I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy

I'm Glad My Mom Died

I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Growing up in a strict household I thought it was torture. I was raised Baptist, and my mother was a Children’s church administrator/Sunday School Teacher, and my father was a Deacon/Trustee/Pastor’s right hand man.

I couldn’t do anything. You hear me?! My brother and I were raised with high expectations to say the least. However, they raised us up just like all the other Black families who wanted their children to do better than them. “Stay on the straight and narrow, and YOU can get out of the hood one day!”

Reading this book made me reminisce on my childhood and think of the job my parents did in raising me. Though I thought it was hell, in retrospect, it wasn’t. They were honestly trying to do their best and wanted the very best for their Black children while living in the redlined neighborhood of Cleveland, OH.

Jennette McCurdy though, she had a hell of a childhood. Well, I take that back, she didn’t have a childhood. Her mother, made sure of it. Jennette is known for her roles in the Disney Network and Nickelodeon programming of iCarly and the spin-off of Sam and Cat. My own child has watched those shows, and even enjoyed it. Reading about her experiences growing up and how her mother successfully lived vicariously through her daughter through her ENTIRE childhood was depressing as hell. As a parent, it was hard reading about her experiences as she was embarking through her journey into forced stardom. Her mother, as a child, wanted to be an actress, and because her parents did not want her to pursue that career, she made sure that when she had her daughter, her daughter was GOING to be a star and become an actress.

As a parent, we are sometimes burdened with the ideas of wanting our offspring to be better, do better, have better, and go higher than us. Some parents take it too far. Jennette McCurdy’s mom definitely took it to the extreme, and to the point of emotional abuse, manipulation, and violence. Jennette got into acting through her mother’s manipulation and control. Due to her mother’s actions, and neglecting Jennette emotionally in all manners of speaking, she forced Jennette into a life of acting that she never wanted. Beyond the acting, she subjected Jennette to emotional abuse, control, and devastating manipulation. As a young child, all children want to do is please their parents. Jennette developed people pleasing skills at a young age, and continued to suffer from people pleasing for her entire childhood, during her acting career.

I listened to this book, and was devastated with the level of abuse she suffered. Her mother was narcissistic and abusive and manipulated everyone she knew and interacted with. She was emotionally abusive and manipulative to her other children, to her husband, and to people helping her get Jennette into the business. She also used her religion (Mormonism) as a means to an end, treating the church like a genie bottle and when they didn’t serve her interests, she let them go as well.

Listening to this book made Jennette’s story sound and feel super intense. I highly recommend the audio because it gives her story so much contextual “power” that you do not want to pass up that opportunity if you are able to listen. You can feel the stress and strain in her voice as she recounts these memories, and it compels you to really hear her, see her, and understand her as she tells you this heartbreaking story of her childhood. To be honest, I’m glad her mom is dead too, as I can imagine this was pure hell to endure.

5 stars. This story will break your heart.

Thank you to Libro.fm, Simon & Shuster Audio, and to the author Jennette McCurdy for this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin

The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth, #2)

The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The dreaded ‘middle book syndrome’ did not come for The Obelisk Gate. The second book is deftly aware that it leaves you in a lurch, but it’s a delicious lurch, priming you for the third and final book of this series.

The Obelisk Gate picks up where it left off, but it broadens your viewpoint. We get to see more into the backstory of what happened in that first chapter of The Fifth Season when Jija murders Uche, and what happens afterwards, along with the disappearance of both Jija and Nassun. We find out who was behind the great shockwave that rippled and tried to destroy Tirimo, and what all occurred during that timeframe. We learn what happened to Alabaster in the decade he was apart from Syenite/Essun/Damaya, and what’s in store for the future. Basically, we’re being caught up, and as a reader, you’ve been frothing at the mouth to understand what exactly happened and why. This book soothes that need a bit… cause of course, there’s lots more to go.

The world-building expands in this book. Character development and the introduction of new key players are the front runners in this bridge to the end. We see lots of character progression, growth, pacing, movement of the plot, and priming us for the ultimate showdown that is bound to happen in book 3. This book is brilliant in it’s storytelling, and as annoying as it is that the author keeps things purposely lost to us, is just so f*%#ing genius and imaginative that I could never see this story going any other way.

