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Genesis Begins Again

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This novel tells the story of a thirteen-year-old who is filled with self-loathing and must overcome internalized racism and a verbally abusive family to finally learn to love herself. There are ninety-six things Genesis hates about herself. She knows the exact number because she keeps a list. Like #95: Because her skin is so dark, people call her charcoal and eggplant—even This novel tells the story of a thirteen-year-old who is filled with self-loathing and must overcome internalized racism and a verbally abusive family to finally learn to love herself. There are ninety-six things Genesis hates about herself. She knows the exact number because she keeps a list. Like #95: Because her skin is so dark, people call her charcoal and eggplant—even her own family. And #61: Because her family is always being put out of their house, belongings laid out on the sidewalk for the world to see. When your dad is a gambling addict and loses the rent money every month, eviction is a regular occurrence. What’s not so regular is that this time they all don’t have a place to crash, so Genesis and her mom have to stay with her grandma. It’s not that Genesis doesn’t like her grandma, but she and Mom always fight—Grandma haranguing Mom to leave Dad, that she should have gone back to school, that if she’d married a lighter skinned man none of this would be happening, and on and on and on. But things aren’t all bad. Genesis actually likes her new school; she’s made a couple friends, her choir teacher says she has real talent, and she even encourages Genesis to join the talent show. But how can Genesis believe anything her teacher says when her dad tells her the exact opposite? How can she stand up in front of all those people with her dark, dark skin knowing even her own family thinks lesser of her because of it? Why, why, why won’t the lemon or yogurt or fancy creams lighten her skin like they’re supposed to? And when Genesis reaches #100 on the list of things she hates about herself, will she continue on, or can she find the strength to begin again?


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This novel tells the story of a thirteen-year-old who is filled with self-loathing and must overcome internalized racism and a verbally abusive family to finally learn to love herself. There are ninety-six things Genesis hates about herself. She knows the exact number because she keeps a list. Like #95: Because her skin is so dark, people call her charcoal and eggplant—even This novel tells the story of a thirteen-year-old who is filled with self-loathing and must overcome internalized racism and a verbally abusive family to finally learn to love herself. There are ninety-six things Genesis hates about herself. She knows the exact number because she keeps a list. Like #95: Because her skin is so dark, people call her charcoal and eggplant—even her own family. And #61: Because her family is always being put out of their house, belongings laid out on the sidewalk for the world to see. When your dad is a gambling addict and loses the rent money every month, eviction is a regular occurrence. What’s not so regular is that this time they all don’t have a place to crash, so Genesis and her mom have to stay with her grandma. It’s not that Genesis doesn’t like her grandma, but she and Mom always fight—Grandma haranguing Mom to leave Dad, that she should have gone back to school, that if she’d married a lighter skinned man none of this would be happening, and on and on and on. But things aren’t all bad. Genesis actually likes her new school; she’s made a couple friends, her choir teacher says she has real talent, and she even encourages Genesis to join the talent show. But how can Genesis believe anything her teacher says when her dad tells her the exact opposite? How can she stand up in front of all those people with her dark, dark skin knowing even her own family thinks lesser of her because of it? Why, why, why won’t the lemon or yogurt or fancy creams lighten her skin like they’re supposed to? And when Genesis reaches #100 on the list of things she hates about herself, will she continue on, or can she find the strength to begin again?

30 review for Genesis Begins Again

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    Edelweiss+ provided me a DRC of this book in exchange for an honest review. WE. NEED. MORE. MIDDLE. GRADE. BOOKS. LIKE. THIS. I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again: there are not enough middle grade books that feature African American girls and their day to day lives, along with some of the unique issues they face. This one was PHENOMENAL. Genesis deals with so many issues that children face--academic struggles, poverty, a parent struggling with addiction, making friends, racism. RACISM Edelweiss+ provided me a DRC of this book in exchange for an honest review. WE. NEED. MORE. MIDDLE. GRADE. BOOKS. LIKE. THIS. I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again: there are not enough middle grade books that feature African American girls and their day to day lives, along with some of the unique issues they face. This one was PHENOMENAL. Genesis deals with so many issues that children face--academic struggles, poverty, a parent struggling with addiction, making friends, racism. RACISM. Williams explores not only racism that exists between African Americans and other races, but also the prejudice that occurs within the black community. Are lighter-skinned blacks "uppity"? Are darker-skinned blacks judged unfairly? Genesis struggles to find love for herself while dealing with outside insult from people who claim to care about her. She hates her dark skin, her thick hair...in fact she has a whole list of things to hate about herself. My heart ached for her the entire book. I wish she could see some of the former students on my Facebook timeline--gorgeous girls who embrace their skin color and post amazing selfies with hashtags like #MelaninMonday. I love her friends Sophie and Troy, and I adore her music teacher. Her parents are complex characters that you both love and hate, and her experiences with "mean girls" will resonate with all girls--middle schoolers and anyone who's ever been one. This book went into my library's "to buy" cart before I was even halfway through.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    Genesis Begins Again is a raw, honest view of what it can feel like to be a young girl with a dark complexion trying to conform to society's beauty standards. In addition to the ups and downs, mostly downs, of middle school, Genesis must navigate life with an alcoholic, gambling father who destroys her sense of security every month. The book begins with Genesis feeling euphoric because she has made friends with the most popular girls in her grade. They have agreed to visit her home and they arri Genesis Begins Again is a raw, honest view of what it can feel like to be a young girl with a dark complexion trying to conform to society's beauty standards. In addition to the ups and downs, mostly downs, of middle school, Genesis must navigate life with an alcoholic, gambling father who destroys her sense of security every month. The book begins with Genesis feeling euphoric because she has made friends with the most popular girls in her grade. They have agreed to visit her home and they arrive to find all of the family's furniture and belongings sitting on the lawn. They had been evicted. Genesis stammers and tries to make up stories about the situation, but the girls ruthlessly mock her. Genesis must always begin again, new friends, new school, and new realizations. Why does her grandmother "hate" her dad? Why does her mom always forgive him despite the humiliation? How can she learn to love herself as she is? Genesis Begins Again tore me apart and pieced me back together. The dialog was so authentic, I felt like I was watching events unfold. As a person of Afro Caribbean descent, I could relate to the colorsim that Genesis and her father lived through. This is the first book for middle grade readers that addresses this issue honestly and fearlessly. The reader comes away understanding that Genesis is beginning to accept herself, but she has a long road ahead. I enthusiastically recommend Genesis Begins Again.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Shari

