Genesis Begins Again


This is her chance.  Genesis has waited and wanted to be accepted and to be part of the group and finally, finally it looks like she's in.  But as she and her hoped-for posse walk home together, everything she dreamed of falls apart when they get to her house and see all of her furniture out on the front lawn.  The girls are ready to pounce and the  names start coming again.  CHARcoal.  Eggplant.  The ring leader Regina and her girls walk away with her final sentence,  "Don't let me catch you around."

Genesis can't believe it.  They're being evicted again.  Where will they go this time?  To her grandmother's home where her mother will be subjected to one lecture after another and her father will be treated like dirt?

Luckily, it turns out Dad is going to save the day this time.  He has rented a house from a guy at work and he's expecting a promotion.  The house is out in the suburbs where the lawns are mowed and the schools have all the Harry Potter books on the shelf in the library.  It's a dream come true until Dad starts drinking again.  It's a dream come true until the eviction notices start showing up on the front door.

In this new house and this new school Genesis has found a place where she can make a friend, Sophia.  Genesis has found a music teacher who believes in her, Mrs. Hill.  Genesis has found a guy, Troy, who is as black as she is and is tutoring her in math so she can catch up. But Genesis has not found herself.

Nothing matters as much to her as her blackness.   She is battling all the times she's heard the names Ape and Chubby Cheeks.  She's carrying a feeling of shame that she isn't like her light-skinned mother.  She believes that if she had been born with a light skin, her father wouldn't hate her so much.  "Hidden behind 'her" closed door is all kinds of crazy."

Everything in her life begins to unravel.  All the goodness starts slipping away.  Then, Genesis hears about the annual school talent show and gets her courage up to audition for it.  Maybe if she wins the talent show, her Dad will be proud enough of her to love her at last.

This story took guts to write.  I sat in the audience recently at the Walter Award ceremony and listened to Emily X. R. Pan and Tiffany K. Jackson talk about having the courage to write the truth about issues in their diverse communities.  Emily wrote about suicide in the Taiwanese-American community and Tiffany wrote about mental illness in the black community.  Alicia D. Williams has taken on the racism doled out by African Americans to African Americans based on how black or how light-skinned they are.  It's racism inside the Black community.

Genesis is a  character you root for.  That feeling that she is not good enough that goes beyond skin deep is a feeling plenty of people carry around with them no matter what color their skin is.  This is an important book. It's a book that entire schools and entire communities should read together.

Brilliant. Gutsy.  Authentic voice.  This one goes on the top of the stack.  It's time has definitely come.

384 pages           978-1481465809             Ages 9-13

Keywords:  racism, prejudice, school, moving, new experiences, identity, family, peer pressure, dysfunctional family, self acceptance, self image, self esteem, believing in yourself, alcoholism, addiction

Recommended by:  Barb Langridge,

Newbery Honor 2020


This deeply sensitive and powerful debut novel tells the story of a thirteen-year-old who must overcome internalized racism and a verbally abusive family to finally learn to love herself.

There are ninety-six things Genesis hates about herself. She knows the exact number because she keeps a list. Like #95: Because her skin is so dark, people call her charcoal and eggplant—even her own family. And #61: Because her family is always being put out of their house, belongings laid out on the sidewalk for the world to see. When your dad is a gambling addict and loses the rent money every month, eviction is a regular occurrence.

What’s not so regular is that this time they all don’t have a place to crash, so Genesis and her mom have to stay with her grandma. It’s not that Genesis doesn’t like her grandma, but she and Mom always fight—Grandma haranguing Mom to leave Dad, that she should have gone back to school, that if she’d married a lighter skinned man none of this would be happening, and on and on and on. But things aren’t all bad. Genesis actually likes her new school; she’s made a couple friends, her choir teacher says she has real talent, and she even encourages Genesis to join the talent show.

But how can Genesis believe anything her teacher says when her dad tells her the exact opposite? How can she stand up in front of all those people with her dark, dark skin knowing even her own family thinks lesser of her because of it? Why, why, why won’t the lemon or yogurt or fancy creams lighten her skin like they’re supposed to? And when Genesis reaches #100 on the list of things she hates about herself, will she continue on, or can she find the strength to begin again?--from the publisher

384 pages           978-1481465809             Ages 9-13

Keywords:  racism, prejudice, school, moving, new experiences, identity, family, peer pressure, dysfunctional family, self acceptance, self image, self esteem, believing in yourself, alcoholism, addiction

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