This is the best 2nd book of a trilogy I’ve ever read. 5 stars.

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Finding Me by Viola Davis

Finding Me

Finding Me by Viola Davis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Viola Davis’ book is more than just her life. Although this book talks about her childhood and her struggles with poverty, food insecurity, and dealing with abuse and trauma throughout her childhood, she shares her journey to finding her purpose in life, and herself. Her upbringing, as horrible as she has described it, was for a purpose. God doesn’t waste anything. Although it was a harrowing experience going through, God has placed her strategically in life to do magnificent things. She knows this now, but going through life, she didn’t have the insight to see how her struggles and experiences were going to mold and shape her into a star; a success. I don’t think any of us truly understand that the bad experiences we suffer in life is actually for a greater purpose; to show God’s glory. If anything, Viola Davis shows us how good God has been to her, and presents her story in such a way that God’s glory cannot be denied.

I am deeply humbled and sympathetic to Viola’s story. Her story is heartbreaking, a personal interpersonal reckoning, and a survival story. However, all these experiences, have allowed her to bring forth characters in her career that has made us all see the gift and talent that have not been diminished by her upbringing. If anything, her struggles shaped, molded, and built her in order for her to reach back and use these experiences for future success.

Reading this book made me realize how privileged I was a youth. I wasn’t raised in a rich family by any means, but my modest upbringing and lack of financial resources were not as poor as I thought. I went to school with kids like Viola, but I personally was not affected by poverty like her. Though we lived in a redlined Black neighborhood, I wasn’t food insecure, nor did we have to move to various houses throughout my childhood. Now I understand that God prepares us and builds us up for each of our unique situations.

Viola talks about systemic racism, colorism, sexism, misogynoir, domestic abuse, poverty, and how white systems try to erase our blackness just to digest us in a more tolerable way. It is also worthy to note that representation is absolutely necessary in our world. Shonda Rhimes was able to get Viola Davis into a part that allowed her to heal from many of her traumas she experienced as a young woman. Only a Black woman could do that, could see her, and ensure this happened for her. It was empowering to read, and I was so touched by everything Viola shared in her memoir.

Reading this book stirred a ton of emotion inside of me. Putting up with bullying throughout my childhood was difficult, going to a PWI was shocking and demoralizing, navigating the white man’s military was rough, but I made it. Her book really made me reminisce on all the things I’ve experienced, and how those unfortunate experiences shaped and molded me into the woman I am today, and allowed me to use those experiences to become a better person.

“There is absolutely no way whatsoever to get through this life without scars. No way!!”

“There is an emotional abandonment that comes with poverty and being Black. The weight of generational trauma and having to fight for your basic needs doesn’t leave room for anything else. You just believe you’re the leftovers.”

Viola is not only telling her story, but she gives hope to those who can’t see their way out of their situations. She talked in detail about how therapy saved her, and its something the Black community has not talked about openly until recently. Therapy was always something white people did in my mind. My parents and friends of my parents would either joke or talk around the topic of therapy, like its something people with money did… and Black people never had money to spend on therapy. However, I’m glad Viola was able to find a therapist that helped her heal. That there were people in her life helping her move forward a little bit at a time. I also am thankful that she spoke of the acting world in realistic experiences because we as regular people don’t know what goes on behind the acting/celebrity world. It reminds us all how human we all are.

I am more in awe of Viola Davis after this memoir than I was before I read her book. Though I knew some of her upbringing in poverty, I didn’t know the extent of her poverty and all that went with it. We all face difficulties in this world, but we don’t know the level and severity of those experiences and how they can show up later in our lives, behaviors, and mentality. God did protect her throughout her life. Definitely not the way in which she thought he would, and not at the times she wanted, but he has clearly came through and used everything she went through for good. To God be the GLORY! Viola Davis is an amazing woman, and I am grateful to have had this opportunity to read her memoir.

This book is a top read this year, hands down. 5 stars.