    This book is INCREDIBLE. My heart absolutely broke for Genesis as I read her story, thinking of all the amazing kids I’ve taught who might have felt that same self-loathing. This is a story that I hope will be a kinder mirror for those kids, showing them an honest glimpse of their own beauty, and an empathetic window for others. I was drawn right into Genesis’ story, feeling her conflicted emotions, her courageous triumphs, and her painful regrets. We need more books like this- own-voices books This book is INCREDIBLE. My heart absolutely broke for Genesis as I read her story, thinking of all the amazing kids I’ve taught who might have felt that same self-loathing. This is a story that I hope will be a kinder mirror for those kids, showing them an honest glimpse of their own beauty, and an empathetic window for others. I was drawn right into Genesis’ story, feeling her conflicted emotions, her courageous triumphs, and her painful regrets. We need more books like this- own-voices books by authors of color - I learned SO much from this book! This is an important book that deserves ALL the buzz and hype!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Amber Webb

    We all have hurts. We all have pain. We all have lists of things we don't love about ourselves, but we all deserve a chance to begin again. We all deserve a fresh start. Genesis Begins Again is a beautifully written novel about discovering who you are through those around you. It's about learning your history for better or worse. Genesis gets moved around the greater Detroit area thanks to her Dad's bad habits and irresponsibility. She is finally starting to feel settled in a place with people sh We all have hurts. We all have pain. We all have lists of things we don't love about ourselves, but we all deserve a chance to begin again. We all deserve a fresh start. Genesis Begins Again is a beautifully written novel about discovering who you are through those around you. It's about learning your history for better or worse. Genesis gets moved around the greater Detroit area thanks to her Dad's bad habits and irresponsibility. She is finally starting to feel settled in a place with people she actually considers friends when the hinges fall of. Genesis does a lot of learning about herself and who she really wants to be through various challenges. Great read!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

    Find More Reviews On My Blog! This is a story about growing up, discovering your self-worth, and learning how to navigate complicated relationship. Genesis Begins Again is one of the best middle grade novels that I have ever read. I appreciated the fact that Williams did not hold back simply because she was writing a middle-grade novel. I want to put it in the hands of everyone of any age. I think a lot of young girls will really relate to Genesis’ story and her struggle to fit in when her comple Find More Reviews On My Blog! This is a story about growing up, discovering your self-worth, and learning how to navigate complicated relationship. Genesis Begins Again is one of the best middle grade novels that I have ever read. I appreciated the fact that Williams did not hold back simply because she was writing a middle-grade novel. I want to put it in the hands of everyone of any age. I think a lot of young girls will really relate to Genesis’ story and her struggle to fit in when her complexion makes her stand out. Genesis also faces struggles that other young readers may also be experiencing including having a parent who is an alcoholic, living in poverty, and having to constantly change schools and start over. I instantly felt a connection to Genesis, and actually found myself getting protective of her. I cried along with her and I cheered her on. It breaks my heart to know that there are real girls going through the same things as Genesis. I hope that this book finds its way into their hands and it gives them some hope. I will personally be purchasing a few copies to donate to my local library. That is how important I think this book is! I am in awe of Williams ability to write raw and honest characters, and I can not believe that Genesis Begins Again is her debut novel. I am anxiously awaiting to see what she comes out with next! Genesis Begins Again is coming out on January, 15th! Thank you Simon and Schuster Canada for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  6. 4 out of 5

    D'Arcy

    Wonderful. We need more books like this for teens today. Genesis manages to be both wise and heartbreaking and - ultimately - uplifting. I'm sure her message will resonate with the intended readers of that age. I look forward to seeing more from Alicia D. Williams!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Afoma Umesi

