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?
I don’t think this book was on my radar, even though it came out 2019, until the audio copy was released. When I checked my ALCs for this month and saw a book with a dark-skinned Black girl on the cover, I knew I was going to read it, no doubt.
I’m interested in the ways in which authors write about intergenerational trauma and internalized racism, especially in the Black community. I think this is really because I, myself, engage in frequent battles with my tendency to engage in respectability politics. Sometimes this fight is so bad that I’m not sure what my own dialect actually sounds like.
Even though I’m an adult, I still like to read books about things I’m struggling with. This one caused me to reflect on my childhood and wonder about the experiences of my sister’s children. I hope that they don’t think that their skin is too dark or their lips and noses are too big. There has already been conversation about hair, and I hope for them that it doesn’t take until their 30s (like it did for me) for them to love what grows out of their heads as it grows out of their heads.