**Thank you to HarperOne for the gift of this book.

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Calling for a Blanket Dance by Oscar Hokeah

Calling for a Blanket Dance

Calling for a Blanket Dance by Oscar Hokeah

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

People who are native and indigenous to the land are excellent storytellers. This goes for African griots and Native Americans who have been here in the Americas long before colonizers decided to get lost, but I digress. Oscar Hokeah has a gift of storytelling, and he’s going on my auto buy list from now on.

His magnificent story is told through the POVs of many family members who are apart of Cherokee, Kiowa, and Mexican lineage. Each chapter is from a different POV, but at the same time interrelated to all aspects of the same story. This book reminded me of There, There by Tommy Orange, but in a different sense. Similar only because of multiple POVs and several characters and how each person has something related to someone/something else in the ongoing story, and from an indigenous culture. However, that’s where the similarities end.

Hokeah is telling the origin story of Ever Geismausaddle through several members of his family on both his paternal and maternal side. The book also speaks to the Cherokee nation, Kiowa nation, and Mexican culture. Although there are several voices in this book, each voice adds to the story instead of muddling the story into a mess. Each person’s addition gives further clarity and power to the overarching story, which is a story of determination, resilience, power, culture, family, strength, community, and bravery.

We as a people rely on each other to get through this thing called life, and this book is the epitome of how family, friends, loved ones, etc., come together to help us all get through life. When we meet Ever Geismausaddle, he’s a baby, and by the end of the story he’s a grown man who shares his own story of how he has led his family through some of the toughest tragedies to get to a place of stability. Culture is very important to Native Americans, as their culture has been decimated, stolen, appropriated, and disgraced, and this book shows you how important it is to keep your culture thriving. Colonizers have been on a genocidal rampage to erase tribes, nations, and people who lived here before they got lost here, and it’s so important to have stories like Hokeah’s to be seen, read, shared, taught, and alive. Native Americans have been treated as castoffs, burdens to the government, or what have you, but I’m telling you, they have a place here. We are on stolen land, and their voices need to be heard and put on a platform to be shared everywhere.

This book shows a small peek into the strength and power that is still there, but it also shines a light on how little the government has done to protect them after all the US government has done to the people who are indigenous here. The treatment they have endured is impossible to reconcile, more needs to be done. This book shows that more needs to be done.

Every POV is powerful in its own right, but it all comes together at the end where history, culture, life, and future meet. This book was amazingly beautiful and I can’t stop thinking about it. I took my time to read this book, and whenever I read it, I was just blown away from every person’s story that shared a piece of Ever’s life. This book showcases collective family involvement, and community support. The growth that is seen here is phenomenal, from every person, everyone grows, and it is real life. We are more the same than we think we are different. Calling For a Blanket Dance was breathtaking. I seriously got emotional throughout the whole book, watching this family survive through tragedy, struggles, obstacles, success, disappointments, and hope. We are all apart of the past, present, and future and we need each other. It is important to gather strength from our ancestors, to gather strength from the present, and to use that strength for our future. Hokeah has written an impeccable book that should not go unnoticed.

Sidenote: Per the back cover of his bio, this story make me think this fictional work is really about Oscar Hokeah… but I could be wrong. This book is just too perfect.

Highly recommend this book to everyone. 5 stars.

Thank you to Algonquin and the author Oscar Hokeah for this book in exchange for a fair and honest opinion.

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Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1)

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An epic fantasy novel that portrays a female protagonist who is on a mission, appearing to be focused solely on revenge, but we get to see an epic mission from the beginning, and it’s something that will keep you riveted beyond belief when you read this. I listened to this book, and it was so epic that I felt I had to be missing something, so I immediately followed up the audio with reading the physical copy of the book.

We see this story layered in so many ways, that this book is telling several stories at the same time. I am overwhelmed by N.K.’s brilliance, I am gobsmacked.

So here are some things I pulled from this book that hit home for me.

I feel like this book is telling the story of the entire diaspora of Black people. There is so many nods to the Black plight that it can’t be ignored. You also get msygnoir, womanism, socio-economic standings/classism, prejudice, exclusion, macro/micro-aggression, systemic racism, tokenism, enslavement, global warming/climate change, oppression, etc. I mean if you peel back many of the layers of the story, you can see all of this unfold right in front of your eyes.

