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The Black Girl Next Door: A Memoir

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"A powerful, beautifully written memoir about coming of age as a black girl in an exclusive white suburb in "integrated," post-Civil Rights California in the 1970s and 1980s."At six years of age, after winning a foot race against a white classmate, Jennifer Baszile was humiliated to hear her classmate explain that black people "have something in their feet to make them run "A powerful, beautifully written memoir about coming of age as a black girl in an exclusive white suburb in "integrated," post-Civil Rights California in the 1970s and 1980s."At six years of age, after winning a foot race against a white classmate, Jennifer Baszile was humiliated to hear her classmate explain that black people "have something in their feet to make them run faster than white people." When she asked her teacher about it, it was confirmed as true. 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." This was the first of many skirmishes in Jennifer's childhood-long struggle to define herself as "the black girl next door" while living out her parents' dreams. Success for her was being the smartest and achieving the most, with the consequence that much of her girlhood did not seem like her own but more like the "family project." But integration took a toll on everyone in the family when strain in her parents' marriage emerged in her teenage years, and the struggle to be the perfect black family became an unbearable burden. A deeply personal view of a significant period of American social history, "The Black Girl Next Door" deftly balances childhood experiences with adult observations, creating an illuminating and poignant look at a unique time in our country's history.


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"A powerful, beautifully written memoir about coming of age as a black girl in an exclusive white suburb in "integrated," post-Civil Rights California in the 1970s and 1980s."At six years of age, after winning a foot race against a white classmate, Jennifer Baszile was humiliated to hear her classmate explain that black people "have something in their feet to make them run "A powerful, beautifully written memoir about coming of age as a black girl in an exclusive white suburb in "integrated," post-Civil Rights California in the 1970s and 1980s."At six years of age, after winning a foot race against a white classmate, Jennifer Baszile was humiliated to hear her classmate explain that black people "have something in their feet to make them run faster than white people." When she asked her teacher about it, it was confirmed as true. 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." This was the first of many skirmishes in Jennifer's childhood-long struggle to define herself as "the black girl next door" while living out her parents' dreams. Success for her was being the smartest and achieving the most, with the consequence that much of her girlhood did not seem like her own but more like the "family project." But integration took a toll on everyone in the family when strain in her parents' marriage emerged in her teenage years, and the struggle to be the perfect black family became an unbearable burden. A deeply personal view of a significant period of American social history, "The Black Girl Next Door" deftly balances childhood experiences with adult observations, creating an illuminating and poignant look at a unique time in our country's history.

30 review for The Black Girl Next Door: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rory

    I've never read a memoir quite like this--from the perspective of a upper middle class African-American girl's experiences growing up in practically-gated Californian communities in the 70s. The writing is strong and evocative, the time and place are unique, and you root for Jennifer (who ends up being a professor at Yale). Still, each chapter was a set piece and the themes (well, theme, singular) was repetitive: something shitty happened, and she learned something about being Black from it. I f I've never read a memoir quite like this--from the perspective of a upper middle class African-American girl's experiences growing up in practically-gated Californian communities in the 70s. The writing is strong and evocative, the time and place are unique, and you root for Jennifer (who ends up being a professor at Yale). Still, each chapter was a set piece and the themes (well, theme, singular) was repetitive: something shitty happened, and she learned something about being Black from it. I found myself craving more details about the day-to-day of her life--good and bad and shared and unique. And it was frustrating that there was so little included about her slightly older sister, who--to Jennifer's eyes, at least--managed to navigate school, life and identity more smoothly.

