On January 8th, 2019, Ibi Zoboi made black history with her highly anticipated release of Black Enough, the first ever anthology of short stories about black youth from black authors that doesn’t focus solely on racial trauma and discrimination. From popular black voices, the stories are each uniquely separate from one another, with the common thread of black identity woven between them, binding them together inextricably. Each tale covers a different topic one may encounter while being black in America, everything from trying to maintain pressed hair in the summer heat to forbidden LGBT romance in unaccepting families.
It was absolutely beautiful to read a story about black boys walking down the street in New York, the summer heat hot upon their backs, fantasizing about sandwiches. The story offered nothing more than black boys bonding, laughing, telling jokes, and teasing one another. It may seem simplistic to some—but it is absolutely revolutionary. We rarely ever get to see “black joy”—black people having fun, uncomplicated from the matters of racism or prejudice. In these stories, black kids are simply teenagers dealing with the same struggles many teens face—college admissions, being impacted by the suicide of a loved one, being gay, finding one’s voice, and loving someone who will never, ever love you back. Too often, we are only represented if we are suffering. Black identity cannot be allowed to be synonymous with “the struggle.” As black people, we are much more than the racism that happens to us.
Going to the bookstore used to be a nightmare for me. I would search the shelves for hours trying to find even one good book about a black kid falling in love or having an adventure, but I only ever found books about black kids if they were somehow tied to slavery, or if racism took up the entire narrative. It seemed all the fun books – books about kids falling in love, riding dragons, discovering their secret powers – were all about white kids. Black Enough is a step in the right direction. It is a step towards black kids having literature that allows them to smile, laugh, and escape from the world. We will always have to honor our black history and the struggles black people face to this day, but that no longer has to be our entire reality. Black Enough is a reminder that we are human and we deserve to be represented as the complex individuals that we are.
By Jesse E
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