    In Genesis Begins Again, thirteen-year-old Genesis grapples with intense self-hate worsened by her father's verbal abuse and her grandmother's backward ideologies about skin color. Told in Genesis's slangy voice, Genesis Begins Again flows naturally. My heart ached for Genesis as she does everything from bathing in milk to scrubbing with a scouring pad to rid herself of her black skin. Her naivete is shocking and often hard to believe, but the rise of bleaching creams shows me otherwise. Genesis In Genesis Begins Again, thirteen-year-old Genesis grapples with intense self-hate worsened by her father's verbal abuse and her grandmother's backward ideologies about skin color. Told in Genesis's slangy voice, Genesis Begins Again flows naturally. My heart ached for Genesis as she does everything from bathing in milk to scrubbing with a scouring pad to rid herself of her black skin. Her naivete is shocking and often hard to believe, but the rise of bleaching creams shows me otherwise. Genesis Begins Again is a phenomenal middle-grade debut with a strong message about colorism, self-love, and the power of music. full review on https://afomaumesi.com/review-genesis...

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ailynn Knox-Collins

    I loved this book. I found myself 'talking'(at times yelling) to the main character as I sometimes do to TV shows - that's how involved I was in this story. I was drawn in by young Genesis, and rooted for her all the way. Great read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Destiny Henderson

    I can't help but wonder how it feels to be so bound up that you can't be or do what you want" (pg 72). Despite the gorgeous cover, I was a bit wary about reading this because I didn’t know if this was just going to be a depressing-beat-you-down story. That type of stuff can drag your esteem down if you’re not already in a place of self-love. Thankfully, that wasn't the case. I think this is a great book for young black girls. It tackles the effects of colorism in a relatable way. Even for those w I can't help but wonder how it feels to be so bound up that you can't be or do what you want" (pg 72). Despite the gorgeous cover, I was a bit wary about reading this because I didn’t know if this was just going to be a depressing-beat-you-down story. That type of stuff can drag your esteem down if you’re not already in a place of self-love. Thankfully, that wasn't the case. I think this is a great book for young black girls. It tackles the effects of colorism in a relatable way. Even for those who colorism effects in a more so-called positive light, hopefully, this blueprints why all the derogatory, color-based names are wrong (I’m looking at you, my old Sunday School class. first time, I had heard of kids referring to themselves as burnt shea butter, burnt chocolate, and anything else burnt). Dang, is this some realistic fiction! Poor Genesis’ mom is with a dusty, colorist, and drunkard broke-a-joke. Count the struggles, y’all. Even though Genesis’ dad is trifling (no buts about it), the story doesn’t neglect his own struggles with colorism. No one likes being on the receiving end of you-so-black/dark jokes. Also, Genesis’ grandma on some paper bag test junk! I really like Genesis’ narrative because you understand exactly why she thinks and acts like she does. (view spoiler)[ It even digs a bit uncomfortably with Genesis' light-skinned mother who loves her but even abides by colorist notions herself sometimes and doesn't quite understand what her daughter is going through (hide spoiler)] . SN: I know that hot comb struggle. This might be lost on those who don’t recognize all the lesser effects of colorism. But, yes, Genesis’ father berating her skin despite being dark-skinned himself is very realistic. I have seen it many times when men marry their opposite and are surprised when their daughters come out looking like themselves and not the mothers. I won’t lie. My eyes started watering at certain parts. It acknowledges that you can bring up “Black is beautiful (and yes, it is! No negation there)”, but it doesn’t magically erase everything. Sometimes, you can’t put a band-aid over the names, the way society or even loved ones can view your skin. This is why colorism can be such a tough topic to talk about because sometimes people don’t want to talk about the nitty-gritty. Still, I think this book was great. It's tough seeing Genesis' various methods to try and lighten her skin but the conclusion at the end is worth it. Genesis Begins Again manages to tackle heavy issues in a simple and relatable way and sneak in some Harlem Renaissance singers/Black History facts. 4 stars only for... (view spoiler)[never resolving what Sophia's mom was whispering about (was it about the picture? some "I don't want her kind around here stuff?" Idk), the irony of mentioning Gandhi, and the utter cringe of Genesis trying to explain her color issues to Sophia, a white girl. (hide spoiler)] Anyway, I recommend it!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tasha

