I don’t remember the exact moment when I first saw an episode of “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” on YouTube. (I think maybe I was in college and a like-minded awkward friend put me on to it because she knew I would like it.) However, I definitely remember cracking up during basically every webisode. I could see so many snippets of myself and even a few of my awkward friends in J that I was hooked.
The web series was beginning to become popular back then, but not nearly as popular as it would become. “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” catapulted the web series’ creator, Issa Rae, into the spotlight and made mainstream media aware that black/awkward/nerdy people exist and want to see themselves represented way more on TV and in film.
My love for Issa Rae and everything that she represents put her first book, a collection of funny, autobiographical essays appropriately titled The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, on my radar as soon as it was released earlier this year. However, I let the dust settle a little so that I could get me a copy for the free from the library.
I started reading this book on my recent plane ride to NOLA and finished it shortly after I returned home to the Chi. It was a light and enjoyable read. I smiled, chuckled, and nodded with understanding as Rae entertained me with a wide range of topics—from how she can’t stand public displays of affection to how the idea for her web series came about. She even delves into personal topics like how her parents’ divorce shocked her world as a teenager and what it was like growing up half-African. I absolutely, positively loved the opening sentences to many of her essays, especially this one which comes from the essay “Leading Lady”: “Several months ago, I was blocked on Twitter by a disabled, white stripper” (Rae 35). Doesn’t that sentence alone make you want to read this book?
I’m just gonna discuss a few sections of this book that I really enjoyed and think you will too once you get your copy:
1. The Struggle
Part of being an awkward black girl is dealing with the age old issue of what it means to be black enough, which is the result of other people questioning if whether you are indeed black enough. Issa Rae delves into this topic in her essay, “The Struggle.” She writes about how she slips in and out of her “black consciousness” (160). She describes having moments when she “can’t see anything outside of the lens of race” (160) and other moments when she feels pretty apathetic about race and would rather not talk about it. It points to one of the biggest conundrums of our time in my opinion. On one hand, I want to teach my daughter to be proud of being a black girl and to care about issues relating to the African Diaspora, but on the other hand, I don’t want her to limit herself, her experiences, or her worldview by always seeing everything in relation to her blackness. I want her to be able to just be a girl, not always a black girl. Racism and white supremacy make this beyond difficult but I don’t think that we should stop striving for the kind of world that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed about.
2. New York, NY
Doesn’t every creative-type fantasize about heading to the Big Apple to pursue their dreams at least once in their life? In “New York, NY,” Issa Rae writes about her often bleak time in NYC when she was a broke, recent college graduate working two jobs and trying to grow her own nonprofit, which consisted of “filmmakers of color determined to reform the image of black film” (187). I really felt her angst in this essay, but I love that this period of uncertainty in her life led her to create the web series, “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl.” She writes, “It all made sense: my shyness, all the times I was dismissed for not being ‘black enough,’ my desire to reframe the images of black film and television…these were all symptoms of my Awkward Blackness” (191). Sometimes certain doors have to close in our face so that we can realize our true purpose. I love this section because it’s something we all can relate too. I can’t imagine too many twenty-somethings that don’t have some kind of quarter-life crisis before they turn 30. Her story just proves that our trials really do sharpen us and may possibly even push us in the direction we are meant to go.
3. ABG Guides
Lastly, a major plus for me about this book were the funny “ABG Guides” interspersed between the more serious essays. These are sections of the book where Rae gives the awkward black girl reader seasoned advice on various topics such as the various kinds of blacks and how to interact with them (read the essay “Connecting with Other Blacks”) and how to deal with practically every type of coworker (see “When Co-workers Attack” for more info). These silly guides got a lot of chuckles and maybe even a few LOLs out of me!
So I’m not going to give all the goodies away because I do want you to check out this book and support my girl Issa Rae even if you simply pick this book up from your local library like I did. If you don’t have an awkward bone in your body, you more than likely will still get a few giggles and inspiration out of this book. If you are indeed an awkward black girl, I don’t know why you haven’t went out to get this book already. We have to support each other; we’re all in this together! (Did you think of “High School Musical” when you read that last line? No? Well, I guess we can’t be awkward sister-friends then…)
Have you read The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl or do you plan to? Any other cool or funny memoirs/autobiographies that caught your eye lately? Let me know your thoughts in the comments or on Facebook!