Tuesday, June 2, 2009

81 - The Black Girl Next Door; Jennifer Baszille

The Black Girl Next Door: A Memoir, by Jennifer Bastille is a touching story about a black girl growing up in the 70's and 80's.

At an early age, Jennifer, her parents and sister Natalie moved to a predominately white neighborhood in Palos Verdes, CA. Her parents had only wanted the best for their daughters, but growing up at that time with white classmates was not always easy. For example, at the age of six , after winning a foot race against a white classmate, the author was humiliated to hear her classmate explain that the reason she won the race was because black people "have something in their feet to make them run faster than white people". When Jennifer asked her teacher about this, the teacher said it was true! When she asked her parents the same question, they were stunned and the next morning, Jennifer's father accompanied her to school, careful to "assert himself as an informed and concerned parent and not simply a big, black, dangerous man in a first-grade classroom.". An apology was given by the teacher, however, comments like this pretty much set the tone for her grade school years, which left her often with feelings of isolation .

Having excelled in school, her parents pushed her and her sister to believe in and to live the American dream. Sometimes defying her parents, but through self-determination, success followed as the author became the first black female History professor at Yale.
An interesting memoir, candid, and inspirational, although a bit slow in places, gave me real insight as to how it might have felt to be Jennifer growing up in the post Civil Rights 70's and 80's.

RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 6/2/09
WHERE FROM: My Stacks (courtesy of Simon & Schuster)


  1. I'd love to read this one. I'm always interested in stories such as thing even though I end up horrified at how people were treated. It's hard enough growing up as it is but with extra pressures, I just can't imagine.

  2. This looks like an interesting memoir. I went to a high school whose population was predominantly black and I still remember someone telling me that Africans and African-Americans had an extra muscle in their calf to help them run faster and that is why they always won. I didn't believe them, but at the time did not know how to correct their ignorance either. It is sad that these types of rumors circulate. (By the way, my incident happened in the late 90s.)

    I also came by to let you know there is an award waiting for you at my blog: http://imlostinbooks.blogspot.com/2009/06/ive-been-awarded-yippee.html

  3. I'd love to read this memoir. I'm writing down the title. Will check my library.

  4. It's sad that there is so much stereotyping that goes on between races. I think this would be a really interesting and inspiring read, I will have to check it out.

  5. This one sounds like it would be one I would enjoy. Thanks for the review!


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