Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams
This deeply sensitive and powerful debut 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?
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.