The Unboxing of a Black Girl

Page Street YA. May 2024. 160p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9798890039538.
Gr 9 Up–Shanté chronicles coming of age in 1990s New York City in her poetry memoir and ode to Black women and girls. Through sharing pivotal memories of growing up among her father’s family in Brooklyn and mother’s in the Bronx, she reveals lessons from The Talk(s) she received from them and shuttles readers between themes of survival, freedom, and innocence lost. Composed of free verse, haiku, and prose that is presented like entries in an otherwise unwritten Black culture dictionary, the memoir is divided into three parts. Each part skillfully addresses the labels, stereotypes, and tropes placed and forced onto Black girls and the work it takes to defy or undo them. While she offers direct advice “for Black girls,” Shanté does not neglect Black boys and men in her musings. Footnotes composed of must-read, must-watch, and must-listen recommendations, together with valuable resources, truthful asides, and hard facts, follow nearly every piece, but do not distract. Instead, they act as a perfectly curated instructional guide to Black culture, Black history, and the author herself. Shanté adeptly addresses racism, implicit bias, gender, sexuality, sexual violence, and mental health, encouraging readers to care for themselves, think, research, and act.
VERDICT Strongly recommended for all young adult collections.

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