Ibi Zoboi

Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America

Editor: Ibi Zoboi | Publisher: Harper Collins

What I loved most about reading as a child, was the ability it gave you to inhabit other worlds. But somehow, as an adult, it seems I’ve forgotten to seek out those experiences. I’m sorry to say, I can’t remember the last time I read anything from a culture besides my own. I want to make excuses, but the truth is I should try harder to seek those books out.

Black Enough was recommended by another blogger, and it immediately caught my attention. In part, because these stories are from another experience – besides being white and British. These are also powerful stories, and important ones for our times. Stories to educate and inspire. I am not remotely qualified to talk about the portrayal of race and discrimination, about what it means to be black, so I won’t try. All I will say, is that it was one theme among many other valuable ones, and it was something I was challenged and moved by. I won’t mention it again. Not because I am ignoring it, but because I don’t think a white, middle-class British person could have anything of value to contribute to that discussion. I think it’s better if I focus on listening.

Black Enough is a collection of short stories about the experiences of young people of colour in America today; as the title suggests. It’s about what it means to be black in the culture of that country, and what it’s like to be young. Every story is a little bit different in terms of style, plot, setting, and voice. However, some common themes emerge. Of course, race, identity, and discrimination. The challenges in American society for young people of colour. But also themes which I think are universal, all across the world, for young people: anxiety, growing pains, and belonging. Stories about navigating who you are, and the choices you make which determine who you will become. The stories were full of difficult realities, challenging ideas, which were handled with great honesty and tact.

I’m not going to review all the stories… We’d be here all day! But my favourite three were:

Half a Moon, Renee Watson

Half a Moon is a diary-style, first person narrative about a young girl working as a camp counsellor who is dealing with her feelings about divorced parents and step-siblings.

It was so beautifully written that I wanted to read it out loud just to hear the structure, the language, and explore the way the words felt in my mouth.

It was also a story I related to personally. I was a child whose father left, and all my sisters are half-sisters. We don’t call each other that, but it’s sometimes felt like the elephant in the room. I understand those feelings of loss and anger, and wondering what they got that you didn’t in the family-department.

It was just lovely.

Out of the Silence, Kekla Magoon

Written as a letter to someone who died, and who helped the protagonist recognise that she was gay, Out of the Silence is poignant and refreshing in its honesty. It deals with themes I think we, as in Western society, struggle to know how to talk about with young people. It was raw, with a strong and unique voice.

Stop Playing, Liara Tamani

A first-person narrative, Stop Playing is a story about a girl who likes a boy, who asks her to do things she isn’t entirely comfortable with. More importantly, it’s a story about a young girl learning to set boundaries and recognise her worth. It has an adolescent-style to the internal and external dialogue which was a little challenging for me in my 30s. But it was also funny, sweet, sassy and smart.

I liked the way a tough lesson was handled, and the way the story came out in the end. It had great tension and intrigue throughout, and was gripping from beginning to end. It was also very relatable. I’ve definitely been there, chasing someone who didn’t feel the same way and didn’t treat me with respect. Who hasn’t? It was a pleasure to see a strong, youthful female perspective on the situation.

5 Archimedes

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