I also feel this book is a retelling of the creation story in a way, as there is so much symbolism here.

However, this story starts with a woman who has come home to find her youngest son killed. She then realizes her husband is a murderer and has taken their oldest, their daughter, as he flees before the woman comes home. Her world is destroyed, literally and figuratively, as she is coming to find out. The epic journey ensues as you see an origin story that sets the tone for the rest of the book, and you just can’t peel your eyes away.

I really can’t speak much about this book because it will spoil things, but I promise you that you need to read this book.

TW: child death, murder.

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Set Boundaries, Find Peace by Nedra Glover Tawwab

Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself

Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself by Nedra Glover Tawwab

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think every young person needs to read this book, either prior to their senior year of high school or before they are 21 years old. This book is so vital to establishing, maintaining, and cultivating healthy relationships.

Growing up as a Black female child to parents who came of age in the 60s and 70s, my boundaries most often than not have been blurred or non-existent. Reading this book, I’ve also realized that my parents did not know or understand what healthy boundaries looked like for themselves, so this lesson of how to erect healthy boundaries were never shared with me as a child of the 80s. Now, well into my 40s, I’m learning and unlearning things all the time to help me heal and cope from my childhood. I also seek out resources to help me parent my own children better because I know I didn’t receive the type of healthy parenting I most likely needed to be a more well-rounded and self-sufficient individual.

Tawwab though shares through examples and experiences of some clients, how to go about setting healthy boundaries for a more positive experience in life and with others. Tawwab discusses what poor boundaries may look like, what poor relationships may feel like, and what to do about correcting the issues in your relationships and how to advocate for the boundaries you need in order to help you find the well-deserved peace you are looking for. I spent a considerable amount of time reading and writing notes to help me better understand where I am, and where I want to go after reading this book and incorporating strategies and techniques of boundary setting in my own life.

Tawwab is very clear in her message of how to do this, and it sounds so simple to do as you read, but she warns you of some of the pushback and side-effects (i.e., guilt) that may befall you as you take this journey into setting healthy boundaries. This book does not share that this is an easy process. She is almost adamant that setting boundaries is a difficult process, but necessary. I’m thankful that she did not try to sugar-coat or appease her readers thinking that this is simple to do… it is not. We have been going about our lives doing life in various modes, and this is going to be new, and it’s going to stretch you. The results though will be worth it if you stick with it. The examples she provides are real and relatable and life-changing. I can’t recommend this book enough! This book will definitely be something I will give to young people as graduation gifts or whenever. The sooner people learn how to create healthy boundaries for themselves, the happier they will be with the life they want to have.

I am a person who suffers from having unhealthy boundaries with various people in my life and this book spoke life into me! So if you are a person who knows how to say no, or how to establish boundaries with people, maybe this book might be too simplistic for you. However, to others who need to learn how to say no more definitively, who struggle with certain family members, who are not happy with various relationships they have with people and themselves, this book might be for you. I highly encourage everyone to read it, as it still can impart knowledge and refreshment to help you stay on course or help you establish a course for you to thrive on. Either way, it’s a win for me. 5 stars!

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Angel of Greenwood by Randi Pink

Angel of Greenwood

Angel of Greenwood by Randi Pink

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A historical fiction YA romance novel that shares beauty and pain in the lives of two teenagers, Angel and Isaiah. The two of them are living and growing up in Greenwood, Oklahoma; home of “Black Wall Street”, as Booker T. Washington has called this town. Due to racial tensions, segregation, and white supremacy, the Black people in Oklahoma, have carved out a plot of land for them to enjoy and reap the benefits of their labor for themselves. However, as it always goes, when Black people succeed, white supremacy decides to destroy it and take away the limited freedom Black people try to enjoy amongst themselves.

If you don’t know the background behind the bombing of Greenwood, you should definitely read up on it. One of the single deadliest killings of Black people in history, was the Tulsa Race Massacre in 1921. A mob of white men bombed 35 blocks of Greenwood, left 10,000 Black people homeless, destroyed $1.5 million in real estate and $750,00 in personal property, and up to 300 Black people were killed, in a span of 2 days, over an alleged incident where white men accused a Black man of assaulting a white woman in an elevator.

