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This lovely, heartfelt debut deals with issues we don't confront often in middle grade fiction, specifically internalized racism passed down through generations (hence the comparison to Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye), as it examines our cultural standards of beauty and what damage those standards can do to the self-esteem and dignity of young people. Genesis doesn't pass "the paper bag test" her family uses to determine beauty and suitability--she's dark and her hair refuses straightening--some of the most excruciating moments come when she's torturing herself to unkink her hair and lighten her skin.
Genesis is also dealing with a dishonest, alcoholic father whom she adores and whose approval she's desperate for, but Williams does a deft job of threading in the father's backstory so we can empathize with what brought him to this pass. Thankfully, Genesis does have others she can lean on -- her practical and loving mother, a music teacher who recognizes her talent for singing and who brings her out of her shell by passing her recordings of Etta James and Billie Holiday, and a boy who who supports her to resist her bullying peers and go her own way.
This book is getting a lot of attention for its frank look at external and internalized racism, deservedly so. Highly recommended.
Sometimes you come across a book that encompasses so much of the human condition, it speaks to your entire soul. Genesis Begins again is one of those books. While this story follows the journey of Genesis specifically and the many ways she hates herself, I believe the author tells this story in such a way as to speak to anyone who has ever felt 'less than' in one way or another. I also loved that she tackled the difficult conversation of blackness from within the black community. It's clearly a topic people within the community need to address, but as a white reader, I learned a lot from this glimpse at Genesis's life. Thank you to Mrs. Williams for sharing Genesis with the world. I can't wait to read your next offering!
Thirteen-year-old Genesis struggles with her family's financial troubles and her father's alcoholism, and now she's forced to attend a new school in a mostly white suburb of Detroit. Navigating unfamiliar waters is a challenge for Genesis, who also is self-conscious about - and deeply unhappy with - the color of her skin; specifically, how dark she is compared to her beautiful, light-skinned mother. As the story unfolds, Genesis discovers the meaning of self-acceptance with the help of new friends, a caring teacher, and music. Always... music. A powerful, gorgeously written debut with heart and humor. Highly recommended!
It’s always nice when you find a new favorite book, and I knew partway through reading GENESIS BEGINS AGAIN by Alicia D. Williams that I was reading a new favorite. This middle grade novel is heartbreaking but also realistic. I read it as an audiobook, which is read by the author, and I loved every second of it. It’s easy to get into the story and become enamored by our main character Genesis. This novel explores intergenerational trauma and the cycle of bad choices and bad parenting that end of affecting children generations later. It also pays homage and shows appreciation of how Black music has a history of healing and guidance for those who feel sad, lost, and alone. This book features an emotionally abusive parent, self-hate, colorism, and alcoholism in a parent, which can be heavy topics, but I found Williams’ handling of them to be appropriate without being watered down. I loved this book so much I bought two copies for my classroom.
Music, family, friendship, belonging. This beautiful book had it all. A great middle grade story about the pressure to fit in and how kids juggle life at home and school. A beautiful read that I loved so much I immediately passed it on (it was hard to part with!) to a middle school educator to get in the right child’s hands. Adult or young person, this is a must-read.
Purchased this book and a few others for my 11 year old daughter as a summer read and she definitely enjoyed the entire book. She could relate to the teasing Genesis experienced so it was relatable for her age range.
This was such a powerful book! As the step-mom of a biracial daughter and an educator of middle and high school students, I reas this book with interest, but sadness. As I walk into the school...as I talk with my daughter...I can’t help but think about and wonder how much they all carry under the surface. This book makes me want to do a better job of trying to empathize with their pain that they never talk about.