    Genesis keeps a list of things that she hates about herself. Some of it is the color of her skin and the way that others tease her about how dark she is, unlike her light-skinned mother with good hair. Some of it is about the way that their family keeps getting kicked out of the houses they live in because they don’t pay the rent. Some of it is the way her father speaks about her when he is drunk. Some of it is based on her grandmother’s hurtful comments about Genesis. So after being kicked out Genesis keeps a list of things that she hates about herself. Some of it is the color of her skin and the way that others tease her about how dark she is, unlike her light-skinned mother with good hair. Some of it is about the way that their family keeps getting kicked out of the houses they live in because they don’t pay the rent. Some of it is the way her father speaks about her when he is drunk. Some of it is based on her grandmother’s hurtful comments about Genesis. So after being kicked out of yet another house, Genesis’ family moves to a more affluent neighborhood outside of Detroit. Genesis discovers that she likes her new school and even finds herself making real friends for the first time. The house is the nicest they have ever lived in too. But other things aren’t any better. Her father keeps on drinking. Genesis is still as dark-skinned as ever, but she has plans to try to lighten her skin, thinking that will make her entire life better. As Genesis discovers her own talents, she must learn that learning to accept herself is a large piece of moving forward in life. In this debut novel, Williams writes with a strong voice, taking on difficult topics including verbal abuse, racism, skin tone, alcoholism and co-dependency in an unflinching way. Williams reveals the deep pain and lasting scars that cruel words and verbal abuse can have on a young person, particularly when it is about a physical characteristic that is beyond their control. With Genesis’ parents caught in a marriage filled with anger and substance abuse, Williams offers other adult figures and also young peers who model a way forward for Genesis. Genesis’ growth is organic and well paced. She learns things steadily but has set backs that end up with her damaging herself. She is a complicated character who looks at life through a specific lens due to her upbringing. She is constantly judging others before they can judge her, placing distance where there could be connections, and making poor decisions when offered compliments. Still, she is a good friend, someone willing to look beyond the surface and see what others can’t. But only when she allows herself to do that. Her complexity is what makes this book really shine. Strong and vibrant, this book takes on the subject of skin tone in the African-American community as well as other heavy topics. Appropriate for ages 11-13.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Katie Reilley

    I picked this one up after Colby Sharp recommended it, and I’m grateful I did. Genesis faces many issues that middle school students contend with: making friends, academic struggles, parental addictions, poverty, and finding self-acceptance despite the insult placed in her life. An important read for middle grade students and the adults in their lives.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tracy

    Wow! I read this book after reading a book that I did not want to read and had taken me 2 weeks to finish, but this book I read the entire thing in a day because it was that good. The voices of the characters were authentic. I thought the topics were real which sucked me right into the story. My heart broke for Genesis so many times, but just like in real life you have people that come into your life at just the right moments that lift you up and give you the encouragement that you need in hard Wow! I read this book after reading a book that I did not want to read and had taken me 2 weeks to finish, but this book I read the entire thing in a day because it was that good. The voices of the characters were authentic. I thought the topics were real which sucked me right into the story. My heart broke for Genesis so many times, but just like in real life you have people that come into your life at just the right moments that lift you up and give you the encouragement that you need in hard times. Read this book!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tonja Drecker

    Raw, realistic and, at times, heart-breaking, this is a read which tackles a tough topic and gets under the skin. Genesis' excitement at finally having found friends crashes as their sudden visit to her home ends with the family's entire belongings on the front lawn. Thanks to her father, they've been kicked out of the house again, and her new found friends turn this into a chance to make even more fun of her. If the problems with her father and their family life weren't enough, they now are movi Raw, realistic and, at times, heart-breaking, this is a read which tackles a tough topic and gets under the skin. Genesis' excitement at finally having found friends crashes as their sudden visit to her home ends with the family's entire belongings on the front lawn. Thanks to her father, they've been kicked out of the house again, and her new found friends turn this into a chance to make even more fun of her. If the problems with her father and their family life weren't enough, they now are moving in with her grandmother who has a sharp tongue and a harsh attitude as far as Genesis' father is concerned, and claims it's due to his skin color—very dark black. That's Genesis' color too, and she hates herself for it. Especially since her mother and grandmother have such a beautiful skin tone. Genesis is determined to find a way to make herself lighter because she can't stand to be in her own skin anymore. Maybe then her life will turn around. This book starts with a scene which rips at the heart strings and continues to hit Genesis' life with a reality which bites. But then, that's how Genesis' life is and especially her perception of herself. The author lets the feelings lay open in their realistic harshness. That racism isn't simple and exists in every horrible variety becomes clear in these pages. It's a topic not often hit upon, and yet, one which also touches reality. Genesis does step on some dangerous territory as she goes to extremes to change her skin color...some moments made me hold my breath. Because of this, I would not recommend it to the younger spectrum of middle grade readers but see upper middle graders as well as tweens at a better place to process and understand what's going on. Sensitive readers might also have troubles with some moments. Otherwise, it's a read that induces thought and leaves an impression. The author makes sure to steer the entire thing in a healthy direction and leave the reader with hope and more understanding. It especially makes for a good read to lead to discussions concerning racism, bullying and self-worth. The four hundred pages is, unfortunately, on the heavy side for a middle grade read, especially one concerning such a heavy topic. This might make it a little less accessible to the intended age group. But these pages are definitely worth a read, and the tale hits a nerve, one which will leave the reader with plenty to think about long after the book has been laid down. I received a complimentary copy and was so drawn in that I wanted to leave my honest thoughts.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Amalie Jahn

    In a word... GLORIOUS. 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 commu In a word... GLORIOUS. 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!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