  2. 4 out of 5

    RYCJ

    Up and down this was one hellva rollercoaster ride! Your pinch on the cheek shouldn't hurt as much as my slap in the face was the first emotion I dealt with following Jennifer's journey caught between bigotry and prestige. Possibly a deep observation, and perhaps too, an innocent hindsight of Jennifer's, but I couldn't help but raise an eyebrow as she explained how a white child being the brunt of pranks and teasing because he was `different', was not as bad as the racial bigotry she faced. I do Up and down this was one hellva rollercoaster ride! Your pinch on the cheek shouldn't hurt as much as my slap in the face was the first emotion I dealt with following Jennifer's journey caught between bigotry and prestige. Possibly a deep observation, and perhaps too, an innocent hindsight of Jennifer's, but I couldn't help but raise an eyebrow as she explained how a white child being the brunt of pranks and teasing because he was `different', was not as bad as the racial bigotry she faced. I don't know... but pain is pain, regardless of why or who's administering it; a fact that illuminates from many perspectives as Jennifer moves through her story. The next thing I know, I'm thinking WoW! Apparently slavery is a subject NO ONE wanted to talk about; black or white! ...thus comes the `your pinch/my slap' notion bearing the argument `this story is more worthy to tell/but this one isn't'; absolutely why I loved Jennifer's courage, and favor memoirs! Sharing our stories projects loud and clear the `your pinch/my slap' point-of-views. I really applauded Jennifer when she laid down her shield (this is a VERY STRONG woman) to ask those three young men to dance. God, I cried for her. Quite a few times I found myself giggling, too. I mean, the Black Hormone Association... too funny, as well as the cousins in KFC--I liked that too. Now the fight with her father... whoa...but then Jennifer always had that fighting spirit in her, which by the time that LEADS letter came, I literally jumped out of my seat cheering for her! There is just too much to comment on here... God, I'm luvin it! One Story At A Time!!!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    This book was well worth reading. I'm not sure if the author's voice got stronger and clearer as the book went on or if by that time I became fully tuned in, maybe that just paralelled her journey growing up. Either way this vision of the "black struggle" adds to the literature as well as just being a pleasurable memoir to read on its own merits. This book was well worth reading. I'm not sure if the author's voice got stronger and clearer as the book went on or if by that time I became fully tuned in, maybe that just paralelled her journey growing up. Either way this vision of the "black struggle" adds to the literature as well as just being a pleasurable memoir to read on its own merits.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas Armstrong

    The biggest problem with this is that it is a memoir. As such, Baszile is restricted by the fences of realism and history. The characters, as are most with nonfiction, aren't very well defined because they rely on memory to flesh them out and create them. While I am sure that the author remembers her family vividly, they fade to a kind of dull shadow to me. This is something true of most memoirs, though. The only discernible difference between this and other memoirs that I have read is that Basz The biggest problem with this is that it is a memoir. As such, Baszile is restricted by the fences of realism and history. The characters, as are most with nonfiction, aren't very well defined because they rely on memory to flesh them out and create them. While I am sure that the author remembers her family vividly, they fade to a kind of dull shadow to me. This is something true of most memoirs, though. The only discernible difference between this and other memoirs that I have read is that Baszile warbles from one event and time to another rather drastically. Many of the chapters are just particular moments in time that become little more than the type of stories one would expect a family member to recount; "Did I ever tell you about my first job?..." Baszile, again, as with most memoir writers, does not have the creative knack, the flare for writing, that fiction authors do. This is not In Cold Blood; it is a recounting by a history professor. Intelligence, unfortunately, does not automatically create interesting writing. This is the novels greatest fault. The writing is not very good. It is clear and distinct, but it is not interesting. The only thing that a memoir can do to hold on to interest is to focus on a moment of interest, as Night does with the Eli's journey through the concentration camps. The most interesting moment in the novel was her father's battle with his past and his future, and yet we only get to see a fraction of this and then it slips beyond our view. To put it simply, the novel just is not fun to read. It is dry and boring. Parts of this are important, and I'm glad I have the perspective of them, but it was a slog to get through.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Hill Alexander

    I just finished this book for my book club. I'm really tired of reading books about the black experience. First of all tell me something that is enlightening about what this black woman has experienced compared to many of us. The characters were flat but then again this was her life and her family. I thought the father was abusive and a cheat but none of that was addressed but then again this is so common with most families trying to remain "Cosby" like to the world. I thought she could explored I just finished this book for my book club. I'm really tired of reading books about the black experience. First of all tell me something that is enlightening about what this black woman has experienced compared to many of us. The characters were flat but then again this was her life and her family. I thought the father was abusive and a cheat but none of that was addressed but then again this is so common with most families trying to remain "Cosby" like to the world. I thought she could explored more how she has developed as a women after going through her childhood but that was missing.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lillian Daniel

