In light of Black History Month I was unsure whether to review a book such as Pulitzer Prize winning The Color Purple (by Alice Walker) or the historical Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (by Mildred D. Taylor). To be honest, I even considered dedicating the review to a more recent novel, The Help (by Kathryn Stockett), which would have been a massive cop-out given its incredible success and fame in recent years. All three of these books are brilliant works of literature and would have done justice to the purpose of my review but, at the end of the day, there is so much more to Black History Month than a traditional novel exploring the life of African Americans in a degenerate southern state from the early 1960s to the late ‘70s.
People’s lives have changed and although it’s crucial for us to always remember the story of Celie, the Logan family and the voices of Aibileen, Minny, and Skeete — as if you could ever forget them — among countless others, a new wave has started and it’s exciting, at the very least.
The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl started off as a comedy web series in 2011, created and narrated by Issa Rae, a Stanford grad from Maryland, who openly talks about her difficulties throughout High School or “fitting into the ‘blackness’” that she thought was expected from her. Rae started the web-series because she felt that the Hollywood-inflated archetype of the African-American woman was completely unrelatable and wanted to give a voice to more realistic portraits of black women, outside the limitation of stereotypes. The web series hilariously opens with “J,” (portrayed by Rae) asking whether or not she’s the only one who pretends to be in a music video when she’s by herself; she also talks about the awkwarness of stopping at the same street light in the car as your coworkers (Do you pretend not to see them? Say hello? Try to have a conversation between lights?). After the hit comedy web series, the author/creator made her debut in 2015 in book form. Similarly to the web series, the book is rib-tickling, witty and best of all, truthful. We get a windo, why she goes by Issa Rae instead (she wanted a nickname) and the ‘joy’ of her teachers in never getting her name right, particularly in elementary school: “’Joe-EYE-suh…. Uh, DIE-OP?’ [the teacher] asked, pretending to look through the sea of white kids to find my ethnic ass.”
Rae is an awkward introvert nerd that walks us through the perils, insecurities and comically embarassing (yet necessary) parts of adolescence and early adulthood, but most importanatly teaches us to accept ourselves above anything else (natural hair and all). This makes her a realistic, new, fundamental role model and voice for Black History Month and particuarly for black women.