Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America
Ibi Zoboi + 17 authors
Black Enough is a star-studded anthology edited by National Book Award finalist Ibi Zoboi that will delve into the closeted thoughts, hidden experiences, and daily struggles of black teens across the country. From a spectrum of backgrounds—urban and rural, wealthy and poor, mixed race, immigrants, and more—Black Enough showcases diversity within diversity.
Whether it’s New York Times bestselling author Jason Reynolds writing about #blackboyjoy or Newbery Honor-winning author Renee Watson talking about black girls at camp in Portland, or emerging author Jay Coles’s story about two cowboys kissing in the south—Black Enough is an essential collection full of captivating coming-of-age stories about what it’s like to be young and black in America.
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: January 8th 2019
I don’t read many anthologies. As a matter of fact, I’ve only read two, including this one. And I’d call this particular one special. I can definitely find pieces of myself and my experiences in each of these stories, which probably is what led me to connect with it in general.
The Introduction – Ibi Zoboi ✰✰✰✰✰
Easiest five stars out of the bunch. I got a lot of emotions from this, it put into words what I’ve been feeling for the longest. The social construct of blackness, the different multitudes of it and Zoboi hiding a part of her that made her who she was just to fit in— so much was said that I, until recently, couldn’t articulate.
Half a Moon – Renée Watson ✰✰✰✰
TW – Fat Shaming
This was sweet, slow and again, relatable. Me being the youngest of three by a sizable amount of years and not being that close to my siblings, I shared the sentiment of what would it feel like to have a younger sibling? Someone who looked up to me and someone I could connect with?
But it’s also about letting go of anger and healing. Of noticing the hurt in others and empathizing. It was beautiful.
Black Enough – Varian Johnson ✰✰✰✰
TW – Police Brutality
This story was one I actually felt. Living in a predominantly white area, you feel so removed from it all; it’s not that you don’t care, but you’re not close enough to be touched by the situation. It’s easy to be oblivious.
And the fact that the main character realized what his willful ignorance is seen by those around him and made steps to change it, it felt like a fleshed out story despite the length. Add the touches of feminism and feeling like you don’t belong because of your differences and the message is deep.
Warning: Color May Fade – Leah Henderson ✰✰✰
This one was slower and a bit more boring; the main character going to a predominantly white school and getting her art stolen was a fine story if not a little monotonous. Yet, the ambition and twist at the end really sold me… So I’m conflicted.
Black. Nerd. Problems – Lamar Giles ✰✰✰✰✰
Another five stars… I don’t know, maybe because I’m a black nerd myself or because Shawn is so charming, but this was such a feel good story that made me happy and laugh. There was no black struggle plot, it was just a bunch of people working at the mall going through their day and it was fun.
Out of the Silence – Kekla Magoon ✰✰✰✰
This was strangely touching for me. The main character figuring out her sexuality through this firecracker of a girl and not really knowing how to deal with it… I could even go deeper and see the message of the outlook of queerness in the black community and how hard it is to actually come out, but I won’t reach.
Luckily, there’s no bury your gays trope (we don’t actually find out if the dead girl is gay which I thought was brilliant), but it was still a touching read.
The Ingredients – Jason Reynolds ✰✰✰
There’s not really a plot to this— it’s four boys hanging out during the summer and talking about food. I could go deeper and discuss poverty and dreams vs. reality, but this was a feel good, light story.
Oreo – Brandy Colbert ✰✰✰✰
Internalized hate is a big message here— the line about how your people are usually the hardest on themselves really got to me in a way that made me speculate and reflect on things in my life because it makes so much sense.
But the story in general, of leaving where you’re from and coming back changed, people thinking you’re different or you think you’re better. I think the word Oreo has affected most black person at some point in their lives and this story fleshes that and family really well.
Samson and the Delilahs – Tochi Onyebuchi ✰✰✰
This was a little confusing in the beginning and I didn’t really connect to it, but … finding metal music and wanting to learn more about heritage was touching… I got it.
Girl, Stop Playing – Liara Tamani ✰✰.5
I don’t really know how to feel about this one. Character development was cool and the message of self worth and body positivity was a great inclusion, but I couldn’t really connect with this one as much. There’s also a bit of girl hate that gets remedied in the end, but… this was just fine.
Wild Horses, Wild Hearts – Jay Coles ✰✰
I don’t really have much to say about this one. By the look of my rating, I didn’t care for it much.
I appreciate the queer rep and the message of going against the bigotry that surrounds you, but this one felt the least developed of the stories so far?
The ending was kind of confusing as well, but I did clock out a bit, so that could be my fault.
Whoa! – Rita Williams-Garcia ✰✰✰
This one was just okay, the lack of plot made me focus on the conversation between the main character and the slave in his water basin, but that was confusing in itself.
Dante didn’t really learn anything from the conversation, so… the conflict in the end was lackluster? But the conversation was entertaining, so there’s that.
Gravity – Tracey Baptiste ✰✰✰.5
TW – Sexual Assault, Victim Blaming
The way the story was told was really interesting, in the span of seconds, we go through the reflection the main character has of immigration and expectations and condemning victims.
The she asked for it mentality and getting out of a situation without provoking the assaulter is seriously explored quite well.
The Trouble with Drowning – Dhonielle Clayton ✰✰✰
TW – Suicide
The discussion of mental health is important, yet I couldn’t connect with this story much. It took a while for me to actually understand what was happening; it was confusing until the very end, but once I finally understood, I liked the way the story was told in this Magical Realism way.
Kissing Sarah Smart – Justine Ireland ✰✰✰✰
TW – Mentions of Suicide Attempts, Homophobia, Racism
This was a sweet sapphic romance with discussions of mental illness and it was really heartwarming despite the darker topics being explored. I really loved how comfortable the main character was with her sexuality, despite staying in this conservative town, I don’t think I was in the mood for a coming out story, so girls loving each other made me happy.
There’s even healthy sex talk, challenging the heteronormative standards of sex. It was just thrown out there organically and I’m a fan.
Hackathon Summers – Coe Booth ✰✰✰.5
This one had a strange melancholy vibe to it? Take the abusive home Garry had to live in and the message of finding your place and yourself, but his relationship with the love interest who’s a Black Muslim felt sadly final, especially with that ending.
And speaking on the ending… no spoilers, but I have some uncomfortable questions about it? Just to clear some things up.
Into the Starlight – Nic Stone ✰✰✰✰✰
TW – Internalized prejudice
Yes, this gets a five stars just on the cuteness alone. We have a guy who a Percy Jackson fan, but has kind of a bad wrap? There’s a discussion of subverting stereotypes (which the author seems to be GREAT at writing) and it ended up giving me a lot of feelings.
Can we get a full book on this? Thanks.
The (R)Evolution of Nigeria Jones – Ibi Zoboi ✰✰✰
This story may have made me uneasy, not only because of my fear of cults, but because I’ve seen this before. This mentality and this sort of community is something I’ve come encountered with, so I understand where the main characters are coming from.
If I didn’t connect with any other element of the story, I can understand Nigeria’s want of escape from a lifestyle that doesn’t have all the answers and relies on blind trust of one person running the whole operation.
So, as the anthology went on, it started to lag and I wasn’t connecting to the stories. I still stand by me being able to find a little piece of myself in each of these stories, but things started going downhill.
This is still one of my favored anthologies and I can definitely see myself coming back to it.