- Mariama J. Lockington
- Debut, Stand alone
- Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary
- Background: Black, Transracial Adoptee
- IG: @forblackgirlslikeme, https://mariamajlockington.com/
- Release Date: Out Now!
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
- Favorite Character: Lena! Not just because she is Haitian (adopted from Haiti; there is a kindredness though) but because she keeps it real and she reminds me of myself (and maybe you can call me on my bias, LOL).
- Favorite Quote(s): “I’M NOT WHITE. THAT’S JUST MY PARENTS.”-Lena…my response was “YOU BETTA TELL ‘EM LENA!” I think people forget that children are their own people, adopted or not…this is just an outward display of that. Also “Don’t ever forget that I am your #ashyforlife bestie and I will fight Katy (with my words) to defend your honor. You are a queen. A QUEEN I tell you.”-Lena. First of all, who told Mariama she could write my personality doppelgänger?! *claps* This *claps* is *claps* me *claps*! I would fight anyone for my besties (ask them, they will tell you I have) with words but I’ve been willing to throw bows. I also tell my students to use their words (but I be wanting folks to catch these hands) and I’m all about lifting folks up. This also shows how important it is for us as black girls & women to lift each other up… how we always have to…
When I was reading For Black Girls Like Me, I felt like I was reading a diary, and at parts, my own. As a black girl [grown woman], I related so much to Makeda and what she dealt with…both when I was younger and as an adult. With Makeda being adopted, she had some things to face head on that I couldn’t imagine dealing with…especially grappling with whiteness day in & day out and minimal exposure to her own culture & blackness. As a black girl, that exposure helps to serve as a bit of a roadmap of where you come from (there are universal themes in black girlhood & womanhood) and where you can go as well as understand the experience of being a black girl/woman.
There were so many incidents that made my jaw drop, where I just wished I could’ve screamed in the characters’ faces. The passive aggressive nature of her family was maddening for me so I can only imagine for Makeda could be even more bonkers (#NoCountryForPassiveAggressivePeople). The way her parents and sister spoke to her, the tasks they asked of her, the level of expectation on her showed a level of entitlement that was mind boggling but was not far fetched based upon my own past experiences…and I think other people of color could pick up on those things. It’s a reality that what we experience is different depending on racial background, location, gender identity, sexuality…it’s upsetting but the ish is what POC deal with, holla at your favorite POC (or don’t & do your own research) if you don’t believe me but make sure you LISTEN *cues “Listen, Linda, Listen” kid* or read carefully.
As a kid who has moved, I felt Makeda on another level because that ish is disorienting. You’re leaving your home (possibly the only one you’ve known), your friends and your school. At the same time, you may be developing…so that is like being tossed into a fire and being told “water doesn’t put it out so just let it die down on it’s own…it will eventually *shrug*” and the chuck the deuces as they walk away…WHAT?! You get my point, right? *raises eyebrow* The choice is taken away from you and so little can be done about it…ish is messed up dude (dude is gender neutral for me, by the way, think Kel’s Dude song in Good Burger)!
I moved when I was in 4th grade (around Makeda’s age) and I remember that heartbreak like it was yesterday so if I could hug Makeda IRL, I definitely would. The most painful part of moving seems to be leaving your friends…I feel like leaving your best friend is like leaving a piece of yourself…how, how, HOW can you do that and not fall apart (I did)?! Makeda is a tough one to go through that and not lose it completely…she also has a bomb ass BFF that wouldn’t let her. They were both so present for each other, despite their distance, that is heartwarming. Lena is that ride-or-die friend that you hope for and are lucky to find (shout out to all the ride-or-dies out there)!
I love how this book tackles blackness in white spaces, self-discovery & exploration, depression and mental illness…it is simply brilliant. I felt like Makeda was gut punched throughout the book but she was like a G, standing up after each hit (with some struggle) holding out her arms shouting “YOU HIT LIKE A B-WORD” (because she doesn’t curse, she’s a good girl y’all). Navigating blackness in white space is tough but doing it at home, I can’t even imagine and on top of that, not having someone around to help understand what it means to be a black girl and eventually a black woman *long, slow whistle* makes it tougher. I could talk about this forever but I want want you all to gon’ about your lives and come back next week! Mental illness is really difficult to understand and experience for the person going through it/with the diagnosis (from what I have heard from friend’s who are open about their diagnosis) but it is also difficult to understand from the outside, knowing how best to support that person as they work through it. Makeda was so compassionate and loving, showing a grace that was not always extended to her…I was incredibly proud of her!
For Black Girls Like Me was such a beautiful read, one that I could see myself in as a black woman but she also spoke to the experiences of girlhood universally. Mariama did an amazing job of giving black girls a platform…it was as if she pointed at them (us, really) and said “I see you” complete with a charismatic wink and a tight hug at the end of the book. Please get this book for any and all black girls that you know, any girls (and boys) who are adopted, and any & all kids that you feel could use a hug in book form…it’s a loving way to show them that you see them too! *Angelic Smiley Face*