    This excellent memoir is even more timely today in an era when we really need to listen to each other's stories.. Smart, eloquent, funny and occasionally painful, the book is like the family it describes. This excellent memoir is even more timely today in an era when we really need to listen to each other's stories.. Smart, eloquent, funny and occasionally painful, the book is like the family it describes.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Faye

    I thought this had more to do with growing up in a dysfunctional family than with being black in a mostly white neighborhood.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jumana

    You'll connect with this book if you are a female who grew up in the 70s/80s and were one of the few brown people in an all-white community. In her memoir, Jennifer Baszile reminisces about growing up as an outsider in the community where she lives, but also finding herself unable to fit in with the rest of her relatives and other black folks who grew up in all-black communities. I was able to relate to both sides of that coin! Kids of immigrants face the exact same challenges. Braszile encounte You'll connect with this book if you are a female who grew up in the 70s/80s and were one of the few brown people in an all-white community. In her memoir, Jennifer Baszile reminisces about growing up as an outsider in the community where she lives, but also finding herself unable to fit in with the rest of her relatives and other black folks who grew up in all-black communities. I was able to relate to both sides of that coin! Kids of immigrants face the exact same challenges. Braszile encounters everything from outright racist comments, to being considered "exotic," to not finding appropriate makeup shades. Reading this book reminded me how grateful I am that my kids are growing up in a more accepting multicultural environment. For those of us older than 30 - remember when there were very few black or brown folks on television, in the movies, or in magazines? The lack of diversity in the entertainment industry was so extreme that I was actually excited when a white actor portrayed a stereotypical Indian character in the movie "Short Circuit." We've come a long way since then. My kids have grown up with Dora the Explorer, Princess Tiana (Princess & the Frog), and Baljeet (Phineaus & Ferb). There is still work to be done, of course. But I'm taking a moment to thank all of the heroic individuals that paved the way for us today.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Joel

    I enjoyed having access to the stories that Baszile shares. They were powerful, compelling, and complicated. But the writing did not always do justice to the stories; the perspective of the narrator (child's recollections? adult reflections?) didn't seem consistent, and the stories didn't always flow either internally or from one to the next. I enjoyed having access to the stories that Baszile shares. They were powerful, compelling, and complicated. But the writing did not always do justice to the stories; the perspective of the narrator (child's recollections? adult reflections?) didn't seem consistent, and the stories didn't always flow either internally or from one to the next.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Linda Layne

    I found this book difficult to rate. I enjoyed Ms. Baszile's writing, it was parts of her story that I found disturbing. Let me explain. Several months ago, after hearing a black friend of mine say that many blacks are tired of "explaining" the black experience to their white friends, that they should take some responsibility and read and learn on their own, I have begun to do just that. The library Black history month display caught my attention and there among the books was the yellow book, "T I found this book difficult to rate. I enjoyed Ms. Baszile's writing, it was parts of her story that I found disturbing. Let me explain. Several months ago, after hearing a black friend of mine say that many blacks are tired of "explaining" the black experience to their white friends, that they should take some responsibility and read and learn on their own, I have begun to do just that. The library Black history month display caught my attention and there among the books was the yellow book, "The Black Girl Next Door." I decided I would check it out and I did not read the inside book covers to get a quick review of what the book was about. I did enjoy the book until I began to get a deeper understanding of the family dynamics that she grew up with. Now, don't get me wrong, I do not believe that her family dynamics were because she was black or grew up in a black family per se, but she did explain that as a child felt it necessary that she prove to her parents she was, in her words, "black enough," because her parents decided to raise her and her sister in a white, middle class neighborhood. I was also particularly disturbed how her father bullied her family. Again, do I believe this occurs only in black families? Being raised by a white, working class mother, divorced (read abandoned) with some financial assistance from maternal grandparents, I have no experience from which to draw my opinion, other than what I read or remember from classmates. I recall a friend who the summer he grew several inches that his father took him up the to the attic and proceeded to pummel him with his fists in order to remind him that as the son, he would obey his father or their would be dire consequences. So, bullying is not limited by race or economic boundaries. I did learn many interesting things about black hair care, etc., which I had no idea. And overall, the book is very well written.