This book however, doesn’t necessarily center itself over this story, but tells a budding love story in the midst of the lead up to May 31, 1921, when the Race Massace happened. This story is supposed to share the love between these two teenagers, and how they rallied together along with others in their community to help everyone somehow survive the deadliest thing that could’ve happened to them in their lives. The author’s note in the back describes how she wanted to tell a love story of two kids falling in love without fear or pain, but also share how Black people have had to deal with white supremacy all of their lives and in all facets, to include just being Black in their own neighborhood.

This book also takes a look at the differences between Booker T. Washingon’s philosophy and W.E.B. DuBois’ philosophy in how Black people should be, live, work, and enjoy life. Booker T. Washington believed in passivity, where W.E.B. DuBois did not. Matter of fact, DuBois probably greatly disliked Booker T. Washington’s take on life. Washington believed in waiting white people out. Living peacefully and passively in hopes that the white people would reconcile their differences on their own and see how we are docile and not creating trouble, but living within our means, making life simple and easy, and learning to build our own things up from the ground. DuBois believed that being docile was being a punk, basically. That if we didn’t go out and aggressively pursue what we wanted, it would never be given. DuBois was assertive, bold, and decisive, and did not care for Washington’s philosophy. These two ideals come together when Isaiah and Angel have to work together on a bookmobile in their community. They are both passionate about what they believe is the right way to live, and at the end, they both come to an understanding of how Washington and DuBois have influenced their thinking.

Another aspect to this story is about how love is needed everywhere, and when love is not available, hate is able to creep in. It is only when you make a conscious effort to love all, you then start to understand what’s important and how to work out your differences.

For me this book started off really slow. Introducing you to Angel and Isaiah in their own way, counting down to the day in which their world comes to a complete stop. However, the counting down made me anticipate a much bigger ending than what happened, but overall, it was a decent read for YA. The book wasn’t heavy on history, which I guess is something most YA readers would enjoy, as it still gave some historical account to the deadliest event that happened to Black people in history. Yet, I really wanted to have a much better picture of the racial tensions in Tulsa during that time. There is only one incident that occurred between the white people on the other side of the tracks and the residents of Greenwood, and it seemed like the massacre just happened out of nowhere. I’m sure the white residents who could see the success of the Black people were constantly edging in on their side threatening to do something all the time, but that aspect of the atmosphere in Tulsa was not present in this book. I feel like that was a missed opportunity because the massive event seemingly came from out of nowhere.

Overall, this book was decent. It could have been so much more though, and that is something that has stuck with me since finishing this book. The ending was but a few pages, and more than half of the book was setting up who the two teenagers were in their own right. I feel like the author spent way too much of the book not dealing with the real world that was going on in Tulsa in 1921, that the ending felt rushed and underdeveloped.

I rated this a 3.5 and rounded up because it is a lovely read mostly, but I was a bit disappointed in the ending and the missing racial tensions that I’m sure was there in this community since it’s inception.

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Slip by Marika McCoola and Aatmaja Pandya


Slip by Marika McCoola

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A graphic novel that follows a teen named Jade who is going off to Art camp. However, before she arrives, she learns that her best friend Penelope has attempted suicide and is in the hospital. Jade begins to assess her emotions as she embarks on this great opportunity of having her work possibly chosen for an art scholarship, but she finds she’s unable to focus and work consistently due to the emotions she has over her friend Penelope and her attempted suicide.

This topic of suicide is very important to young adults everywhere, and adults too, but the way the writing chose to pursue Jade’s emotions over Penelope, who was actually going through the traumatic event of attempted suicide, left me feeling kind of empty. Albeit, Penelope is a teenager, and her mom was there to help navigate the situation, but it seems like the book focused on Jade’s feelings, instead of the person who was actually in need of care and attention. I personally didn’t enjoy that aspect. However, I do see a point of exploring the emotions of a friend who is close to the person going through the emotional turmoil and distress of suicidal ideation. Also, there is an unexpected romance between Jade and another student, which seemed super inappropriate as Jade hasn’t even had a chance to figure out her feelings with Penelope and the attempted suicide. The insta-romance felt rushed, and unnecessary, especially without strong character development.

