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Genesis Begins Again (2019)

by Alicia D. Williams

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4562354,428 (4.31)13
Thirteen-year-old Genesis tries again and again to lighten her black skin, thinking it is the root of her family's troubles, before discovering reasons to love herself as is.

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From ReadingMiddleGrade: "Genesis Begins Again is a remarkable middle-grade debut with a strong message about colorism, self-love, and the power of music. There are, however, scenes of verbal abuse and self-hurt that highly-sensitive readers may find disturbing. Breathe deep and go slow. These issues must be seen and discussed. I would 100 percent recommend this novel."
  BackstoryBooks | Apr 3, 2024 |
References to Celine in The Color Purple.
  VillageProject | Feb 20, 2024 |
In the middle of reading this, my hold on [b:New Kid|36005510|New Kid|Jerry Craft|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1544415378s/36005510.jpg|57574554] came in. I was so excited, I set this book aside and finished New Kid the same day I started it. Then I found myself really not wanting to go back to Genesis. I feel a little guilty not finishing it, but I think I read enough to understand that even though this a good book, it's too depressing for me right now. The part where I put it down Genesis had just really hurt herself trying to exfoliate to make her skin lighter. Her grandma had just told her that her life would be easier if she were lighter. She's adding to a very long list of things she hates about herself.

This brings to mind a critique of [b:Eleanor & Park|15745753|Eleanor & Park|Rainbow Rowell|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1341952742s/15745753.jpg|17225055] that I recently read on Twitter. The reviewer felt uncomfortable with Park's self-hatred as a person of Korean descent. Park wishes that he looked more like his brother who can pass for white. The book is set in Nebraska in the 1980s and I believe the author intended readers to understand Park's feelings within this historical context. Still, the self-hatred is never addressed in a satisfactory way for a lot of readers.

It's a very tricky thing to portray self-hatred in books for children because you run the risk of unintentionally communicating to the reader that the self-hatred is somehow justified. Let's hope that any reader who needs a message of self-acceptance makes it all the way through this book. ( )
  LibrarianDest | Jan 3, 2024 |
Genesis Anderson hates herself. She keeps a list of all the reasons why. Mean girls at a former school started a list of all the reasons they hated her, and when they gave it to her, she kept it, and just kept adding to it. But the number one reason seems to be... she's too black. Too dark skinned.
Her father is addicted both to alcohol and to gambling, and his troubles keep the family from moving up. Her mother does her best, but she can't ever quite bring herself to give up on her husband completely.
When he claims he got a promotion at work, and is moving them from inner-city to Detroit to posh Farmington Hills, they think everything will be fine now. But the reader has surely read enough books in this vein before to know that is not the case. But at the new middle school, with her mostly white, financially well off fellow students, Genesis does makes some real friends: black, violin playing, smart as a whip Troy, and white OCD eccentric girl Sophia.
But like so many protagonists before her, Genesis' real fall comes when she starts lying, and the building new lies on top of old ones.
Black/white racism really isn't an element in this book at all. It is a book about black life, but it's about self acceptance and self love, about loving yourself they way you are. That is the main theme of the book. A good message for blacks.. and whites... and LGBT people... and overweight people... keep the list going. Doesn't matter. We are all beautiful. ( )
  fingerpost | Mar 23, 2023 |
Thirteen-year-old Genesis Anderson is a black girl who has been dealt a heavy hand in life.

She’s had to move several times because her family keeps getting evicted thanks to her alcoholic, gambling father, who defaults on the rent. Genesis hates her circumstances, and even more, she hates the skin she’s in. Dark-skinned like her father—who takes no pride in their resemblance, especially when he’s drunk and mean—Genesis wants nothing more than to look like her light-skinned mother. With kids calling her names (Charcoal, Eggplant, Blackie) and a chiding grandmother who spouts backward colorist ideologies, it’s no wonder. Genesis desperately wants to be accepted, even causing herself physical pain to change the look of her skin and hair in order to attain it. But Genesis has a talent that demands that she stand out. With the help of her chorus teacher, Genesis discovers a way to navigate the pain she carries. With smooth and engrossing prose, debut novelist Williams takes readers through an emotional, painful, yet still hopeful adolescent journey. Along the way she references accomplished black activists, athletes, artists, and, notably, musicians such as Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Etta James, all in a way that feels natural and appropriate. This book may bring readers to tears as they root for Genesis to finally have the acceptance she craves—but from herself rather than anyone else.

It’s a story that may be all too familiar for too many and one that needed telling. (Fiction. 10-14)

-Kirkus Review
  CDJLibrary | Feb 1, 2023 |
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Thirteen-year-old Genesis tries again and again to lighten her black skin, thinking it is the root of her family's troubles, before discovering reasons to love herself as is.

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