  11. 5 out of 5

    OOSA

    Another Shade of Blackness This is a rather unique perspective into growing up Black in an America when you have atypical economic circumstances but still suffer some of the stereotypical abuses of African Americans while trying to establish an identity that will let you survive. Poignant, compelling, and insightful is the author's perspective on the subculture of her family surrounded by non-white neighbors and friends. She struggles to identify while assimilating the values of the dominant grou Another Shade of Blackness This is a rather unique perspective into growing up Black in an America when you have atypical economic circumstances but still suffer some of the stereotypical abuses of African Americans while trying to establish an identity that will let you survive. Poignant, compelling, and insightful is the author's perspective on the subculture of her family surrounded by non-white neighbors and friends. She struggles to identify while assimilating the values of the dominant group and has feelings of alienation and isolation before she is able to unravel the complexities of her existence. Ambivalence toys with her mentally and emotionally in her formative years before the formulation of the questions that bother her until she becomes strong enough of integrity to accept the answer. The voice is unique in the African American experience because it assumes that the leveling of the economic playing field and the exposure to upper middle class standards would impact the African American experience substantially. Instead, we are shown that there are some racial issues that must be confronted regardless of social class or strata. Unlike the experiences of an adult, the experience is seen through the eyes of the child that suffers the disappointments, angers, frustrations, misunderstandings, error, mistakes, fallibleness and innocence of the child/adolescent/ and finally adult. The story allows you to cry at the author's hurt yet rejoice in her triumphs. I found "The Black Girl Next Door: A Memoir" surprisingly challenging as it forced me to confront some of my own values and demanded a review of personal prejudices. It is well written and evokes formulating and reformulated opinions on the role of racism in America. As the setting of the child changes, you get glimpses into her extended family and their feelings and ideas on race as well as school, church, neighborhood and personal evaluation when she realizes that there can be advantages to being African American, although it comes at the cost of taking advantage of the ignorance of non-black Americans. I look forward to reading her again as it is semi-documentary with a realistic story and a perspective that is limited in the literature. Reviewed by: Gail

  12. 4 out of 5

    Betsy

    This memoir of an African-American woman whose parents, having survived segregation in Detroit and blatant racism in Louisiana, have worked hard in order to raise their two daughters in the almost all-white enclave of Palos Verdes, an upscale suburb of Los Angeles. Jennifer describes everything from the casual ignorance/racism of a six-year-old friend, who having lost a foot race to Jennifer, announces to her that it is because "black people have something special in their feet" which she got fr This memoir of an African-American woman whose parents, having survived segregation in Detroit and blatant racism in Louisiana, have worked hard in order to raise their two daughters in the almost all-white enclave of Palos Verdes, an upscale suburb of Los Angeles. Jennifer describes everything from the casual ignorance/racism of a six-year-old friend, who having lost a foot race to Jennifer, announces to her that it is because "black people have something special in their feet" which she got from her parents. When Jennifer and the other little girl go to their teacher to decide this argument, the teacher sides with the claim of the special feet! Jennifer's father ends up having to go to the school to straighten out the teacher and the parent and Jennifer's friendship with the little girl dissolves. Along with these types of experiences, she is also up against her parents' expectations - her father's comment - "I did not raise you for a white man..." when her older sister gets too close to a white Southern teen on a family cruise and their subsequent assignment to meet all of the black kids on the cruise liner before their parents will allow them back into their cabin! I found the narrative engrossing for the most part and it kept me going fairly quickly all the way through. In the final couple of chapters, Jennifer finally meets other "minority" students like herself at a summer business program and it gives her hope that she will be able to escape the family that, while they love her, also don't always give her the room to be herself. Baszile has gone on to find her niche in the world of academia, according to the blurb at the back of the book, which makes this read that much more satisfying. It's good to see a strong smart black woman succeed.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    The Black Girl Next Door: A Memoir, by Jennifer Baszelle 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 The Black Girl Next Door: A Memoir, by Jennifer Baszelle 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.

