The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae

Date Read: May 25th 2015

Published: January 2015

Publisher: 37 INK / ATRIA books

Pages: 204

Issa Rae

The Blurb

Being an introvert in a world that glorifies cool isn’t easy. But when Issa Rae, the creator of the Shorty Award – winning hit series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, is that introvert – whether she’s navigating love, the workplace, friendships, or ‘rapping’ – It sure is entertaining. Now, in this debut collection written in her witty and self-deprecating voice, Rae covers everything from cyber-sexing in the early days of the Internet to deflecting unsolicited comments on weight gain, from navigating the perils of eating out alone and public displays of affection to learning to accept yourself – natural hair and all.

Reflective of the millennial experience yet wholly universal, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl is a book no one – awkward or cool, black, white (or other) – will want to miss.

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Review – ★★★★ (4 stars)

I love Jo-Issa (aka: Issa Rae) even more after reading this book! I wouldn’t call this book a memoir… its more like a collection of essays where Issa Rae talks about her life happenings. From the reviews I’ve seen on Goodreads, some readers seemed disappointed that this book wasn’t as funny as they had expected, since Issa Rae is hilarious on Youtube. I started this book with no expectations at all; I am simply a fan who wanted to support Issa Rae’s brand, and I must say I was not disappointed! I learned a lot about Issa Rae from The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl: Issa Rae is fluent in French, she grew up in Maryland, Los Angeles and Senegal, she went to Stanford University, she has 4 siblings (they are the Diop 5!) and her father is a Senegalese doctor in Los Angeles.

My favorite chapter, entitled ‘Halfrican’, is where Issa Rae talks about her (half) Senegalese heritage and upbringing (in the United States and frequently in Dakar, Senegal). I commend Issa Rae for writing a chapter on her father – entitled ‘African Dad’, where she discusses her family dynamics and the divorce of her parents. She really poured her heart out in some of these chapters, and I was impressed! Another thing I like about this book is how Issa’s claim to fame ‘awkwardness’ lingers throughout every chapter, even as she candidly discusses her college experiences (where she produced and directed four theatrical productions), love life, experiences of being a black actress/writer and weight issues (once you read the book, you will understand what I mean by this).

It was great to finally read a narrative of a black woman, who is of a privileged background. The ‘started from the bottom’, impoverished childhood narrative most people of color claim is not generic to all people of color. Some black folks actually grew up well-off, and that is perfectly okay! The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl was a great jump-start to my summer reading as it was enjoyable, light-hearted and of course some bits were hilarious – duh, it’s Issa Rae!

More on Issa Rae

With her own unique flare and infectious sense of humor, Issa Rae’s content has garnered more than 20 million views and hundreds of thousands of YouTube subscribers (and counting). In addition to making Glamour magazine’s ’35 Under 35’ list as well as Forbes’s ‘30 Under 30’ list, and winning the Shorty Award for best Web Show for her hit series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, Issa Rae has worked on web content for Pharrell Williams, Tracey Edmonds, and numerous others. Issa has received national attention with major media outlets, including the New York Times, CNN, Elle, Seventeen, Rolling Stone, VIBE, Fast Company, MSNBC, Essence, Fader and more.

Issa Rae 2

If you are not familiar with Issa Rae, please watch her YouTube web-series: The Misadventures of AWKWARD Black Girl and have a good laugh. I eagerly look forward to Issa Rae’s future projects and her breakthrough to television!

 ★★★★ (4 stars) – Great book. Highly recommend!

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Purchase The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl on Amazon

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Date Read: January 12th 2015

Published: July 2014

Publisher: Vintage Books

Pages: 23

Adichie Feminist

The Blurb

In this personal, eloquently-argued essay—adapted from her much-admired TEDx talk of the same name—Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, award-winning author of Americanah, offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century, one rooted in inclusion and awareness. Drawing extensively on her own experiences and her deep understanding of the often masked realities of sexual politics, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman now—and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.

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Review– ★★★★ (4 stars)

Most of us know We Should All Be Feminists was first presented by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as a TED talk given in the United Kingdom at TEDxEuston in 2012. This talk became quite popular on YouTube, along with her first talk The Danger of a Single Story which she delivered in 2009. The essay We Should All Be Feminists became available to the public for purchase as an eBook in 2014 and I recently got a chance to purchase the eBook using my NookBook app.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has a way of eloquently articulating complex issues by skillfully using simple words, and this is why I love her! Her essay/talk, We Should All Be Feminists is basically about her views on gender and how limited of a function society has made it. The term ‘feminist’ has had a bad rap for years, but Adichie proudly calls herself a feminist or better yet: A Happy African Feminist Who Does Not Hate Men and Who Likes to Wear Lip Gloss and High Heels for Herself and Not For Men”. In her essay, she compares how society has shaped the way girls and boys are raised and how problematic these ways can be. For example, she states that girls are taught to be likeable and not aggressive, while boys are taught to be strong, seldom showing emotion and fear.

The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing how we are. Adichie believes we’d be happier and true to our identity if we didn’t have the weight of gender expectations on our shoulders. Men shouldn’t have to feign strength and (hyper) masculinity by always paying the bill for women or by stifling their emotions. Women shouldn’t feel invisible in the presence of men. Women shouldn’t feel shame or guilt whenever they desire to express anger or to simply state their noble opinions.

Adichie gives several examples of personal experiences and of other people she knows to further explain and prove her points on the problems of gender. I do not consider myself a ‘feminist’ and I don’t remember the last time I experienced prejudice because I am a girl, but I agree 100% with every single thing Adichie discusses in this essay. I think it will just take a long time for society to actually shift and become more flexible with the concept of gender and gender roles, but we will get there – one day.

My favorite quotes from We Should All Be Feminists:

 “Gender as it functions today is a grave injustice” pg. 12

“We do a great disservice to boys in how we raise them. We stifle the humanity of boys…. We teach boys to be afraid to fear, of weakness, of vulnerability. We teach them to mask their true selves, because they have to be, in Nigerian-speak – a hard man.” pg. 14

“A Nigerian acquaintance once asked me if I was worried that men would be intimidated by me. I was not worried at all- it had not occurred to me to be worried, because a man who will be intimidated by me is exactly the kind of man I would have no interest in.” pg. 14  [Girl, me too!]

“Some people ask: ‘Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?’ Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general- but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender.” pg. 18

“I was once talking about gender and a man said to me, ‘Why does it have to be you as a woman? Why not you as a human being?’ This type of question is a way of silencing a person’s specific experiences. Of course I am a human being, but there are particular things that happen to me in the world because I am a woman.” pg. 19

“Some people will say, Oh, but women have the real power: bottom power. (This is a Nigerian expression for a woman who uses her sexuality to get things from men.) But bottom power is not power at all, because the woman with bottom power is actually not powerful; she just has a good route to tap another person’s power.” pg. 20

This essay/talk is wonderful and I will surely read/listen to it again!

Watch the talk from the TEDxEuston event via YouTube below:

★★★★ (4 stars) – Great essay. Highly recommend!

Purchase We Should All Be Feminists (paperback) on Amazon

Happy New Year, everyone! I’m participating in the Goodreads 2015 Reading Challenge. Expect more reviews soon 🙂