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Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America

Book review by
Barbara Saunders, Common Sense Media
Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America Book Poster Image
Realistic, compelling coming-of-age stories of black teens.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Lots of historical information and current social topics woven into stories that encourage young people to think critically about what they believe "blackness" is, how it came to be, and how it's evolving. There's a vast array of believable characters managing diverse challenges and triumphs.

Positive Messages

Loyalty is the key to happiness. Be loyal to your friends. Stand up for them and make them laugh. Be loyal to your family, your heritage, and even your pets. But most of all, be loyal to yourself. Embrace who you are and the unique set of things you love, whether that includes horses or computers or heavy metal music. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Presents very diverse black teens in a positive light. There are immigrants and descendants of enslaved people, teens who work in the mall and teens who compete in computer hackathons, individuals with loving family relationships and individuals with frayed family relationships. There are positive representations of gay and lesbian characters. Stories are set in many different regions of the country and in both urban and rural places. In most of the stories, the main character handles an ethical dilemma, some heroically. There are a few instances of negative behaviors presented casually, as mischief, including pot smoking (at work), stealing, and "sexting."

Violence

One story has a graphic description of human bodies after drowning, with hints about suicide. There's an account of a sexual assault: A girl goes off to a private place with a boy and comes back with bruises and torn clothing. One story deals with losing a friend in a fatal car accident.

Sex

Many of the stories include some mention of dating or romantic crushes, including same-sex attraction and relationships. A boy and girl kiss and caress under their clothes, above the waist; the boy chooses to stop it from going further because he believes the girl is "too special." A boy describes waking from a dream about his male love interest with an erection and "sticky" shorts. In one story, kids take naked photos on their phones and share them. 

Language

Some stories have strong language in dialogue, including "s--t" and "f--k."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Several mentions are made of parents who are or were alcoholics and whose alcoholism negatively affects themselves, the family, or the main character. A group of teens smokes pot in a bathroom mall where they work.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America is a compelling anthology of short stories about adolescents of African descent, immigrant and native born, living in different parts of the United States. Editor Ibi Zoboi (American StreetPride), invited black authors to contribute coming-of-age fiction. The authors include Jason Reynolds, Renée Watson, Tochi Onyebuchi, Kekla Magoon, Nic Stone, and Rita Williams- Garcia. These pieces portray young black Americans from a variety of religious, class, family, and educational backgrounds. One story contains a graphic description of human bodies after drowning, with hints about suicide. Another deals with losing a friend in a fatal car accident. There's one account of a sexual assault: A girl goes off to a private place with a boy and comes back with bruises and torn clothing. Stories explore dating and crushes, same- and opposite-sex attraction and relationships. There is a relatively detailed description of a boy and girl kissing and caressing under clothes, above the waist. A boy describes waking from a dream about his male love interest with an erection and "sticky" shorts. In one story, kids take naked photos on their phones and share them. There are several mentions of parents who are or were alcoholics and whose alcoholism negatively affects themselves, the family, or the main character. Some stories include infrequent strong language in dialogue, including "s--t" and "f--k."

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What's the story?

BLACK ENOUGH: STORIES OF BEING YOUNG & BLACK IN AMERICA, edited by Ibi Zoboi, is a collection of 17 short stories about young black people written by black authors. The stories portray teens encountering serious and not-so-serious events, from losing a friend in a fatal car accident to choosing what sandwiches to have for lunch. The teens explore not only their racial identity but also sexual awakening, academic choices, and relationships with family and friends.

Is it any good?

There's so much to love about this collection! Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America offers a range of literary voices -- lyrical first-person monologue, fantasy, humor, and more. It portrays a variety of types of people and shows empathy for all of them. Though controversial topics are covered, the focus stays clearly on how the young people navigate the personal and ethical dilemmas in their lives; there are no soapboxes.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • What does it mean to be Black Enough or "not black enough"? How does this question come up in the lives of the characters in the stories? Has this question come up in your life or in the life of someone you know?

  • The stories in Black Enough were all written by black authors. How do you think that affected the stories they wrote? How does the fact that the authors are black influence your perception of the stories they tell?

  • In some stories, the character's main problem is about race, like whether to attend a historically black college or how to make friends in a town where almost everyone else is white. In others, it's about romance, a relationship with a parent, or coming out as gay or lesbian. In the stories not about race, do you think the character's "blackness" matters to the story? If so, how? If not, why not?

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Themes & Topics

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For kids who love coming-of-age tales and African American stories

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