A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Genesis Begins Again, the debut novel by Alicia D. Williams, received a 2020 Newbery Honor and the 2020 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent (Author). It's about a 13-year-old African American girl in Detroit who learns to love herself despite two main problems: her father's gambling and alcohol addictions, which lead to the family's repeated evictions, and her family's "tradition" of prizing the light skin of her mother and grandmother and looking down on the dark skin of Genesis and her father. There are some potentially disturbing scenes of Genesis trying to lighten her skin by rubbing lemons on it, scrubbing herself raw with exfoliant, bathing in bleach, and using commercial skin-bleaching creams. There's occasional strong language by the parents ("damn," "hell," "Oh, God!" ) and slurs and mean nicknames about people's skin color.
What's the story?
In the opening chapter of GENESIS BEGINS AGAIN, 13-year-old Genesis has finally gotten the cool girls to come to her house in Detroit. When they arrive, her family's furniture is outside and there's a lock on the door. They've been evicted -- again. Her father gambled away the rent money. Her mother takes them to stay at her grandmother's. Her father shows up, saying he has a new job, and his boss will rent them his nice home in the suburbs. In her new school, Genesis discovers different kinds of people: kids who don't tease her about being "too black" and teachers who help her discover her smarts and talents. Her new surroundings and eccentric group of friends help Genesis begin to love herself and gain some understanding of her parents, too.
Is it any good?
This uplifting story shows a middle school girl getting though family problems, discovering her unique talent, and moving beyond concerns about her skin color to finally love herself. Author Alicia D. Williams is a teacher, and it shows. In Genesis Begins Again, she does a great job capturing the way young teens think and act like adults one moment and like children the next. For example, when Genesis realizes neither of her parents is effective in breaking the cycle of hope and eviction, she takes matters into her own hands: She heads out to her father's job site to try and work something out with the boss-landlord. Yet once she gets on the bus, she becomes afraid at taking such a long ride by herself and relies on the driver for direction and reassurance. The other middle-schoolers also seem authentic in what excites them and what makes them upset.
Williams also does a good job of showing how parents look through their kids' eyes. Genesis' gradual understand ing of her parents' humanity is moving.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about "the paper bag test" described in Genesis Begins Again. Why do you think it was so hurtful to the people in Genesis' family? How is "colorism" related to racism?
In music, Genesis finds comfort, connection with others, and a talent. What kinds of things help you feel better when you're sad or angry? What are some special things you share with your parents and grandparents? What are you really good at?
Genesis' friend Sophia has a condition that makes her feel very anxious when the paper towels run out or her desk isn't lined up with the marks on the floor. What does it mean to have a mental illness?
- Author: Alicia D. Williams
- Genre: Family Life
- Topics: Friendship, Middle School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Atheneum Books For Young Readers
- Publication date: January 15, 2019
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 9 - 13
- Number of pages: 384
- Available on: Hardback, Kindle
- Awards: ALA Best and Notable Books, Coretta Scott King Medal and Honors, Newbery Medal and Honors
- Last updated: February 4, 2020
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