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For Black Girls Like Me

Book review by
Barbara Saunders, Common Sense Media
For Black Girls Like Me Book Poster Image
Black girl in white family finds her voice in moving novel.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Readers learn about living with a parent who has mental illness as well as about the challenges of transracial adoption.

Positive Messages

To find your place in life, know who you love and who loves you.

Positive Role Models & Representations

This is the story of a young black girl adopted by a white couple. The family lives in New Mexico, where they encounter Spanish-speaking individuals from Mexico and Central America. Mixed-raced people are also featured. Though racial tensions lead to some mean talk in several interactions, all characters are depicted positively overall. 

Violence

A mom attempts suicide via alcohol and pills; the sisters find her "bluing" and call 911. Intense scenes of family arguments. On several occasions, kids in school are mean to one another, including girls at school using racial slurs.

Sex
Language

Girls call Keda the "N" word. Keda says mean, bigoted things to Mexican girls.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Keda's mother, Anna, who has bipolar disorder, drinks heavily during an episode of depression and attempts to kill herself using alcohol and prescription pills. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that For Black Girls Like Me, by Mariama Lockington, is about an 11-year-old African American girl adopted by white parents. The family moves from Maryland to New Mexico due to the father's job as a musician. There's a detailed description of the mother's descent into her mental illness, including excessive drinking and use of prescription pills. There are intense family arguments and a suicide attempt. Racial tensions show up as mean and racist talk. The "N" word is used.

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What's the story?

As FOR BLACK GIRLS LIKE ME begins, Keda, her sister, and her mother are on the road from Maryland to their new home in New Mexico, where the father, has started a new job. Keda is adopted and black. Her father, Daniel, and mother, Anna, are white, and Keda's sister, Eve, is the biological daughter of the parents. Keda misses her best friend, Lena, another black girl with white parents; the two of them make a pact to keep up a correspondence and eventually communicate through a private blog called "Questions I Have For Black Girls Like Me." When a girl in the public school calls Keda the "N" word and a teacher dismisses her attempt to report it, Anna pulls both girls out of school and says she'll homeschool them. It turns out that there's more to Anna's impulsive behavior than protecting her children. Her behavior becomes increasingly erratic and dangerous, and she's eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder. 

Is it any good?

This moving novel is a beautiful testament to the power of family, love, and friendship to triumph over hardship. Mariama Lockington's For Black Girls Like Me shows a family in serious crisis who are still able to connect deeply through their love of music and willingness to have uncomfortable conversations. Lockington is a poet, and she displays that gift throughout the book in Keda's poems, lyrics, and dreams of a chorus of women. Occasionally, the author's technique of breaking up sentences like lines of poetry can be distracting.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how mental illness is described in For Black Girls Like Me. How soon do you realize that Anna's behavior is more than just quirky? How does the author leave clues about what is going on?

  • Keda and Lena share the unusual situation of being the black adopted daughters in white families. How does their friendship help them cope with the disappointments in family life?

  • How does Keda's relationship with her sister, Eve, their relationships with their parents, and being in a multiracial family affect their lives?

Book details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love stories about adoption and tales of mental illness

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