Genesis has taken hating herself to a new level: she has a long list of reasons she can’t stand herself and she’s adding to it every day. She gets help, too: from her father, who can’t help commenting in his drunken rants on how she had to end up dark like him instead of light like her beautiful mother, to the kids at school who’ve covered every cruel name for her dark skin. Genesis has a hard time making friends anyway. Every time she starts to settle into a school, her dad messes up again and they’re put out on the street, furniture and all. She really hopesklkkjkloilkoikl, that things are about to change. They’re in a gorgeous new house that she just adores. She seems to be making a genuine friend at school, and her math tutor Troy sure is a cutie. Her mother has given her father an ultimatum – join AA or she’s packing up and taking Genesis with her. And the music teacher at school has taken a shine to her, letting Genesis borrow albums of legendary women like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, women whose songs seem to capture the feelings Genesis holds deep in her heart. But still, she can’t help but want to change. Still, she tries every method she reads about on transforming her dark skin. And still, her dad cuts her deep. And her list of self-hates marches steadily toward 100 reasons to hate Genesis Anderson.
What a heartbreaking book! My first exposure to what colorism is was in that great episode of Black-ish a couple seasons back, and this book takes on the results of that head-on. A lot of teenage girls are self-critical, but Genesis takes self-loathing to a new level, and who can blame her when her own family and community can be so cruel? Her father is a real piece of work – alcoholism contributes to this, as does his own obvious self-hatred. And Genesis’ grandmother also contributes, regularly criticizing Genesis’s father and sharing her family’s preferred method of “marrying up” into light skinned families. Genesis gets to the point of self-harm in some of her methods to rid herself of her dark complexion and it’s pretty devastating to read.
Luckily, this story focuses on the year that may make a change for her. She finds confidence in her vocal talents, and I love that jazz is what she leans into. She finds friends dealing with their own demons who find her beautiful as is (and step in when she crosses the line in trying to change herself). It is hard to read for most of the book, but has a good payoff.
Any middle schooler struggling with self-confidence will recognize themselves in Genesis, even if her specific experience is an eye opener to them.