BOOK REVIEW|The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae
(37 Ink/Atria, February 2015)

“Awkward Black Girl” is what you become when you read this book on New York City public transportation. Issa Rae had me embarrassingly laughing out loud through several commutes and I was met by smiles and strange stares. That’s part of my love for print books though; dust jackets are how I get to show off my style and taste in Tribeca where the women dress way better then me. I was gifted this book at Paz and Associates’ Owning a Bookstore retreat where I earned a certification last April and I just got around to digging through my box of gems. I chose this title first because the front flap told my life: “… navigating love, the workplace, friendships, or ‘rapping’… eating out alone… learning to accept yourself–natural hair and all… the millennial experience”. I had no idea who Issa Rae was or that this title was a New York Times bestseller when I picked it up. I like that because my reception for a book feels more organic when I’m unfamiliar with its acclaim.

This isn’t a book you look to for a challenging coming of age story, but I promise you “yaaas, girl… you too?!”-moments at every turn, whether you’re black, white, or orange. I often wondered how Issa’s current boyfriend reacted to parts of her raw essays. Her honesty was hilarious and uncomfortably juicy. Issa’s interpretation of her accounts in retrospect made me reflect upon my own “awkward” moments that have shaped me. I realized my recall is a lot better than I thought once this read inspired me to dig into my own familial, friendship, and relationship roots. Unlike Issa’s upbringing with strict Sengalese parents, my childhood was full of exposure and transparency. I was still able to relate to Issa as my parents were way “cooler” than me; I faced  many of her same identity struggles in regards to my appearance and my connection (or lack thereof) with hip-hop as a young black girl at school and at home. I don’t think I’m brave enough to reveal exactly how much I relate to her, so I’ll leave it at that, lol. About three-quarters of the way through the book, I couldn’t take it anymore, and I flocked to watch the first season of her webseries. I needed to see this woman in full awkward blossom. The webseries was almost too good that the rest of the book fell flat for me as I was subconsciously comparing her live-humor to her writing. Issa Rae’s webseries it nothing short of genius!

It’s 8:00 pm on Monday night as I type this and Issa Rae’s representation of a black millennial is a refreshing difference from the images being portrayed on the Love & Wives that ain’t Wives: Wherever now playing. I think this is The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl‘s greatest accomplishment–portraying a woman who is educated, an entrepreneur in a creative industry, awkward, and also identifies with black-American culture. Issa Rae is mainstream confirmation that these former attributes and “black” aren’t paradoxes and can all live in one being. It is so important that more of these stories are highlighted to young women of color.

Random but related: I really miss the TV show Girlfriends.

Thank you for reading!

~1st Noëlle


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