by Jennifer Baszile
Having grown up in the Chocolate City, and gone to predominately Black schools from preschool through college. The only time I would see White people was on television or maybe at the mall. So, I don't have any experience being the "other". I have always been surrounded by "my own" and the comfort that comes with it.
Jennifer's story is much different than mine. When her family moved to the predominately White, upper middle-class suburb of Palos Verdes, California, she literally became The Black Girl Next Door. Her parents want for their children what most parents do: to have a better life and opportunities than they did. Jennifer spent much of the first 18 years of her life trying to fit into a world that wasn't necessarily made for her - wanting to portray Harriet Tubman for a school function when the less controversial Rosa Parks is forced upon her; wanting a makeover for a school dance and having the counter lady (who obviously has no experience with dark skin) turn you into a clown; having to have "appropriate" Black boys imported in just to have a social life. While she has to work hard to assimilate, her parents also expect her to retain some sort of Blackness and follow rules that are never quite spelled out for her.
I found this to be a great memoir, especially near the end of Jennifer's high school career when an event at home kind of explodes. Consquently, she becomes more aware of her personal power and just more of herself, period. The fact that I came of age and could recognize a lot of the cultural references made it that much more wonderful.