is raw and thought-provoking. It discussed truths about the struggles and hardships Black women are still subjected. I liked how the author wove in her own experiences – as hard as some of those still are to talk about – to illustrate her points. Not always as the 100% proof but as personal examples and perspective of how she came to certain conclusions.

The book is very engaging. I felt various emotions while reading it. For me, there were several moments of retrospection and introspection. Parts of others I saw myself in. But there also were a few parts I wasn’t too sure about or disagreed with to varying degrees.

Carefree Black Girls had a solid structure, was vividly detailed, and had a strong voice. The topics were relevant to the past, present, and future of our world and who we are as people. Overall, a good read.


24/7 Support That’s Here For You

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Crisis Text Line
www.crisistextline.org
US and Canada – Text HOME to 741741
United Kingdom – Text HOME to 85258
Ireland – Text HOME to 50808

National Alliance On Mental Illness
https://nami.org/Home
NAMI Helpline – Call 800-950-NAMI
Or in a crisis, text “NAMI” to 741741