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The Unboxing of a Black Girl By Angela Shanté (Book Review)


Photo courtesy of Angela Shanté


Hey Lovelies,

I am so excited that award-winning author, Angela Shanté reached out to me a few months ago and sent me a copy of her new poetic memoir, The Unboxing of a Black Girl! I could not wait to read this emotional and evocative poetic memoir that offers a poignant look into the soul of Black girlhood.


For those of you who don't know Angela Shanté is an elementary education teacher by trade. She taught for ten years in her hometown of New York City where she received an MFA in creative writing from the City College of New York. Currently she's an education content editor and Literacy consultant in southern California. Her first two books and third on its way were released through West Margin Press.


Angela Shanté has earned and been nominated for multiple book awards including:

Silver medalist, Irma Black Bank Street of Education Book Award for Best Picture book, 2022, Winner, 2020 The Wishing Shelf Book Award : Picture Books for Ages 6-8, Finalist, 2020 Forward Indie for Children's Picture Books for 6-8-Year-Olds Winner, 2020 American Fiction Awards Best Cover Design: Children's Books, and the Finalist, 2020 American Fiction Awards for Children's Fiction.


In the first episode of season 4 of the Educated Black Queen Podcast, Angela joins me to discuss her new poetry memoir that highlights black culture, the adultification of Black girls, intergenerational trauma, policing Black bodies, black mental health, and so much more! You can listen to the full episode here.


I could not be more inspired by her creativity and vulnerability which allowed her to break through barriers and out of boxes.


Now let's dive into this book review!


Synopsis

 

In the poetry memoir The Unboxing of a Black Girl  Angela Shanté explores the trials and tribulations of being young, Black, and female.


Written as a collection of vignettes and poetry, The Unboxing of a Black Girl is a creative nonfiction reflection on Black girlhood. The debut YA title, by award-winning author Angela Shanté, is a love letter to Black girls set in New York City and serves as a personal and political critique of how the world raises Black girls.


As Shanté navigates the city through memory, she balances poetry with vignettes that explore the innocence and joy of childhood eroded by adultification. Through this book, she illuminates the places where Black girls are nurtured or exploited in stories and poems about personal and political boxes, love, loss, and sexual assault. Many entries are also studded with cultural footnotes designed to further understanding.


The inspirational


 

This book is a love letter to young adults who need to be gentle with themselves and embrace who their becoming.


Through the use of spoken word, haiku’s, and other forms of poetry she touches on love, grief, and sexual assault. Angela sheds light on the places in which Black girls are nurtured or exploited throughout the book.


Angela shows how you can break away from boxes wrapped in religion, patriarchy, capitalism, and hate to find your voice and be free. Oftentimes we may feel that it is necessary to conform to the boxes society puts as in as Black woman but that isn’t true.


She pays homage to hip hop and describes how Black girls and women like Megan Thee Stallion fit into it and have used it to regain their power and dismantle misogyny.


Angela’s experimental and transformative storytelling make this a must read poetry memoir. Even if you are not a big fan of poetry, there is a rich cultural history behind these stories of Black girlhood that is honest and compelling.


Angela touches on everything from Black culture, to the adultification of Black girls, to intergenerational trauma and policing Black bodies to toxic work culture. She shares resources for mental health and for those who have been sexually assaulted as well.


Angela also dives into her hybrid mix of African American, Caribbean, and Latin American cultures. She depicts in “The Talks” the shifts between generations who navigated Black girlhood in different spaces and acknowledges the differences in parenting styles. She highlights the complexities of intergenerational healing to break generational trauma.


While listening to this book I cried, I laughed, and felt every emotion as if she was talking to my inner Black girl and suddenly I didn’t feel so alone in the world. She lets all the Black girls out there know that they are enough.


In her footnotes, she also reminds us to be gentle with ourselves and creates safe spaces within the white spaces of this book.


There is no one definition of being a Black girl or woman, we exist in all shapes and forms on a fluid spectrum. Angela teaches us how to step out of boxes and step into our authentic self.


Top Five Quotes

 
"They say we are beautiful because we are Black. and our skin reflects pigments of Africa our smile stretches across the lagoons of the South to the steel and concrete of the North."
"Black is divine, see Black can be anything we decide it to be"
"I am my ancestors' wildest dreams."
"We grow. through despair, like roses from concrete."
“I want to live in a world where Black girls get to be free"

Have you read The Unboxing of a Black Girl by Angela Shanté?


What other books would you like me to review?


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