Nowhere Girl by Cheryl Diamond

Nowhere Girl: A Memoir of a Childhood on the Run

Nowhere Girl: A Memoir of a Childhood on the Run by Cheryl Diamond

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So I’m going to play on the fence with this one. This is, “when fake it til you make it” goes wrong.

This book was WILD! Born into a family, a decade into being, international outlaws; the book starts off at a rapid pace. We are quite literally in the middle of a horrific car scene, where a family of 5 are careening down the Himalayan mountains without any breaks.

This is the story of a young girl, who’s earliest memories are around 4 or 5, that is documenting her life in chronological age, as she recounts her life on the run as outlaws with her parents. The story is truly mesmerizing and engaging, full of action and drama, and suspense. I was fully drawn in by her story, that I couldn’t put the book down. Learning about her family, living life on pure cash, fleeing country to country, and pushing life to the very edge in order to evade authorities.

There is a lot to unpack here in this story, however. Her father, a megalomaniac, who physically and emotionally abuses them, pushes them all to be the best of themselves at all things, but deprives them of emotional support, is forcefully urging his family to run from authorities for nearly 3 decades.

We see this family’s story being told from the youngest child’s perspective, Harbajan, starting with her first memory at age 4. Told in chronological order, we see her harrowing life in a family on the run, and the several escapades and situations that come upon them as they live through the 80s, 90’s, and early 2000’s.

Topics to discuss:
– Megalomania
– Emotional abuse
– Physical abuse
– Sexual abuse
– Mental illness
– Generational trauma
– Helicopter/Detached parenting
– Lack of stability

Diamond (not her real name obviously) gives us front-row access to the behind the scenes of her parents’ illegal operation. We are literally hand in hand with her on this entire journey. Excited, scared, bewildered, and shocked right along with her as we read this visceral account of her childhood.

Yet, as I was nearing the end of the book, a thought dawned on me. What if this memoir is a con? She has been taught directly how to con people for a living. Seeing that she was in financial distress, this book could all be a con? These stories she tells us in chronological order could all be a scam, and we’re all being scammed? Her story is unbelievable. Straight from the movies, unbelievable. If this is true, she has had one heck of a life. However, her credibility is definitely in question seeing how she has professionally been able to keep up a lie for the majority of her life. They’re lives were very extravagant, strict, and orderly despite the abruptness and spontaneity that they lived on. She has impeccable memory, from these small details at the age of 4 up until her mid/late-20s. It’s hard to believe that this family of 5 lived via cash only through the 80s and 90s evading the law. If this is all true, this is an amazing journey that shows a side of humanity we don’t get to see too often.

However, this exciting lifestyle, though it may seem, is very sad. Diamond and her siblings never see stability in their childhood. They are prohibited from being normal in any sense of the word, and they are constantly on edge from having to lie and fake it through everything in their lives. The cost of having to leave people, things, memories, lives, etc. constantly weighs on them all, until it hits a breaking point. Where do you go when you can’t go anywhere? This is the life of Cheryl Diamond. Would recommend, 4 stars.

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Miseducated by Brandon P. Fleming

Miseducated: My Journey

Miseducated: My Journey by Brandon P. Fleming

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. This is a helluva story.

Brandon reminds me of people from my same hood. People from my high school. People that others counted out and gave up on.

“Black youth, no matter how gifted or talented, miss out on opportunities because their family’s earning power is less than their white classmates’. Lack of access, not lack of ability, often keeps Black people from accomplishing what they could in a more equitable world.”

This definitely rings true for me and others who grew up in ‘the hood.’ We were very Black and talented kids, who had no resources or access to programs that could take us away from our environment and/or provide us with the necessary exposure to get ahead in life. If you got out of the hood, you were an exception; not the norm.

Brandon tells the story of many young Black kids, who needed direction, support, and accountability while growing up. He experienced a life of pain, suffering, despair, hopelessness by the hands of the ones who were supposed to protect him. However, because of the vicious cycle of domestic violence and substance abuse, and lack of parental support, Brandon turned to the only things that could be there for him when he needed it.

Many topics discussed in this book:
– Systemic racism
– Domestic violence
– Substance abuse
– Parenting
– Black male/youth stigmas
– Imposter syndrome
– Mental health
– Micro/Macro Aggression
– Self-worth

His story is a story of inspiration. People say they don’t believe in God or a higher power, they are crazy! God is making qualified people every single day. He is moving mountains. He is performing miracles. He is protecting and providing, loving and blessing. Though the human being has natural sinful tendencies, along with free will, we are then subjected to the free will of all people. That includes the violence and abuse that befalls us. The world is broken, and for that, all I can say is God grants us mercy and blessings daily. Trust in Him that all will turn out well eventually because he has a plan for all of this.