    In what reads like new beginnings, her father’s latest failure to pay the rent moves them out of Detroit and into white wealthy suburbia. Genesis’ father has an opportunity for a promotion and her mother is revisiting her own prospects. A work contact agreed to rent them a big house with a yard and a washer/dryer that is within walking distance to a new school for Genesis. It’s at Farmington Oaks Middle where Genesis will finally make friends, decide what she wants for herself, and meet the pivo In what reads like new beginnings, her father’s latest failure to pay the rent moves them out of Detroit and into white wealthy suburbia. Genesis’ father has an opportunity for a promotion and her mother is revisiting her own prospects. A work contact agreed to rent them a big house with a yard and a washer/dryer that is within walking distance to a new school for Genesis. It’s at Farmington Oaks Middle where Genesis will finally make friends, decide what she wants for herself, and meet the pivotal chorus teacher Mrs. Hill. But the move is hardly a fresh start because there is no leaving everything behind. Moving to the neighborhood didn’t cure her father’s alcoholism; it didn’t solve familial instabilities; it didn’t lighten Genesis’ skin. The darkness of her skin makes Genesis a target of name-calling and painful stereotypes. And when her own kin tells Genesis that the blackness of her skin will make it harder for her, they aren’t thinking that they, too, are contributing to her suffering, that they are also asking her to be twice as good as everyone else in order to prove herself. There are interactions with her father and grandmother that are excruciating. I was breathless as her maternal grandmother finished the family history; and that exchange the following day… [and what Genesis feels she must do in the meanwhile.] It’s a scene that will and won’t surprise as Williams is damn good in her characterizations, their back stories and their growth progressions. Similar is that confrontation with her father nearing the end of the novel; Williams prepares you for it, but there is only so much a writer can do with that trajectory but allow that level of heartbreak and hope their own compassion for their characters inspires likewise from the reader. The least expected confrontation between Genesis and her kin is with her mother. Her mother Sharon wants to talk to her about her mother and color. It’s a moment where you feel them being drawn together by experiences that read like a revelation; and yet the hard truth Genesis’ realization has to follow. “The brown bag is…such an old way of thinking. A wrong way of thinking. I know it’s history, and I really am ashamed it’s our history, but you can’t believe in that. You just can’t.” Yet, and yet, Mama’s always complaining about doing my hair, calling it “that head” or “tangly mess.” She believes it at least a little. It peeks out when she describes someone dark complexioned and adds: “But he or she’s still good looking.” Mama may not mean it; in fact, I know she doesn’t, but it’s there, under the surface” (212-3). Genesis isn’t the only one to have internalized racism. And Sharon may have hoped her husband Emory would treat his own child differently than how he had been treated, but the wounds are deep ones. And Genesis may have hoped that love and relationship would override the death-dealing logic of her grandmother’s traditions, but the hold is deeply rooted, reinforced in the present tense as it had been way back when: by white supremacy. And we see, in the novel, a family struggling to acknowledge the trauma without enabling or excusing its harmful consequences. * “Don’t look at me like that! All they ever teach during Black History Month is Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and Harriet Tubman. Anybody else, then you’re on your own” (99). The past impacts the present and ignoring it only creates confusion–and it disempowers the youth in the novel. At every withholding you observe a character at a loss and after a story is told you see them gain advantages. Genesis is able to (incrementally) be a better friend to Sophia when she learns Sophia’s story of OCD and bullying (as learned incrementally). One of the few other students of color in her school, Troy, tells Genesis that his parents required him to read two texts early on [The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois and The Autobiography of Malcolm X] and he is able to draw wisdom and strength from those narratives. Mrs. Hill shares Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald with Genesis–women to identify with and draw inspiration and solace from; fuel for her own voice. Genesis discovers Etta James, and it helps inform her of bother herself and her father (who mysteriously hums an Etta James song). It’s Mrs. Hill who not only encourages Genesis to find her voice, but she inspires her to learn the stories, to consider how life and legacy inform how a song is heard and performed; how internalization finds expression. These must be all those old singers and musicians that Mrs. Hill identifies us as. Like when she said I was a Billie Holiday, it was a good thing. Billie Holiday opened my ears and showed me that there’s a way to ooze out pain. Even though she didn’t peg me as Ella Fitzgerald, Ella reminded me to bring out the positive amid the hurt. But now I search on my own, not sure what I need. […] It’s another song about a broken heart, but the way she sings it, man…I feel it deep in my belly. I finally found it–then I think with a laugh, no, Etta James found me. (314-5, emphasis mine) I recall every bad memory, every negative word, because when I sing, I’m gonna conjure the loneliness of Billie Holiday, the joy of Ella Fitzgerald, the soul and longing of Etta James. I’ll sing for every girl who feels like…feels like me.” (347) Genesis gets curious and begins to seek her own stories. Did she have a powerful slave narrative, a spiritual passed down through the generations like Mrs. Hill? Her father Emory, who is quick with history, hides his own personal stories, but it is Emory sharing his story that allows Genesis to gain a healthier perspective. Her grandmother’s story brings certain modes of thinking into the light, to be interrogated, and exposed. Her mother brings a new intimacy that Genesis needs–she’s so isolated and vulnerable with it. Genesis’ struggle with her blackness will mean self-harm and I don’t mean just negative-self-talk. There is that and it is a violence unto its own, but the lengths Genesis will go to be lighter become increasingly more physically violent–and yes, I think the whitening cream is an act of physical violence on par (if not worse) than an industrial strength scouring pad. You begin to mark the patterns, the relationships between the trigger and response; cause and effect. Any praise for the novel that marvels at how Williams brings about her protagonist’s shift out of Genesis’ own depth is a sentiment I echo. Not one character is responsible for Genesis’ shift toward positive self-acceptance, but multiple characters do contribute–and not always through positive means. You see this dynamic working in other characters as well–them coming to their own decision about themselves (Sophia, Troy, Nia, Sharon). Like her medley, Genesis draws on her influences, both historical and present. She wasn’t seeking to be lighter skinned because she’d given up on herself, it was because she want to become someone. As Troy suggests, the image she’d set out for herself (set out for her) was wrong-headed. So all that energy, that longing and determination is redirected. Genesis Begins Again is not left with a pat ending. There’s still work. Like the talent show trophy winner, she has to keep showing up. This next time may be a new iteration, a truer performance. No, the ending is a beginning, again. Another eviction, of maybe another sort, is going to occur and like before, some things will come along with the next beginning, but some things/people/places are going to be left in the past. The past may inform the present, but it can be left where it belongs. * A few notes: …I was (and still am) deeply affected by Genesis’ pleas to God, her sensation of punishment meted, and the religious aspect to her grandmother. It’s a dimension that can’t go without saying and attending to. I haven’t the words and I know I’d go to much greater length of writing on it when they’re found. …I am also appreciative of the complicated narrative surrounding Sharon’s choices; of her heart and mind; of her search for a way forward, not only for her daughter’s sake, but for her own; that she models a journey, not an arrival…. …I didn’t speak about the navigating middle-school and friendships; the discovery of a capable mind, of being a good friend, of (re)creation. Williams writes a solid, top-notch middle-grade novel surrounding these popular genre themes. Sophie and Troy, and Nia are marvelous…as is Mrs. Hill. line clipartRecommended for all the libraries and book clubs; and not just for Black History Month reading lists. If you read award-winners, this one will be up for significant medals–go ahead and get a head start. I highly recommend finding some Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James and Miles Davis records to play. Take reading inspiration, too, from books mentioned in the novel: York; Out of My Mind; Bud, Not Buddy; As Brave As You; Brown Girl Dreaming; The Jumbies… I read this in proximity to Varian Johnson’s The Parker Inheritance, and I highly recommend doing the same. https://contemplatrix.wordpress.com/2...