The graphics were very nicely drawn, but seeing that this book also centered around an Art Camp, I would have appreciated the drawings in color, instead of the black and white. Seems like there should have been more to the art in the book due to the fact it was based around an art camp with competitive art work.

Not sure with graphic novels and character development, as there may not be enough “time or space” to discuss a ton about the various characters, but all of the characters seemed flat and uninteresting, and even a bit annoying.

To be honest, I really didn’t like the fact that the book centered around Jade’s “pain” of not knowing the signs of her friend’s attempted suicide. It didn’t seem like Jade was too concerned about Penelope, but was “suffering” because Penelope wasn’t emotionally available for Jade to go through this Art camp with her.

Though I appreciated the inclusion of queer characters, and the talk regarding suicide, the execution was poor for the work overall. 2 stars.

Topics discussed:
– Teen suicide
– Mental health

TW: attempted suicide, mention of cutting/self-harm, illustration of cutting marks.

Thank you to the publisher, Algonquin Young Reader, and the author Marika McCoola and illustrator, Aatmaja Pandya for this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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Fevered Star by Rebecca Roanhorse

Fevered Star (Between Earth and Sky, #2)

Fevered Star by Rebecca Roanhorse

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The second book in the series of Between the Earth and Sky, Fevered Star is here as the middle book in the series. I was kind of expecting the dreaded “middle book” phenomenon that sort of happens with trilogies, but this book didn’t feel so in the middle. The pacing from the beginning was spot on, the fact that Serapio has survived was amazing to read because who doesn’t love Serapio!! Xiala, Narampa, Ikthan, Balam, and the others from book one came back to fiercely rock this second book like a champ!

In this book, much backstory unfolds, and we learn more about Carrion Crow clan, Tova, Hokiaia, Narampa, The Meridian, and the politics and religious fanatics that believe everything about the Crow God. I mean, the whole of this book was great. I really appreciated the worldbuilding that Roanhorse does here, it’s near perfection! The character development is impeccable, and these people FEEL real!

Narampa’s backstory and future in this whole world was surprisingly good. I didn’t like her so much from the first book, Black Sun, but she earned my respect from her in this book.

Xiala and her backstory was much needed, as she’s so much of a mystery in the book and to the people she keeps herself around. Though there is a anticipated budding relationship with her and Serapio, it’s seems so fitting and natural, and I can’t wait to see more of them.

Serapio is everyon’e hopes and dreams. I really am liking his newfound awareness of himself, and his responsibility to the followers of the Crow God. I’m so happy that he’s “waking up” to what’s been going on in the clans and how and why people are they way they are while following this religion that he now comes to realize is possibly using him.

There were some surprises that you learn in this second book that I didn’t know I needed, but I am so glad to have read this book. This high fantasy series is going down as one of my absolute favorites. Like all things in series, that second book is mostly filler and backstory dumpster fires, but this second book is nothing like that. There is movement, and you can tell the final story is going to be an epic closer. There are still a ton of questions that I have after reading this book, but I know that Roanhorse is not going to disappoint us.

I also listened to the second book, where I read the physical copy of the first book. I think at the time of trying to read this book I wasn’t in the right frame of mind, and just had to listen to it to get through it, but when I picked up the physical second book, I started to re-read right away. This series can do that to you where you don’t get tired of what’s going on or the characters. I do wish that I had more information on the religious sect that the Crow God is under to really see and feel what these people feel, but maybe we will get more in the third book. Looking back at the first and now second book, it seems very extremist to dedicate and mold a young boy into the Crow God and him not really understand his exact purpose and why… he has went along with this for all his life, and only now that he’s still alive after assuring him that his purpose is to die, still has him wondering what most of all this is for. The third book is definitely going to be interesting in closing up many of the lose ties from the second book.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this entire series to everyone. 4 stars.

