Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams

Published by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books

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Summary:  After Genesis’s family gets evicted from their Detroit apartment–again–her father mysteriously finds them a rental in swanky, mostly white Farmington Hills.  Genesis loves the fancy new house, but is apprehensive about going to school, where even the few kids of color are lighter skinned than she is. She is extremely self-conscious about her skin color, due to her father’s negative, often drunken, comments about her taking after him,, and this leads her to try everything from steel wool to bleach to lighten it.  Slowly, though, Genesis begins to make friends and to discover her talent and passion for music. When her family is threatened with eviction yet again, Genesis is afraid she’ll lose the opportunity to perform in her school’s talent show. But ultimately, it’s the talent show performance that finally wakes her father up to the damage he’s doing to his family and the reasons he is doing it.  While the ending isn’t neat or completely happy, it is hopeful for both Genesis and her parents. 384 pages; grades 5-8.

Pros:  A powerful debut novel.  As in New Kid, a sympathetic narrator shows readers what it’s like to be a person of color in a wealthy, predominantly white environment.  Any middle school reader will identify with Genesis’s struggles between wanting to fit in and being true to herself. I sailed through this in about two days, leaving a Kleenex-strewn couch in my wake.  A contender for some awards, for sure.

Cons:  The family’s sudden move from impoverished Detroit neighborhoods to upscale Farmington Hills seemed unrealistic.

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