  16. 4 out of 5

    abi

    content warnings: colourism, (internalised) racism, bullying, alcoholism This book is going to be so so important for so many young people and I really hope it reaches a wide audience. It's unflinching, it dares to confront tough topics and it bravely and accurately depicts the anxieties of a modern teenage girl. I adored Genesis, and whilst she felt slightly mature, she also made choices which were completely in line for a character of that age which made her seem more realistic. She was complet content warnings: colourism, (internalised) racism, bullying, alcoholism This book is going to be so so important for so many young people and I really hope it reaches a wide audience. It's unflinching, it dares to confront tough topics and it bravely and accurately depicts the anxieties of a modern teenage girl. I adored Genesis, and whilst she felt slightly mature, she also made choices which were completely in line for a character of that age which made her seem more realistic. She was completely nuanced and my heart ached for her as she struggled with trying to fit in in a world that seemed to be lighter skinned than she was. Read this for a complex, well-developed main character. Read this for important representation. Read this for multi-dimensional supporting characters. Read this for a story that deserves to be told.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Shari

    This book is INCREDIBLE. My heart absolutely broke for Genesis as I read her story, thinking of all the amazing kids who might have felt that same self-loathing. This is a story that I hope will be a kinder mirror for those kids, showing them an honest glimpse of their own beauty, and an empathetic window for others. I was drawn right into Genesis’ story, feeling her conflicted emotions, her courageous triumphs, and her painful regrets. We need more books like this- #ownvoices books by #authorso This book is INCREDIBLE. My heart absolutely broke for Genesis as I read her story, thinking of all the amazing kids who might have felt that same self-loathing. This is a story that I hope will be a kinder mirror for those kids, showing them an honest glimpse of their own beauty, and an empathetic window for others. I was drawn right into Genesis’ story, feeling her conflicted emotions, her courageous triumphs, and her painful regrets. We need more books like this- #ownvoices books by #authorsofcolor - I learned SO much from this book! Librarians, parents, and teachers of kids (especially those in 5th-8th grade): READ this book, add it to your library, and share it with young people - and not just those who are Black. This is eye-opening for kids of all colors, but especially white kids who may have no idea that their peers have these kinds of internal and external struggles. This is an important book that deserves ALL the buzz and hype!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Emily Polson

    Reminiscent of The Bluest Eye, but packaged for a middle grade audience. For me, the execution fell a bit short of what it could have been, but I hope this book serves as a mirror or a window to young readers.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Wilsman

