A black girl adopted into a white family struggles with her own disability and her mother’s instability.
For Black Girls like Me by Mariama J. Lockington. Farrar Strauss Giroux, 2019, 317 pages
Reading Level: Teen, ages 12-15
Recommended for: Ages 12-15
“I am a girl but most days I feel like a question mark.” Makeda, or Keda, was adopted from a black single mother into a liberal white family. She loves her mom and dad and stepsister, and they love her. Still, she gets a lot of curious looks for strangers. Now that the family is moving from Maryland to Albuquerque, where her dad with play principal cello with the New Mexico Symphony, everyone is a stranger. The usual problems with adjustment are complicated for her, and when the class mean girl calls her the n-word, that’s it. Mama pulls both Keda and her 15-year-old sister Eve out of school and revolves to teach them at home. Eve, who was making satisfactory progress with adjusting, resents it. But Mama doesn’t always adjust well, either. She was an accomplished pianist before becoming a full-time mother, and her artistic temperament can be less than stable. After a somewhat promising beginning with homeschooling, Papa leaves on a five-week tour with his string quartet and Mama goes off the deep end.
Keda’s voice, as a cross-cultural adoptee, is worth listening to. What would it be like to look Black, but not to talk, think, or act Black? Yet her unknown heritage haunts her, in the form of nocturnal visits from the “Georgia Belles,” who represent her birth mom. There are gulfs her white family can’t fill, but still a life to be thankful for, and while some of the incidents with her mother are a bit harrowing, the family reaches a plateau of acceptance at the end.
- There is a small amount of profanity.
- The worldview is secular, though at times “spiritual,” as when Keda’s Aunt Sarah thanks “the universe” for the blessings they have. (We’re seeing a lot more of these benevolent universe references in middle-grade and YA fiction.)
- Otherwise, the story is family-positive and hopeful.
Overall Rating: 3.75 (out of 5)
- Worldview/moral value: 3.5
- Artistic/literary value: 4.25