  14. 5 out of 5

    SundayAtDusk

    Jennifer Baszile does a terrific job describing her childhood in a mostly white, upper-class neighborhood. This is not a book by an angry woman, or one trying to find fault with others. It is just an honest description of growing up a black girl surrounded by white tennis players, and kids who like to listen to Beach Boys music, while getting tans at the beach. The author does her best to fit in, but realizes she's not where she really belongs. Her parents send her mixed messages about race, too Jennifer Baszile does a terrific job describing her childhood in a mostly white, upper-class neighborhood. This is not a book by an angry woman, or one trying to find fault with others. It is just an honest description of growing up a black girl surrounded by white tennis players, and kids who like to listen to Beach Boys music, while getting tans at the beach. The author does her best to fit in, but realizes she's not where she really belongs. Her parents send her mixed messages about race, too; they insist she fit into her white schools and neighborhood, while also insisting she associate with black kids because she is black. There was one truly bizarre incident while on a family cruise, where Ms. Baszile's parents angrily accuse her and her sister of ignoring black children on the ship, and demand they introduce themselves to all of the black children, before returning to their cabin for the day. They even take away their cabin keys. The whole incident was so strange, one can only wonder if the author considered the idea her parents just wanted to be alone in the cabin together, and created that whole drama to do so. If they did, that was a big mistake for them; for that was one of the big turning points in the author's childhood; that was the beginning of her recognition that it was ridiculous for her parents to move into a neighborhhod that was almost all white, and then act like their daughters weren't making enough effort to be black. One could only cheer her on at the end of the book, where she boards a plane for college in New York City . . . a place where she won't be the only one of anything.

  15. 5 out of 5

    D. Eric

    Living in the same general area as the main character in the book, though I did not grow up there, I looked forward to seeing what I missed in my youth. It appears I missed quite a bit, though that might be a good thing. Jennifer Baszile writes a sometimes intriguing book about life as a black girl in a white neighborhood. It's not just her story, but that of her whole family and the community of Palos Verde, California. On the good side Baszile presents events honestly and openly; on the bad sid Living in the same general area as the main character in the book, though I did not grow up there, I looked forward to seeing what I missed in my youth. It appears I missed quite a bit, though that might be a good thing. Jennifer Baszile writes a sometimes intriguing book about life as a black girl in a white neighborhood. It's not just her story, but that of her whole family and the community of Palos Verde, California. On the good side Baszile presents events honestly and openly; on the bad side, she does not paint a picture of her family that seems to back the loving praise she gives it in her acknowledgments. Also, many things are left unanswered (her mother and father's ultimate relationship because of his affairs) or incomplete (what happened to her savior from the summer college trip?). Although Baszile definitely shows the problems she had growing up in a rich, white suburb, she does not seem to to give the dysfunctional families of her mother and father as much blame as they might deserve regarding her self esteem and mental health. In spite of the shortcomings mentioned above, this is still a good book and well worth reading, especially if you want a glimpse of Southern California's South Bay area in the 70s and 80s and how it dealt with racial issues.