    This should be an award contender - coming of age #ownvoices

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tedi

    “I’ll tell you what beauty ain’t. It ain’t some organ hidden on the inside – no one cares about how good your heart is. And another thing, being black like me ain’t nothing to be proud about.” I haven’t been floored by a book in awhile. The story is full of such raw, and powerful moments that Williams artfully navigates. Ultimately, Genesis Begins Again is a story of acceptance: of wanting to be accepted by others, of learning how to accept yourself, of learning that you can refuse to accept the “I’ll tell you what beauty ain’t. It ain’t some organ hidden on the inside – no one cares about how good your heart is. And another thing, being black like me ain’t nothing to be proud about.” I haven’t been floored by a book in awhile. The story is full of such raw, and powerful moments that Williams artfully navigates. Ultimately, Genesis Begins Again is a story of acceptance: of wanting to be accepted by others, of learning how to accept yourself, of learning that you can refuse to accept the behavior of others and love them anyway. It is also about a young black girl learning how to feel comfortable in her own skin in a world that tells her she shouldn’t. Genesis’ journey is heartbreaking, and honest. But it’s also funny, and developed, and full of references to Doctor Who. This is the story that every kid, but especially girl, and especially especially black girl, deserves to read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joshua

    This is one of the best middle grade books I've read in a long time. The voice is compelling and it guides the reader through some difficult topics and lands them safely in a good place. I am grateful this book exists, and it's going to change the lives of some of the kids that read it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Hernandez

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Such such such a great novel. This one hit close to home in many ways. Genesis' voice feels authentic and has a power that is hard to describe. Alicia cunningly takes a girl going through really tough, emotional and painful life stuff, and yet hearing it through her voice, the voice of an ultimately optimistic 12 yr old makes the subject matter not seem as heavy. You don't feel like you need to take a break. With funny comments about the world around her and so much love for her family and frien Such such such a great novel. This one hit close to home in many ways. Genesis' voice feels authentic and has a power that is hard to describe. Alicia cunningly takes a girl going through really tough, emotional and painful life stuff, and yet hearing it through her voice, the voice of an ultimately optimistic 12 yr old makes the subject matter not seem as heavy. You don't feel like you need to take a break. With funny comments about the world around her and so much love for her family and friends. That is what this story is really about. Love. Loving family, loving friends, and loving yourself. Even when it's tough, and you have every reason not to. Even though you never fully find out what happens to Gen, and her loved ones, you still get a sense of completion. Like you can exhale and think they are gonna be alright, even if there are a few more bumps. Beautiful story Alicia.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Darla

    An intimate portrait of the life of a 13-year-old girl who struggles with self-loathing. She is part of an intact family, but where do you cross the line from keeping the family together to putting the father's needs above the child's? Unfortunately the faith in her grandmother's life does not translate into the love and support Genesis needs. The world Genesis lives in is unfamiliar to me and this novel opens my eyes to the struggles of young women like her. Many young tweens and young teen gir An intimate portrait of the life of a 13-year-old girl who struggles with self-loathing. She is part of an intact family, but where do you cross the line from keeping the family together to putting the father's needs above the child's? Unfortunately the faith in her grandmother's life does not translate into the love and support Genesis needs. The world Genesis lives in is unfamiliar to me and this novel opens my eyes to the struggles of young women like her. Many young tweens and young teen girls will be able to relate to Genesis and root for her.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea Bashore

    Seriously stunning. This story hits on so many important things that deal with identity, belonging, and loving yourself. I can’t wait to hand this to my girls.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Laura Gardner

    🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟/5 for this stunning, heartbreaking #mglit book by @aliciadiane70 (another debut!). Thanks to @afomaumesi for reviewing this book—her excellent review made me prioritize reading it! . 〰 〰 . ✅extremely compulsive read (like ignore your family and hide to finish) ✅complex storyline ✅characters you’re rooting for ✅MUSIC! Genesis is introduced to Billie Holiday, Etta James and more by her wonderful music teacher ✅awesome message (Black is beautiful!) . 〰 〰 I’m reading GHOST BOYS out loud with my 7th graders 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟/5 for this stunning, heartbreaking #mglit book by @aliciadiane70 (another debut!). Thanks to @afomaumesi for reviewing this book—her excellent review made me prioritize reading it! . 〰️ 〰️ . ✅extremely compulsive read (like ignore your family and hide to finish) ✅complex storyline ✅characters you’re rooting for ✅MUSIC! Genesis is introduced to Billie Holiday, Etta James and more by her wonderful music teacher ✅awesome message (Black is beautiful!) . 〰️ 〰️ I’m reading GHOST BOYS out loud with my 7th graders and we have started discussing implicit bias. This book is a good reminder that someone can be Black and be biased, particularly when it comes to colorism. Main character Genesis faces this type of prejudice from family members, classmates and worst of all herself. Genesis is willing to undergo various forms of torture to try and lighten her skin, which is painful to read. . 〰️ 〰️ Genesis’ family has been evicted...again. Between that and her father’s drinking problem, you’d think Genesis had enough on her plate, but she is also consumed with self-hatred over the color of her skin. Her grandmother, father and former classmates have reinforced these feelings, too. Genesis doesn’t like herself. She even keeps a list of the reasons why, which she rereads and adds to whenever she’s feeling badly about herself. In a new suburban school with a fresh start, Genesis starts to make new friends and be seen as someone with vocal talent. When it looks like her father has screwed up again, Genesis is afraid she’s going to lose it all. . 〰️ 〰️ #librariansofinstagram #librariesofinstagram #genesisbeginsagain #aliciadwilliams #mgbooks #bookreview

