Review: Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America edited by Ibi Zoboi

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blackenoughBlack Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America edited by Ibi Zoboi
Genre: YA Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, #ownvoices, Short Story Collections
Publication: January 8th 2019 by Balzer + Bray
Series: None. Standalone.
Length: 416 pages
Format: ARC from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★.5

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Black Enough is a star-studded anthology edited by National Book Award finalist Ibi Zoboi that will delve into the closeted thoughts, hidden experiences, and daily struggles of black teens across the country. From a spectrum of backgrounds—urban and rural, wealthy and poor, mixed race, immigrants, and more—Black Enough showcases diversity within diversity.

Whether it’s New York Times bestselling author Jason Reynolds writing about #blackboyjoy or Newbery Honor-winning author Renee Watson talking about black girls at camp in Portland, or emerging author Jay Coles’s story about two cowboys kissing in the south—Black Enough is an essential collection full of captivating coming-of-age stories about what it’s like to be young and black in America.

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Huge thanks to my friends from Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins International for sending me a review copy of this title in exchange for an honest review. This did not, in any way, affect my overall opinion of the book and/or the story. 

It was only a few months ago that I first heard about this anthology that Ibi Zoboi was working on, and I wasted no time in wanting to check it out. After a thorough Goodreads search, I easily got intrigued with BLACK ENOUGH, seeing that a lot of my favorite, powerhouse authors have contributed to it. I saw that there’s going to be a story about a girl dating a guy that her mother would never approve of from Nic Stone, two cowboys kissing in the South from Jay Coles, sisters who bond over the course of a camp out from Renée Watson, and a lot more! And honey, you don’t even have to ask me to read this. The fact that this book is brought about by a diverse cause alone is enough to hook me up. Read on to know what I thought of this groundbreaking short story collection.

Before I start giving my opinion on each of the stories, I want to be clear about one fact: I am neither Black nor American and I can’t speak for the accuracy of the representation found in this book. I might have understood the pop culture references mentioned in some of the stories but there might be some additional context that I didn’t get. Still, I find that most, if not all of the stories are modern and relatable and so even though I’m Brown and that this anthology wasn’t exactly written for people like me, I still very much enjoyed reading through this collection.

Half A Moon by Renée Watson – ★★★★ // This anthology starts off with a heartwarming story about sisterhood and moving on and the power of unbreakable family bonds. Now, I say that this is heartwarming because it courageously incorporated the values of close-family ties and y’all know how big a sucker I am for this. [Trigger warnings for fat shaming and bullying.]

Black Enough by Varian Johnson – ★★★.5 // This one started off a little confusing for me because I feel like there were a lot of stuff happening during the first few pages of the story. Although after a little while—mostly towards the ending, really—it became clear that it’s generally about being sensitive and woke to modern social issues like police brutality and the relevance of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Warning: Color May Fade by Leah Henderson – ★★ // This had so much potential, in my opinion, but it’s confusing as hell. If I understood this correctly, this one’s about thievery in the form of taking credit for an artwork that’s originally conceptualized and entirely made by a different person. I completely didn’t get the message of this, but I was impressed by the idea of the “winning artwork”.

Black. Nerd. Problems. by Lamar Giles – ★★ // This read like a good story but in the end, I realized that it didn’t really do anything for me. If I’m not mistaken, this one’s about having game and having the guts to tell someone about your feelings for him / her. It completely took place in a community mall, and all I can remember about it is that there were a lot of brand names, pop culture references, and there was… a fight that cause an accident, I guess?

Out of the Silence by Kekla Magoon – ★★★.5 // Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe this one was written in the format of a letter addressed to a dead person who made the narrator question her sexuality. This was a bit challenging to read but I enjoyed it all the same. Still, it was a heartbreaking, and moving read.

The Ingredients by Jason Reynolds – ★★★.5 // Albeit this was a quick and entertaining read—the main dudes kept on talking about their perfect sandwich and it literally made me hungry—I ultimately feel like it needed more depth? Jason Reynolds’ stories are usually filled with so many allegories and so I think that’s what lacked for me in this one.

Oreo by Brandy Colbert – ★★★★ // In my opinion, this is the story that perfectly captured the idea of the whole anthology. The main character of this one was called an “oreo”—black on the outside, white on the inside—by her cousin and it disturbed her to her core. Mainly, it’s about the dreams that one aspires to achieve with the limited resources that they’re given and still being able to look back from where you came from.

Samson and the Delilahs by Tochi Onyebuchi – ★★★★ // This is the story of a debater boy with immigrant parents who, all his life, was taught to strive for the best until he discovers metal music… Can you just imagine the chaos that ensues right after? He then starts to ask about his cultural history and his mom… just wasn’t having it. But really, this one’s about staying true to your roots and I appreciated it so, so much.

