Tuesday, February 08, 2022

Six top portrayals of Black girlhood in fiction

Kai Harris is a writer and educator from Detroit, Michigan, who uses her voice to uplift the Black community through realistic fiction centered on the Black experience. Her work has appeared in Guernica, Kweli Journal, Longform, and the Killens Review, amongst others. In addition to fiction, Harris has published poetry, personal essays, and peer-reviewed academic articles on topics related to Black girlhood and womanhood, the slave narrative genre, motherhood, and Black identity. A graduate of Western Michigan University’s PhD program, Harris was the recipient of the university’s Gwen Frostic Creative Writing Award in Fiction for her short story, “While We Live.” Harris now lives in the Bay Area with her husband, three daughters, and dog Tabasco, where she is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Santa Clara University.

Harris's new novel is What the Fireflies Knew.

At Lit Hub she tagged six classic books that depict Black girlhood, including:
Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones

One of the most honest, visceral, and profound accounts of Black girlhood I’ve ever read was in Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones. This book is told through the voice of 15-year-old Esch, as she and her family prepare for a hurricane—a hurricane they don’t yet know will be Hurricane Katrina. Ward’s novel spoke to me in ways I didn’t expect. Esch’s first person narrative gives priority to the unfiltered experience of a Black girl in a moment of extreme turmoil and indecision, which as readers, we become intimately connected to. We root for Esch, we cry for Esch, we love Esch. Her voice is authentically Black; her experiences authentically human. The way Salvage the Bones portrays Esch’s humanity, her full experience, is what convinced me to write a book, and was the book I used as an example when trying to put my own words out into the world.
Read about another entry on the list.

Salvage the Bones is among Christine Hume's ten top feminist retellings of mythology, Michelle Sacks's five books with complex and credible child narrators, Amy Brady's seven books that provocatively tackle climate change, Jodi Picoult's six recommended books, Peggy Frew's ten top books about "bad" mothers, and Jenny Shanks's five least supervised children in literature

--Marshal Zeringue