  16. 4 out of 5

    DMD

    On one hand, this book reminded me of growing up in predominantly white areas but on the other, it didn't really say anything new to me. It actually surprised me how similar a lot of my experiences were to those depicted in the book, especially when considering that I am part of the model minority. The parts that really struck me was towards the end, when Baszile went more into how her parents handled their lives in the affluent Palos Verdes, California after growing up in Detroit and Louisiana On one hand, this book reminded me of growing up in predominantly white areas but on the other, it didn't really say anything new to me. It actually surprised me how similar a lot of my experiences were to those depicted in the book, especially when considering that I am part of the model minority. The parts that really struck me was towards the end, when Baszile went more into how her parents handled their lives in the affluent Palos Verdes, California after growing up in Detroit and Louisiana and the toll it took on them. I wish Baszile had explored that more rather than just the one or two chapters at the end. There, she focused on her feelings as a teenager and blamed them for forcing integration on her. She wishes they were asked "Why all this relentless achievement?" and seems to deride her Mom for feeling like they were living the "American Dream." Although her home life had problems, strangely only talked about at the end of the book, overall, I found her parents admirable. Perhaps it's my second generation viewpoint, but Baszile was unable to appreciate all they did for her. Had she been able to delve more into her parents motivations and background, I think it would have been a better book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I read this book since Jennifer went to my high school and her Mom lives around the corner from my Mom's house. Interesting to read about the streets and location in my childhood that I also experienced. But Jennifer had a very different experience than I did. At first I felt offended that she didn't appreciate the offerings that Palos Verdes brings to the table (beauty, education, opportunity) and I was sad that PV was painted to be a haughty, judgmental society (at the hands of a few poor choi I read this book since Jennifer went to my high school and her Mom lives around the corner from my Mom's house. Interesting to read about the streets and location in my childhood that I also experienced. But Jennifer had a very different experience than I did. At first I felt offended that she didn't appreciate the offerings that Palos Verdes brings to the table (beauty, education, opportunity) and I was sad that PV was painted to be a haughty, judgmental society (at the hands of a few poor choice incidents). But then I started to see things through her family and cultural background and see how it would be isolating. That said, it could have been isolating and equally hard or awkward for any teen, let alone by race. Her honesty about her feelings and the family dysfunction was refreshing. And the drive of her entire family is admirable, but I can't help but feel sad for the lonliness it breeds. Another reviewer summed it up best when they said that this book was more about a dysfunctional family then a black girl in a white community. Though I'd love to hear what Jennifer feels affected her most... I'm on to her sister's novel, Queen Bee, which was picked up by Oprah network to be made into a movie.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    Wow, I don't know where to begin, this book was incredible. As an African-American woman and the same age as the author, I could so relate to this book and her experiences. This book really gave me a revelation about how integration/desegregation, work ethic, and southern parents have really affected us. While reading the book I came to realize that post 60's black kids are really not that different from first generation immigrant kids. Our parents all want the best for us yet at the same time w Wow, I don't know where to begin, this book was incredible. As an African-American woman and the same age as the author, I could so relate to this book and her experiences. This book really gave me a revelation about how integration/desegregation, work ethic, and southern parents have really affected us. While reading the book I came to realize that post 60's black kids are really not that different from first generation immigrant kids. Our parents all want the best for us yet at the same time want us to maintain our culture and traditions; the new/modern generation walks this line and therefore, carries the weight of our parents expectations. In the book, Jennifer suggests this parental pressure turns into an internal rage. I, myself, have felt rage and wondered where it came from, perhaps this pressure is a plausible explanation that may need more research. Jennifer's straight forward and honest writing draws you into her emotional tales and experiences. Issues of classmate and sometimes teacher issues, friendship, appearance, young love, and family situations are common themes that everyone can relate to.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Iman Sellars

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. “The Black Girl Next Door “is a memoir of Jennifer Lynn Baszile childhood to young adulthood. Written by Baszile herself, each chapter is a different story in Baszile’s life, each story she progressively get old and wiser. With this rare overlooked topic of black families in all white neighborhoods, Baszile uncovers a new form of unnamed discrimination. The telling of her experience is relatable and comical, seeing as she puts many of her childhood miseries throughout the book. I do caution, thi “The Black Girl Next Door “is a memoir of Jennifer Lynn Baszile childhood to young adulthood. Written by Baszile herself, each chapter is a different story in Baszile’s life, each story she progressively get old and wiser. With this rare overlooked topic of black families in all white neighborhoods, Baszile uncovers a new form of unnamed discrimination. The telling of her experience is relatable and comical, seeing as she puts many of her childhood miseries throughout the book. I do caution, this story may not be relatable to all people. This story is told from an African American woman’s perspective. I myself found this story to be extremely relatable, as I am going through the same experience. Though, as I told some friends about this book, they simply overlooked the situation the author had expressed and fixated on the “ghetto” aspect of Basezile’s stories. If you are interested in this book, it should be approached without bias or judgement.The Black Girl Next Door: A Memoir

