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The Black Girl Next Door: A Memoir Hardcover – January 13, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Baszile grew up in an affluent Southern California suburb (she was a first-grader in 1975), a postsegregation child in a not quite integrated world and "the only black girl in my class, my grade, and my school besides my sister." In this craftily structured memoir, Baszile carries the reader at a leisurely, but in no way slack, pace through her girlhood and adolescence, maintaining both her young vulnerability and her sophisticated adult perspective. In trips to her parents' childhood homes--big city Detroit for her mother, deep country Louisiana for her father--she sees their (and her own) African-American pasts. A cruise, on which her parents challenge the two girls "to introduce yourselves to every black kid on this boat" before dinner, offers fresh dimensions of her African-American present. Taken together, they contribute to the path that led her to Yale's history department (its first black female professor). In elegant prose, Baszile shares enlightening observations throughout: "Dad never complained about being a black man... but he couldn't disguise its particular perils." Proud and comfortable in her skin, as well as clearheaded about its hazards, Baszile has written a classic portrait of that girl next door. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The Baszile family’s move to an exclusive white suburb in Palos Verde, California, was the culmination of the parents’ striving for a racially integrated, middle-class life. For their daughters, it meant isolation and coping with the occasional racial slurs that went along with the advantages of suburban life. Their parents veered between an aggressive integration strategy and an equally aggressive strategy to keep their daughters socially connected to other black teens. There would be no interracial dating, they declared. Visits to her father’s childhood home in rural Louisiana and her mother’s in Detroit showed the stark contrast between their parents’ upbringing and their own, the trade-off between financial comfort and racial isolation versus economic struggle and racial camaraderie. Through adolescence, Baszile strove to reconcile her job at Kentucky Fried Chicken and her coming out in the debutante ball, her family’s increasing estrangement as her father’s behavior became more erratic, and her own efforts to find an identity for herself. This is an absorbing look behind the facade of one black family’s striving for integration and the American dream. --Vanessa Bush
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The next thing I know, I'm thinking WoW! Apparently slavery is a subject NO ONE wanted to talk about; black or white! ...thus comes the `your pinch/my slap' notion bearing the argument `this story is more worthy to tell/but this one isn't'; absolutely why I loved Jennifer's courage, and favor memoirs!
Sharing our stories projects loud and clear the `your pinch/my slap' point-of-views. I really applauded Jennifer when she laid down her shield (this is a VERY STRONG woman) to ask those three young men to dance. God, I cried for her. Quite a few times I found myself giggling, too. I mean, the Black Hormone Association... too funny, as well as the cousins in KFC--I liked that too. Now the fight with her father... whoa...but then Jennifer always had that fighting spirit in her, which by the time that LEADS letter came, I literally jumped out of my seat cheering for her!
There is just too much to comment on here... Jennifer even raises the bar teasing us with a little romance. Perhaps more appropriate for another venue, but it would be remiss if I didn't at least add that Jennifer's story shares what my children have expressed to me about growing up in the suburbs... which all I can hand down to them is the same sentiment that was handed down to me by my mother, from her mother to her, and so forth and so on, "I did my best with what I was handed down to work with." And this is exactly what puts The Black Girl Next Door over the top! Jennifer's raw honesty throughout is unshakable!!!
God, I'm luvin it! One Story At A Time!!!
What I did not like about it was the story seemed stiff and formal and only covered her life up to her college entrance. I felt that the story was reserved and measured and that was the part that was what made me not so excited.
Her writing style is verbose and I found that she spent too much time on details that were not necessary.
If you grew up in a circumstances similar to Jennifer's than this is a must read.