Black Enough

Rating: 
Author: Edited by Ibi Zoboi, many contributing authors
Genres: Young Adult, Fiction, Short stories
Pub date: Jan. 8, 2019 (read Jan. 2019)

Thanks to HarperCollins Canada for providing me with a free advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve been working on this book for awhile. Not because I didn’t enjoy it, but because it’s short stories and I always struggle to get into short stories when there’s nothing to pull you back into the book between stories. It was pretty slow going on the first half of the book, but the stories kept getting progressively better (in my humble opinion) and I read through the second half of the book a lot faster.

Overall I think ibi Zoboi did a really good job at collecting a diverse set of stories. They all focus on young people and the many things it means to be Black. I liked that some of the stories were political and some of the stories were just about being a teenager. How some days the odds seemed stacked against you and other days you’re just another confused teenager trying to make sense of the world.

This book features an all star cast of authors, many of whom I’ve read some of their other books, and some new-to-me authors that I’d now like to check out! The great thing about a book like this is that there can’t really be any bad stories because they are all just different author’s interpretations on what it means to be black.

That said, there were a few stories that stood out to me more than others and I just wanted to take the time to highlight some of them. I really liked Brandy Colbert’s story, Oreo, which is about a black girl who, because of the choices her parents made to live in a white neighbourhood and send their kids to a mostly white school, has been accused by her cousins of being white on the inside (Oreo). It’s a story about identity, culture, and longing. She has a tense relationship with her cousin and eventually discovers that they’ve actually both been misunderstanding one another and realizes how easy it is for two people to both want what the other has.

I also liked Liara Tamani’s Girl, Stop Playing story, which I thought was so relatable to all teenage girls. It’s about a girl who has just broken up with her boyfriend and is determined to get him back, but is confused when she meets a new boy that she kind of likes, and is also jealous of the other girls hanging around her ex. I liked that this addresses issues that a lot of teenage girls feel very self conscious about, while also promoting a healthy body image and the importance of female friendship and support.

I loved Jay Coles, Wild Horses, Wild Hearts, which was probably my favourite story in the entire collection, as well as Justina Ireland’s Kissing Sarah Smart. They both focus on LGBT relationships, but contrast one another in that Coles’ characters face huge opposition from their parents and culture, while Ireland’s characters are more or less supported by their family and friends.

I also really liked Dhonielle Clayton’s, The Trouble with Drowning, and was totally impressed that the author was able to work such a plot twist into a short story! Actually this may have been my favourite… it’s a toss up! The Trouble with Drowning is about a young girls struggle to live up to her parents expectations and to excel under the shadow of her twin sister.

These are just some of the stories that stood out to me, but there were many others that I enjoyed as well. Like I said, it took me a while to read this one, but I think it’s a really important book and I’m glad I took the time to work through it!

Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Pub date: Sep. 4, 2018 (read Oct. 2018)

The most overwhelming feeling I have upon finishing this book is that I’m just so glad it exists. Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree is about Boko Haram and the many girls and children they have abducted to their cause since 2009. You may recall in 2014 when Boko Haram kidnapped 276 female students from their dormitory in Chibok, Nigeria. Because of the large number of girls that were kidnapped, the crisis finally garnered international attention and forced the Nigerian Government to take real action in rescuing the stolen girls.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t a one off event. Boko Harem has been pillaging and killing in the North of Nigeria since 2009 and while many of the Chibok girls have escaped, been released, or been rescued since then, many have not. Boko Haram is a radical Islamic group that believe in Sharia law and absolute Islamic government. They kill men and kidnap girls, women, and children, forcing them to convert to islam and act as slaves in their outposts hidden deep in the Sambisa Forest. The boys are radicalized and the girls either act as slaves or are married off to Boko Haram fighters called the Rijale.

Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree is a short book told from the point of view of a kidnapped young girl. She is not one of the Chibok girls, but she was stolen from her village along with several of her friends. She dreams of winning a scholarship to attend university and become educated, but instead she is forced to convert to Islam, change her name, and marry one of the Rijale and attend to his home. Her dreams sustain her through the ordeal and remind her of who she is and that Boko Harem does not adequately represent Islam. But it kills her to watch her best friend lose her grip on reality, fall for her new husband, and begins touting the benefits of Boko Harem and Sharia Law.

There’s nothing I would change about this book. I thought it struck a wonderful balance between introducing us to Nigerian village life and the hopes and dreams of these young girls to the devastating contrast of life under Boko Haram. It’s easy for Westerners to become desensitized to these stories, and I loved that Nwaubani spent the first half of the book developing characters before focusing on the girls kidnapping. It’s an upsetting read, to be sure, but an important one to remind us of the atrocities that Boko Harem has committed, and that are still ongoing.

Thanks to HarperCollins Canada and HCC Frenzy for providing me with a free review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree is currently available in stores.