Book Review: Badass Black Girl: Questions, Quotes, and Affirmations for Teens
by M.J. Fievre
Publication Date: Jan 14, 2020
List Price: $16.95
Format: Paperback, 208 pages
Target Age Group: Young Adult
Imprint: Mango Publishing
Publisher: Mango Publishing
Parent Company: Mango Publishing
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Book Reviewed by Carol Taylor
Dear Badass Black Girl,
You are a true warrior who inherited the strength, courage, wisdom, love, and dignity of our ancestors. You stand on their shoulders, carrying a history of triumph. Yes, it is true: you also still carry some of the pain of yesterday’s Black heroines—these creators, innovators, and agents of change—and you are faced with the tremendous struggle of the modern girl of color. But make no mistake: you are strong and you can conquer whatever challenges this world hands you.
Your very existence defies history. Never forget those who broke the unjust rules society once used to limit their progress, those who fought hard to get you to this moment, those who gave light so others could find the way through dark times. Because of them, you get to walk into a restaurant through the front door, sit at the front of the bus, and cast a vote for leaders who represent your ideals. Walk in the freedom they secured for your sake. Be proud of your rich skin, and may your hair be a crown that stands tall. Be proud of your deep-rooted culture(s). Be proud of the power of those who came before you, as the strength of generations will propel you forward and carry you through difficulties.
Be fearless. But, as you move through the world, remember: your biggest responsibility is to remain thoughtful, to honor where you come from, and to recognize you didn't simply appear and find your own voice. Alice Walker wrote, “How simple a thing it seems to me that to know ourselves as we are, we must know our mothers’ names.”
Kenbe (be strong),
In a series of letters to Black girls, the author shines a powerful light on Black women trailblazers, both historic and contemporary, as an acknowledgment of “our mothers’ names.” Those brave and resolute Black women who paved a path for us to shine. In that regard, the book is filled with affirming and empowering quotes from stellar women who are thought leaders, sports stars, entertainers, and change agents. Among them, Alice Walker, Oprah Winfrey, Lorraine Hansberry, Marian Wright Edelman, Audre Lorde, Wilma Rudolph, Gabby Douglas, Lupita Nyong’o, Alicia Keys, and Rihanna to name a few. The book covers a myriad of subjects: beauty, talent, creating goals, self-evaluation, the power of nontraditional families and community building, and ways of finding your talents. Included are beautifully drawn illustrations that perfectly depict the strength, feminine grace, and natural beauty of Black girls, their luminosity too often negated in negative messaging and stereotypical images.
The power of these quotes and their speakers is twofold. There is the wisdom in the quote itself, and through this contemporary work, young women will be introduced to lesser-known luminaries with their society-altering contributions placed in historical context. Fievre introduces lists of badass trailblazing Black women throughout history and in various industries such as Entertainment, STEM, Sports, Literature, Education, Military and Government Service, Spirituality, Politics, Law, and Business. Some are well known, like Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman to serve in the US House of Representatives, others are less well known but no less important or pivotal, such as Constance Baker Motley, the first Black woman to hold a federal judicial post.
Some might think such obvious and uplifting messages would go without saying. But Black girls and their caregivers, know, firsthand, how under-valued they often are. We know these messages and images are immensely important and can be life-changing. In an age where misogynoir—the dislike, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against Black women—proliferates, sexism and racism create doubly dangerous intersections of oppression. Often under-acknowledged and overly maligned, Black girls struggle not only with societal acceptance but also with self-acceptance in the face of negative messaging amplified in the media and Hollywood, around colorism, outdated European standards of beauty, an unattainable or unhealthy body image, and the adultification of Black girlhood.
“Black girls are often seen as more mature and in need of less protection than other students in the same age group. This is known as an adultification bias. Because of this, when Black girls express strong or contrary views, adults view them as challenging authority or, more fundamentally, simply assume a girl’s character is just plain ‘bad.’ Instead of being heard and understood, Black girls are too often treated like they have an attitude problem or are a threat. Studies have shown this can lead to some serious consequences for Black girls who are brave enough to speak up when they face injustice. For example, Black girls in school are more than five times more likely than white girls to be suspended from school.”
“What You’re Up Against” is a recurring section in the book that offers introspection about what Black people in general, and Black women in particular, have to deal with. For instance, Black women, who speak out for themselves and others and have a strong sense of self, are often called angry Black women in an attempt to silence or shame them.
“When they speak their minds, Black girls are often seen as pushy, bossy, and selfish. You will have to deal with or are already dealing with the stereotype known as the Angry Black Woman—an image designed to discredit us and to say that we are overreacting, that we are too sensitive and unreasonable. Author Brittney Cooper points out that whenever someone weaponizes anger against Black women, it is designed to silence them.… But there’s a lot to be angry about in the world, and for too long, Black women have been expected to sit in the back and keep our mouths shut.”
“Black people are often accused of having a ‘victim mindset.’ You might hear things like: ‘Slavery ended more than 150 years ago, when are you people going to get over it?’ and, ‘Oh, every race has had slaves at some time in history. It’s not just Black folks.’ Then there’s, ‘Did you know Africans were slave-owners before white people?’ and, ‘Who do you think sold Black people to the whites? It was Africans selling off their own people.’ It’s enough to make you want to throw things. What do you think? Has a victim status become our collective identity? Or is there more to the history than just victimhood? Why is it important to remember that many Black people in the United States (and elsewhere) have a history with roots in slavery? How does that history impact you today?”
These questions allow young Black women to do some work on their own to unpack not only the world around them and the common harmful and disempowering narratives they hear, but also their reaction to them.
Badass Black Girl is really a book for all ages. It is empowering, motivational, and engaging. The workbook sections have self-help suggestions, such as writing about our positive traits, talents, and qualities, to recognize them or to revisit them when we feel low or need a boost of self esteem. Part social commentary, part self-help, it is a must-read because it highlights our legacy of ingenuity, bravery, genius, and fortitude. Fievre offers our girls invaluable insight and advice on how to move in the world and take up space as a young Black woman in an increasingly racist, sexist, misogynistic society that tries to diminish their gifts, talents, and beauty, all while capitalizing on Black culture.
Badass Black Girl is a gift to the next generation, from Fievre—an author, entrepreneur, and trailblazer from a young age—who is a badass Black woman in her own right. This book should be gifted, loaned, and given, to all the young Black women in our lives, because it is the gift that will keep on giving as it acknowledges and amplifies the beauty, grace, and power that Black girls and women embody.