Wild Horses, Wild Hearts by Jay Coles – ★★★★.5 // NOW THIS IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT! This one’s a forbidden m/m love story that involves Tank Robinson, a black guy who’s 1/4 of the only all-Black family residing in the South, and Skyler Smith, the son of their racist and homophobic neighbors as they defy their parents’ expectations by falling in love with each other. I would’ve given this a solid 5 if the ending had more wow factor, you know what I mean?

Whoa! by Rita Williams-Garcia – ★★★.5 // Out of all the short stories in this collection, I feel like this is the weirdest of all. This one’s about a model who gets the chance to have an encounter with his ancestor from the pre-Civil War era through a magical basin. As they were talking, readers could easily identify the differences in beliefs, norms, and so many other aspects in comparison to modern times. This was interesting, but quite frankly, also a bit too weird for my tastes.

Gravity by Tracey Baptiste – ★★★★ // Within a span of a few seconds, this story hooked me up quite easily. It talks about sexual harassment, and body sensitivity in a time when victim blaming seems like a thing. Most of the depth of the story relied on flashbacks, and I was afraid that the author won’t be able to pull it off. And you know what? I just love it whenever books or stories prove me wrong. [Again, trigger warnings for sexual assault,  and victim blaming.]

The Trouble With Drowning by Dhonielle Clayton –  ★★★.5 // I was really looking forward to this one because I love Dhonielle’s debut, The Belles, and she’s one of the authors whose stories I almost always look forward to. This one’s about Lena, a light-skinned, Black character who, after losing her sister, tries her hardest to move on. This started off a little dragging to read what with all the narrative building. Still, this one’s quite heart-rending.

Kissing Sarah Smart by Justina Ireland – ★★★★ // This one’s a f/f love story involving one who’s white and fat, and the other’s black and biracial. I enjoyed this one because it defied gender norms, and the way it tackled homophobia and every day microaggressions seemed light and brave. All I know about Justina Ireland is that she writes good fantasty / feminist books. Little did I know that she has a talent for writing love stories as well.

Hackathon Summers by Coe Booth – ★★★★ // This greatly reminded me of When Dimple Met Rishi because most of the story took place in a convention for programmers called Hackathon. This is about Garry, a teen coder with mom issues who later on meets and falls in love with Inaaya, a Muslim girl who, at the time, seemed like the type of girl who knows herself completely. This talked about how people, no matter their age, religion, or gender, are capable of accepting and embracing change, and I can bravely say that this one’s a favorite for me.

Into The Starlight by Nic Stone – ★★★★.5 // Now this was the story that got me into reading this anthology in the first place. This one’s about Makenzie, the daughter of well-respected parents, who later on meets Kamari, a boy with a bad reputation. What I loved most about this, other than it’s forbidden love trope, is the characters’ development both for Mak and Kamari. In just a few pages, Nic Stone was able to turn them into people with strong voices, and I love how Mak was able to put her prejudices about “thugs” aside in order to accept her true feelings for Kamari, even though she knew that her parents would never approve of her relationship with him. I think it’s brave, and I adore it.

“In conclusion, Black Enough is an amazing collection of short stories that showcases the wonders of being just what the title says—Black. It’s a celebration of the good (and sometimes even bad) things that makes Black people worthy of having their place in this world. All of the stories brought something to the table, and even though, as expected, I did not end up loving every single story in this anthology, I still have to credit and thank every single contributor for giving me this wonderful opportunity of knowing you, your culture, and your norms. I have so much respect for y’all! And I look forward to reading all of your individual books.”

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Have YOU read Black Enough yet? Or any other books by some of this anthology’s contributors? How was it for you? Let me know what you think of them down below in the comments section! And if you haven’t checked out Black Enough, be sure to grab yourself a copy as soon as possible!

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Ibi Zoboi was born in Haiti and immigrated to New York with her mother when she was four years-old. Everything about her new home was both strange and magical. This is why she loves reading and writing science-fiction, fantasy, and mythology. And she loves love stories, too! Ibi wears lots of bright colors and is a huge fan of mangos, avocados, dry humor, long-winded storytellers, and modest skirts. She also smiles, laughs, and cries often—sometimes all at once. She lives in Brooklyn with her three children, her husband the art teacher, and three pet turtles named Lucky, Jade, and Leo. It’s a messy house.

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Until the next one!

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4 thoughts on “Review: Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America edited by Ibi Zoboi

  1. Wonderful review, JM, I’m so happy you overall enjoyed this anthology, it sounds so good! I’m especially curious about Jay Coles’ story which sounds AMAZING 🙂

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