Book Review: Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America

Title: Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America

Author: Edited by Ibi Zoboi

Genres:  Short Story Anthology

Pages: 416

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Review Copy: Purchased

Availability: Available now

Summary: Edited by National Book Award finalist Ibi Zoboi, and featuring some of the most acclaimed bestselling Black authors writing for teens today—Black Enough is an essential collection of captivating stories about what it’s like to be young and Black in America.

Black is…sisters navigating their relationship at summer camp in Portland, Oregon, as written by Renée Watson.

Black is…three friends walking back from the community pool talking about nothing and everything, in a story by Jason Reynolds.

Black is…Nic Stone’s high-class beauty dating a boy her momma would never approve of.

Black is…two girls kissing in Justina Ireland’s story set in Maryland.

Black is urban and rural, wealthy and poor, mixed race, immigrants, and more—because there are countless ways to be Black enough. 

Review: I love that YA publishing is creating more and more short story anthologies, especially themed anthologies that focus on the diverse lives of marginalized voices. When Black Enough was announced I was so excited because I would have loved an anthology like this when I was a teen and I’m excited that the young people I’m around, specifically my Black students, will be able to see themselves in an anthology that all about their voices. I can honestly say that I loved absolutely every story in this anthology. Teen K. Imani was seen in the variety of the stories and I know this anthology will be a beautiful mirror for a number of Black teens.

If there was a common theme that could be expressed in this anthology, it is of teens finding their voice; be it standing up for themselves, their community, standing up to their parents, teachers, etc. In a number of the stories, the teens were finding their truth and deciding to act on it in a way that was unique to them. In Lamar Giles, “Black.Nerd.Problems.,” his character, who is a self-proclaimed nerd, finds his voice and speaks to his crush. In “Warning: Color May Fade” by Leah Henderson, her character fights back against a cultural appropriation by creating a better art piece and standing tall for her artwork.  Jay Coles’s “Wild Horses, Wild Hearts” was a wonderful “Romeo & Juliet” type of story of two young men whose parents hate each other (one family is White supremacists) but stand up for their relationship to both parents. It is both a middle finger to racism and homophobia.

Brandy Colbert’s “Oreo” really had an impact on me as I grew up in a private school setting where I was often the only Black girl, and there was tension when I was around other Black kids because I was influenced by my surroundings. In fact, Varian Johnson’s “Black Enough” touches on some the same issues that many Black teens who grow up in primarily white communities experience – the tension of living between two worlds. It is an experience I don’t often see in YA literature, so I was extremely happy to see these two stories express so vividly an experience many Black teens face. 

While teens may not see themselves in every story, they will see themselves in a lot of the stories. There is no one way to be Black in America and I feel like this anthology truly captures the Black experience. This anthology will also serve as a perfect window to the diverse lives of Black Americans and open people’s eyes to what it really means to be a Black teen in 2019.