  20. 5 out of 5

    Meadow Frisbie

    Jen lives with her family in a upscale all white neighborhood. Where 'fitting in' means everything to her, and 'staying black' means everything to her parents. She grows up trying to find the perfect balance and staying true to her heritage in a post-cival war era. My favorite part is that every once in awhile they will have a picture taken of the real Jennifer. If you are reading about when she was 9 and wearing some silly costume....there would be a picture from the actual day which made is mor Jen lives with her family in a upscale all white neighborhood. Where 'fitting in' means everything to her, and 'staying black' means everything to her parents. She grows up trying to find the perfect balance and staying true to her heritage in a post-cival war era. My favorite part is that every once in awhile they will have a picture taken of the real Jennifer. If you are reading about when she was 9 and wearing some silly costume....there would be a picture from the actual day which made is more personal. Even though never stated, her family fell apart. Her parents tried their best in her early years. But as she grew up, her parents rarely gave her reasons for what they belived or wanted her to do. Her father started sliding and Jennifer had to physically defend herself on one of his bad days. When she was looking for colleges; she found the farthest one away and ran for it. The first half was a great eye opener to what kind of world she had to grow up in, but the last half was depressing when she found she would never truely fit in.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I loved this book. It was tough to read through all of the trauma that Jennifer and her family had been through in upper middle class suburbia. Her reminiscences of childhood and adolescent years during the 70s and 80s in post integration Socal proves that racial issues did exist in the west unlike what many believe. Her stories are go through the history of her family, in America, and about the state at which she was coming of age. From her school life, social life, and family life, Jennifer ha I loved this book. It was tough to read through all of the trauma that Jennifer and her family had been through in upper middle class suburbia. Her reminiscences of childhood and adolescent years during the 70s and 80s in post integration Socal proves that racial issues did exist in the west unlike what many believe. Her stories are go through the history of her family, in America, and about the state at which she was coming of age. From her school life, social life, and family life, Jennifer had to overcome many obstacles that shaped her into the women she is today. At times I could relate to many of Jennifer's experiences as I was brought up as a minority during my childhood and adolescents. It's painful to have your classmates ask you uncomfortable questions or look at you funny when they talk about "black people" but these are things that you have to shrug off and move on. The book has lots of climaxes and every part of her life has some kind of turn. I recommend this book at anyone who has grown in a similar situation and could relate.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Betsy

    What's it like to be "the black girl next door" in an overwhelmingly white aand affluent Los Angeles suburb? Now 40 and a history professor at Yale, Baszile tells it like it was - and it's often painful. Although the white folks are generally nice to her and her family(with the noteable exception of some horrendous graffiti spraypainted on their new house) Baszile often feels like a fish out of water, even with some of the other affluent black kids - from the Black preppies to the BAPS (Black Am What's it like to be "the black girl next door" in an overwhelmingly white aand affluent Los Angeles suburb? Now 40 and a history professor at Yale, Baszile tells it like it was - and it's often painful. Although the white folks are generally nice to her and her family(with the noteable exception of some horrendous graffiti spraypainted on their new house) Baszile often feels like a fish out of water, even with some of the other affluent black kids - from the Black preppies to the BAPS (Black American Princesses.) There are painful moments during a free "makeover" at a department store makeup counter, at a school dance and on a ritzy cruise ship. Her parents, who have pulled themselves up and out of rural Louisiana and Detroit at considerable cost, are sadly and understandably conflicted about the life they're worked so hard to provide their daughters. Made me think of what some of the black students at Cranbrook may have been going through...

  23. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    I enjoyed Baszile's memoir of being an upper middle class black girl in the mostly white community of Rancho Palos Verdes. The episodes, especially through the first 2/3 of the book, document her encounters of racism in this community and even confrontations with her own culturally-absorbed stereotypes. Baszile grows up with a pair of type-A parents who have worked exhaustingly for everything they have, and she doesn't fit in either with her white beach bum peers or with working class blacks. Her I enjoyed Baszile's memoir of being an upper middle class black girl in the mostly white community of Rancho Palos Verdes. The episodes, especially through the first 2/3 of the book, document her encounters of racism in this community and even confrontations with her own culturally-absorbed stereotypes. Baszile grows up with a pair of type-A parents who have worked exhaustingly for everything they have, and she doesn't fit in either with her white beach bum peers or with working class blacks. Her beautiful, homecoming queen sister seems to have an easier time at life, and Jennifer constantly feels like an outsider. Despite all of our differences I found much to identify with in Baszile's occasional isolation, and also learned a great deal. This memoir is going next to Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria on my list of books that best explain an upper middle class Black experience to White readers.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Joanne

    Baszile writes about growing up a member of one of two Black families in affluent White Palos Verde, California in the 1970s. They're greeted with racist graffiti on their sidewalk and she and her sister are one of the few Black kids in their school. She holds herself apart from intimate friendships and romance, having learned that they eventually butt up against race. While making her way in a White world, she and her sister also struggle with their parents, who fear that their girls are not Bl Baszile writes about growing up a member of one of two Black families in affluent White Palos Verde, California in the 1970s. They're greeted with racist graffiti on their sidewalk and she and her sister are one of the few Black kids in their school. She holds herself apart from intimate friendships and romance, having learned that they eventually butt up against race. While making her way in a White world, she and her sister also struggle with their parents, who fear that their girls are not Black enough. Integration was complicated for her. The first two-thirds of the book are riveting. The last third, as she enters adolescence and begins to see and rebel against the dysfunctional side of her high-achieving family, are full of less engaging long reflections and analysis about her family dynamics. Baszile was a history professor at Yale, and took on the book in order to tell her personal history.