  26. 4 out of 5

    Prince William Public Library System

    I LOVE THIS BOOK. It is heartbreaking at times, but worth it. Genesis hates herself, and keeps a list of reasons why (a list nearly one hundred points long). One major reason: she hates her dark skin. Part of that comes from mean kids at school who bully her (her family ostracizes her for her skin, too). To make things worse, her father has a gambling addiction, often displacing her family, and forcing them to move around frequently. Then she moves in with her grandmother, and things begin to cha I LOVE THIS BOOK. It is heartbreaking at times, but worth it. Genesis hates herself, and keeps a list of reasons why (a list nearly one hundred points long). One major reason: she hates her dark skin. Part of that comes from mean kids at school who bully her (her family ostracizes her for her skin, too). To make things worse, her father has a gambling addiction, often displacing her family, and forcing them to move around frequently. Then she moves in with her grandmother, and things begin to change. She stays at her new school, makes friends, joins choir, and has a teacher encourage her to strive for more. Will Genesis take heed to her teacher, or will her low self-worth discourage her? -Amanda http://librarycatalog.pwcgov.org/pola...

  27. 5 out of 5

    Gail Shepherd

    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 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.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    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 frien 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!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sandy Brehl

    Bottom line: This novel may be perfect for middle grades, but it is an important work for teen and adult readers, too. Don't miss it. The plot, voice, and storytelling are so well constructed that the book can bear the weight of multiple strands about serious issues: bullying, friendship, colorism, addiction, parental conflicts, the arts, body image and self-talk, OCD, ... and more. You would be utterly mistaken if you assume an amateur author was trying to throw a little of everything at the wal Bottom line: This novel may be perfect for middle grades, but it is an important work for teen and adult readers, too. Don't miss it. The plot, voice, and storytelling are so well constructed that the book can bear the weight of multiple strands about serious issues: bullying, friendship, colorism, addiction, parental conflicts, the arts, body image and self-talk, OCD, ... and more. You would be utterly mistaken if you assume an amateur author was trying to throw a little of everything at the wall to be "relevant", resulting in a scrambled mess. This powerfully plotted story requires Genesis (13 year old living with internal and external stressors) to navigate the complexity of these many issues. Her efforts and angst are consistently credible, empathetic, and intriguing. Genesis is as frustrating to this reader as she is talented and capable, but her damaged self-concept and her intense longing to fit in will resonate with any adolescent, whether privileged or oppressed, whether white, black, or other. I strongly recommend this book for use in middle schools, secondary settings, and beyond. I would LOVE to see this used in adult book clubs across a diverse population.

  30. 5 out of 5

    kelly

    Thirty pages into this and I could barely contain my excitement and my tears. Excitement for the fact that the literary community is finally beginning to turn its ear to Black girls issues, and tears for the many, many problems that Genesis, the main character, realistically faces. "Genesis Begins Again" is the story of 13-year-old Genesis, a Detroit teenager with a list of 100 things she hates about herself. She hates her dark brown skin color, her kinky, thick hair. She also hates the fact tha Thirty pages into this and I could barely contain my excitement and my tears. Excitement for the fact that the literary community is finally beginning to turn its ear to Black girls issues, and tears for the many, many problems that Genesis, the main character, realistically faces. "Genesis Begins Again" is the story of 13-year-old Genesis, a Detroit teenager with a list of 100 things she hates about herself. She hates her dark brown skin color, her kinky, thick hair. She also hates the fact that her father can't stop drinking and gets them evicted from every home they move into, leaving her as the perpetual new girl at school. In addition to her father's addiction, Genesis struggles with making friends, her parent's rocky marriage, making ends meet, and academically in her math class. Then there is racism--not just from White people at her new school, but within her own race. Genesis is constantly reminded by her father that she is "too dark" to be his daughter. I love the way that this book probes age-old questions around colorism in the Black community. Why is darker skin still less desirable? What are the perceived benefits of being "light skinned"? What is "good hair"? Genesis longs for lighter skin and the straight hair that she feels will make her socially acceptable. She attempts home remedies to bleach her skin, many of which are painful and leave scars. My heart went out to her, as a Black woman I KNOW the pain of colorism. It's the reason why social media is full of hashtags and messages strictly for Black girls and women that speak of empowerment, self-love, and beauty (#BlackGirlMagic, #MelaninMonday, #MyBlackisBeautiful, etc). Definitely read this book. It truly personifies what is meant when "We Need Diverse YA" is repeated over and over again, because by reading books like these you will understand why it is so important that boys and girls of color are represented in literature.

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