Wednesday, January 09, 2019

#WNDB Wednesday- Genesis Begins Again

Williams, Alicia D. Genesis Begins Again
January 15th 2019 by Simon and Schuster/Atheneum
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Genesis' family often falls on hard times. Her father has an industrial job, her mother cares for the elderly, and they have  been evicted from four different homes in the Detroit area. During the last eviction, Genesis had brought home girls from school whom she hoped to impress, but this of course backfires. Her father, who is an extremely problematic alcoholic who is not very kind to Genesis, surprises her and her mother with a fancy house he has rented in the wealthy suburb of Farmington Hills. While she likes the new place, Genesis worries that they can't possibly make the rent, and she also worries about going to the new school with predominately white students. Genesis is very dark complected, and is self-conscious in the extreme about this, especially when other students call her names such as "Charcoal" and "Eggplant". She also doesn't like her hair. Her mother is very light, and her grandmother seems to blame all of the father's problems on his dark complexion, and makes it very clear to Genesis that her mother would have done better for herself had she married a man with a skin tone closer to her own light one. As a result, Genesis tries a lot of dangerous ways to lighten her skin-- scrubbing it raw, using lemon juice, and even pouring bleach in her bath. Luckily, at her new school she is able to make friends with Sophia, who has trouble with other students because of the way her OCD manifests itself. She is also glad to find a friend in Troy, a self-proclaimed "black nerd" who is as dark as she is and is tutoring her in math. Genesis thinks she has a friend in Yvette, who invites her to sing with her group in the talent show and who relaxes Genesis' hair, but in the end, Yvette is not as supportive as she seems. The family is in danger of losing their house yet again, and there are destructive secrets being kept, but in the end, the family is able to work together to get back on the right track.
Strengths: There are very few books dealing with perceptions of black complexion (I can only think of Flake's The Skin I'm In (2007) and Magoon's Camo Girl (2011)), and it's good to see a new one. The feeling of Detroit and its environs is very strong and well done. Genesis' attempts to solve her family's difficult problems are heartbreaking, but also very realistic. It's nice that she has a supportive teacher at school. While the conversation about complexion with her grandmother is cringeworthy, it's also historically accurate and very interesting. It's good that Genesis' mother has a more modern approach to the question.
Weaknesses: Skin color prejudice within ethnic populations is something I know nothing about. It did seem a bit odd, however, to have Genesis' father, who was a very, very poor example of a father, be the one with the very dark skin. It would have been much more interesting to have him have the lighter complexion, and the opinionated grandmother to be the one who was darker!
What I really think: Definitely purchasing a copy, although I wish it were a little shorter. It's definitely a middle school book, but 400 pages is about twice the length that the average middle school reader is apt to pick up willingly!

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed reading your review Ms. Yingling. Cool page!

    Just one quick comment. I think, with the father, there is a sort of projecting of skin color self-loathing onto Genesis. It's very common for one to dislike in others what they dislike in themselves the most. Colorism is a difficult beast to grapple with for people of color. It can be heart wrenching and defeating. I think in the case of Genesis' father, he is an already defeated Black man with the decked stacked even greater due to his very dark skin.

    I agree that the story is very realistic! I can't wait for middle schoolers to get their hands on this book!