  25. 5 out of 5

    David

    This is another pick for the antiRacist reading group. From the beginning the author demonstrates the challenge of her African-American family trying to achieve the American-suburbanite-Dream in the context of their white community. Becoming a suburbanite seems to be one defining element of becoming "white" rather than "white-ethnic" this same aspiration seemed to shape the trajectory of Baszile's African-American family. However their legacy of segregation was dramatically different than white- This is another pick for the antiRacist reading group. From the beginning the author demonstrates the challenge of her African-American family trying to achieve the American-suburbanite-Dream in the context of their white community. Becoming a suburbanite seems to be one defining element of becoming "white" rather than "white-ethnic" this same aspiration seemed to shape the trajectory of Baszile's African-American family. However their legacy of segregation was dramatically different than white-ethnics and hence the family continues to be unable to become peacefully and respectfully integrated into their community. This memoir contains a lot of great reflection and description of growing up as a black girl in a wealthy Californian suburb. It was quick to read and Baszile's upfront honesty about her family's struggles is completely illuminating.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jodi

    My neighbor and mentor read this book. We had both committed on the book at one time and thought it might be an interesting read. She read it and then her husband so I read it next. It was pretty good. THe main character is taken out of a black school and put into a white one with her sister. She remembers have vandalism done to her home and her parents reactions. I did find similairites to my life which I found intersting. My father was very strict like hers and his way was the only way. My her My neighbor and mentor read this book. We had both committed on the book at one time and thought it might be an interesting read. She read it and then her husband so I read it next. It was pretty good. THe main character is taken out of a black school and put into a white one with her sister. She remembers have vandalism done to her home and her parents reactions. I did find similairites to my life which I found intersting. My father was very strict like hers and his way was the only way. My her also feared my father and at times made decisions that I thought were harfmful to look good to others. We had a fake outer life that was not the same as the inner life we led. It was all about image and perserving that image no matter what. Lessons learned in childhood stay with you for your life and mold you into the person you are.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Wil Davenport

    First, I need to acknowledge that I'm a white guy, clueless about life as an African American in a white community. I appreciated Jennifer's story so much, giving me a glimpse into the struggles and challenges she faced. Jennifer is an extraordinary woman not because of her success in a white world but because of her tenacity, brilliance, and beauty. First, I need to acknowledge that I'm a white guy, clueless about life as an African American in a white community. I appreciated Jennifer's story so much, giving me a glimpse into the struggles and challenges she faced. Jennifer is an extraordinary woman not because of her success in a white world but because of her tenacity, brilliance, and beauty.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jenni

    It's an interesting autobiography but I was really disappointed in how the book was concluded. I felt like it lacked closure from the standpoint of not know how this woman's childhood really affected her adulthood and some of the decision she would have made based on her experiences. It's an interesting autobiography but I was really disappointed in how the book was concluded. I felt like it lacked closure from the standpoint of not know how this woman's childhood really affected her adulthood and some of the decision she would have made based on her experiences.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Joslyn Jones

    I can totally relate to this book, which is the story of growing up as a Lonely Only in a predominately white setting during the 70's and the 80's. Actually, I wish I did write this book! Well-written piece of non-fiction that reads like a novel. I can totally relate to this book, which is the story of growing up as a Lonely Only in a predominately white setting during the 70's and the 80's. Actually, I wish I did write this book! Well-written piece of non-fiction that reads like a novel.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    Baszile really bares her soul (and her family's) to write this book. It's another take on being black and successful in white dominant America, but told from such a personal, new and complex perspective. Also, I learned a lot about hair in the process of reading this. Baszile really bares her soul (and her family's) to write this book. It's another take on being black and successful in white dominant America, but told from such a personal, new and complex perspective. Also, I learned a lot about hair in the process of reading this.

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