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The Importance of Black Coming of Age Novels

Being in Quarantine for a huge chunk of my summer allowed me to reconnect with one of my favorite hobbies, reading! Reading this year started off as something fun. I read novels such as Little Women, Call me by Your Name, Pride and Prejudice, and Where the Crawdad Sings. However, as racial tensions got stronger, I decided I wanted to read more books that revolved around characters who are African American, like myself. I really wanted to read books that represented young black teenagers in a positive light. I was able to find a great young adult book called Not So Pure And Simple that follows a young, black, teenage boy going through normal teenage things. I also read The Sun Is Also A Star, which is a young adult romance novel that also follows a young, Jamaican immigrant! These two books were amazing reads, and I will be talking about what I loved about the books and what I did not like so much. 

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Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles- 8.5/10

This book follows a black teenage boy named Del who has had a huge crush on a girl named Kiera since kindergarten. Now that Kiera has broken up with her boyfriend, Del sees this as a perfect opportunity to shoot his shot with Kiera. In order to impress her, he joins a purity group at their local church that Kiera is very passionate about. As he begins to enter Kiera’s religious world, he realizes that Kiera is not the picture-perfect girl he made her up to be. This book follows how toxic masculinity is embedded in our society and the importance of teaching sons to respect all women. What I loved about this book was how raw and real it was coming from a male perspective and the amazing character development Del had. However, I wish his character development did not depend on his sister. It seemed like since Del’s older sister experienced (Spoiler alert) assault, he now understands the impact a man could have on a woman. 

 

The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon- 9/10

If you love a great cheesy romance novel, THIS IS FOR YOU. This book shows the power of the universe through the connection between two teenagers, Natasha and Daniel. Natasha is an immigrant from Jamaica who is to be deported the next day and tends to base her life on scientific facts. Daniel is a first-generation South Korean teenager who has an interview for Yale, though he has no desire to attend Yale but instead aspires to be a poet. After Daniel saves Natasha’s life while she crosses the street as a car is speeding towards her, Daniel and Natasha share an instant connection. Daniel’s infatuation with Natasha causes him to persuade Natasha that he can get her to fall in love with him in a day, proving all of her scientific facts wrong. However, things get more complicated after Daniel finds out that Natasha is being deported the next day. What I loved about this book is that it shows the perspective of every character that is mentioned in the book, proving that the choices every person makes are significant to the universe. This book was a fun and light-hearted read which is perfect before bed or when you just want to relax! 

 

Why are books about non-trauma black coming of age stories important?

An issue that I have come across as a reader is that it is hard for young black readers to find young adult books about black teenagers that don’t have some sort of historically black trauma. Trauma’s that include: seeing your best friend lose their life from the police, growing up during discrimination, etc. The effects of only seeing yourself depicted in books/ movies as a “side character” or when the main character is actually black, they have to go through difficult trauma is very discouraging for black youth. Yes, these books and movies are VERY much important. However, this should not be a norm for black characters. All black stories matter; it's time to shed light that not every black story has to be traumatic in order for the public to find interest in it. 

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Elysia Williams

Cal Lutheran '22

HI! My name is Elysia but you can call me Sia for short. I am a leader of Delight Ministries at Cal Lutheran and a writer for Her Campus. In my free time, I am usually with my friends or family making memories.
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