Brandon is no exception. God had, and still has, a plan for his life. Through all the trouble he went through, God saw him through. He showed up for Brandon on numerous occasions, and it just goes to show that you should not count someone out. Even if you are counting yourself out, God is not willing to count you out.

Brandon’s story should be shared across the globe because if he can do it, and learn to shift his thinking, and practice his deficiencies, and learn how to hone skills, others have the capacity to do so as well. Young Black men and women, need support, resources, access, belief, self-esteem, and self-confidence to push themselves past that comfortable threshold. It is no secret that we grow through painful experiences, but if you can channel those experiences and failures into opportunities, you will become amazing! Having the right support system is vital to young Black youth, and teachers and those who have a direct link to young people should definitely feel encouraged because a word, or a hug, or a nod, can make a difference in some person’s life when they need it most.

Brandon is living his dream, and living his life on purpose and this book made me so proud of the growth he accomplished within himself. God used his circumstances to build him up, and I’m just amazed at what God can do with a person who counted even himself down and out. This book was stellar, and I highly encourage young teens and also adults to read his story. Don’t give up on yourself! Keep pushing. There will be a breakthrough eventually!

The language and vernacular that Brandon uses in this book immediately transported me back home, to my block, to my street, and to my friends I grew up with. I felt like he was a homeboy that I could easily relate with while reading this book. I know Black people are not a monolith, but I swear we were all raised the same! I laughed, I cried, I was angry, I was emotional, I was pensive, I was anxious… I mean, I ran through the entire gamut of emotions in this book, and I loved every minute of Brandon P. Fleming’s story. 5 stars.

Side note: The use of the word n*gga is used quite often in this book. The word is used in AAVE to describe a host of things, as it is used in this book.

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War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi

War Girls (War Girls, #1)

War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my first introduction to Tochi Onyebuchi. I was quite impressed with this book for the most part because of the very nature of this type of work it represents. It being, that it’s a West African Dystopian Sci-Fi war thriller. I mean, when has that ever been done??

This book has some Wakanda, Terminator (Sarah Conner emphasis), Guardians of the Galaxy vibes all through this, and it made for some great action scenes.

The story is told in a side-by-side view of Onyii and Ify, who are two young women that have bonded as sisters through this war ravaged country. They have lived under the radar for some time, and now, war has visited upon them again, and the two of them will have some pretty unique situations that will test their sisterly bond.

Onyebuchi takes this time to educate his readers on the Nigeria and Republic of Biafra, civil war. I had previously read about the Biafran civil war in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book, Half of a Yellow Sun, that focused on individual people that were affected by the war that started in 1967. However, Tochi’s perspective and how he weaves the devastating history of this civil war in Nigeria, is masterful. He brings in a historical fiction aspect and melds it with a contemporary, futuristic, and dystopian aspect that works very well in this story.

There is a constant revisiting of the past that occurs in this book, which may be metaphorical, as Nigerians and Igbo people constantly look back at this war and the loss of documentation in this period and wonder what happened.

The story of Onyii and Ify was very touching. I really liked their dynamic and what each of them brought to the story. I enjoyed Onyebuchi’s inclusion of diverse, fluid and inclusive relationships. I would have liked to see more character development in the lesser known characters, such as the ‘War Girls’ that was in Onyii’s clique. Especially, Chinelo and Adaedze. I think they’re backstories would have been a great asset in this book.

Some of the action/war scenes were a bit too long and overdone, but the story kept pace and progressed throughout without too much delay for my reading preference. Some characters kind of fell off or died off without too much notice, but because the character development wasn’t totally 3D, then as a reader you may not have noticed anyways and don’t realize that this person isn’t there anymore.

I really enjoyed the feminism perspective in this story. Usually when you think about war, you think about men going off to war. It was really engaging to see women go off to war, and be involved in the murder and mayhem that goes on and for it to be completely normal and expected. The ending kind of threw me for a loop, but I’m expecting that the next installment will hopefully tie up any loose ends, my lingering questions, and also bring in more character development.

I loved the twists and turns the plot took, and I’m really looking forward to the next installment of Onyii and Ify. Solid 4 stars.

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