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My Seven Black Fathers by Will Jawando

My Seven Black Fathers: The Men Who Made Me Whole

My Seven Black Fathers: The Men Who Made Me Whole by Will Jawando

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a love letter to Black youth and Black men all around. This book details Will Jawando’s life and the impact that seven men had on his upbringing, who shaped and molded him to be the man he is today. This book is awe inspiring, authentic, and necessary.

Jawando shares his touching memoir with us in a deeply personal, and engaging way, that you become heavily and emotionally invested in his life, and how these men inspired, crafted, and shaped Will’s perspective on life, and his journey into social justice. One of the messages I got from reading his memoir was: “Be Bold. Be Brave. Be Authentic.” His mentors and friends ingrained this into him at such an early age, that Will began to see the fruits of these relationships on him over time. His mother, may or may not have understood the need for these seven Black fathers in his life, but she knew enough that he needed to be surrounded by men who could give him the things he needed, that he may not have been able to receive from her, being a white woman, and his African father who was not emotionally equipped at the time to provide what was lacking.

Being raised in an African American community myself, I saw the value and importance of raising a child up in the village. It is paramount to Black children that they are raised in a village or with a village mindset because it will only enrich our lives exponentially. The struggles his mother faced in trying to get him the right education, surrounding him and exposing him to culture-rich activities, keeping him engaged with his father despite the struggles they faced as a family, raising him up with someone who could relate to his ethnicity, were all done with such care and thoughtfulness, that Will was set up to succeed, and that was a blessing to see his life unfold the way it was able to do. The value of mentoring and community raising is not lost here, but explained in a first-hand way that you cannot ignore the value of Black male mentors to our Black youth. If every Black male had seven Black fathers to help them in this thing called life, Black youth would be/could be raised in such a way that everyone would benefit. Though these mentors are just a part of his life, what Will does with this knowledge he receives from these men, help to propel him into a successful career and life. His choices and opportunities become endless for him, and he reaps all the seeds that were placed in his life at an early age.

This memoir has been different from other past memoirs I’ve read. For some reason or other, this memoir seems intricately complete and lacking nothing. We see Will during his ups and his downs. He doesn’t shy away or hide the ugly parts of his life, but uses those weak areas as a means for greater good, for a learning opportunity, and strategically recalls things that can be helpful for others like him. He also exposes us to the very real dangers of racism, prejudice, and institutional racism and their effects it has on Black youth, Black boys in particular. It was especially disheartening to read about his struggles in parochial education, and how his behaviors were always punished whereas the whites were praised for the same/similar things Will did. He talked about the struggles of being the only child in a bi-racial family, and his need to reconnect to his African family to get a better sense of who he was, and from what he came from. He spoke about his father’s struggles with depression, racism, foreignness to America’s issues, and his failures.

One quote that stuck with me: “All American children need meaningful ties to their heritage, but Black children need it urgently. Knowing who and where you come from is the history our children need to make them resilient in the face of racist miseducation.”

Although many readers will understand the overarching them of the importance of role models, mentors and community for children in general, it is especially important that Black youth (specifically Black boys) be provided these opportunities to have Black male teachers in school, black mentors they trust in the community, trusted adults who can expose them to things and ideas that are different than what they are used to; all of this is so deeply needed for the change we want to see in our nation and entire world.

A parting message for those who have considered being a mentor, a teacher, or role model to the youth: “Mentors don’t have to be involved in every aspect of someone’s life to make a difference. Nor do mentors have to be a constant presence to have a deep impact.” Your willingness to be there when it counts is enough. The youth will see you. The youth need you in any capacity you are willing to give. Having trusted adults connected to young Black children is worth it in any capacity because it is just that necessary.

I highly recommend this book to everyone. 5 stars.

Thank you to Ferrar, Straus and Giroux (FSG), Coriolis, and the author, Will Jawando, for this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

***The way many of these white reviewers have 1 starred his book is exactly the vitriol that was spewed at him during his parochial education. Those reviews make the case that many Black authors have shared. No matter the story or content, there will always be those white people who try to demean, diminish, and take giant steps into the past against their own interest. Will Jawando has done more and have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt his worth despite the naysayers and racists. His success only helps us all. He is for the people and betterment of his community for all. To try and diminish his work is beyond sickening.

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