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Genesis Begins Again

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This is the story of a thirteen-year-old girl who is filled with self-loathing and must overcome internalized racism and a verbally abusive family to finally learn to love herself.

There are ninety-six things Genesis hates about herself. She knows the exact number because she keeps a list. Like #95: Because her skin is so dark, people call her charcoal and eggplant—even her own family. And #61: Because her family is always being put out of their house, belongings laid out on the sidewalk for the world to see. When Genesis reaches #100 on the list of things she hates about herself, will she continue on, or can she find the strength to begin again?

400 pages, Hardcover

First published January 15, 2019

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About the author

Alicia D. Williams

5 books287 followers
What's there to know about Alicia D? Well, that depends on who you ask.

If you ask kindergartners, they'd tell you:

1. She likes chunky guacamole.

2. She likes shiny things.

3. She tells good stories.

If you ask her middle schoolers, they'd surely say:

1. She gets us.

2. She makes us laugh with all her jokes.

3. She is Da BOMB.

While all of these may be true, there are a few more points to add . . . Alicia D. is a teacher in Charlotte, NC. She is the proud mother of a brilliant college student. Her love for education stems from conducting school residencies as a Master Teaching Artist of arts-integration. Alicia D infuses her love for drama, movement, and storytelling to inspire students to write. And like other great storytellers, she made the leap into writing--and well, her story continues. Alicia D loves laughing, traveling, and Wonder Woman.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,279 reviews
Profile Image for Bookishrealm.
1,909 reviews4,787 followers
July 2, 2020
I'm not sure I've ever had a year where I've had so many favorites, but I'm okay with that.

This isn't an enjoyable read. This isn't a read that is supposed to make you feel comfortable. This book made me emotional during several different parts. Genesis Begins Again confronts so many different topics including racism, alcoholism, and colorism. There are trigger warnings for emotional abuse, verbal abuse, and self-deprivation. Genesis is a dark-skinned Black girl that does not feel comfortable in her own skin. She's plagued by taunting from not only kids at school, but also close family members. Her dad is an alcoholic (not a spoiler) and her family can't seem to maintain any stable housing after being continuously evicted. When they move to a predominately white area of Michigan, Genesis goes through a series of events that teach her a lot about friendship and what it truly means to accept yourself for who you are.

I don't know if I've read a middle grade/YA book that has made me so aware of the internalized racism that the Black community deals with. I know that colorism exists outside of just the Black community (I've heard of this specifically taking place in India); however, this really hit home for me and made me truly aware of what some Black girls go through because they have a darker skin complexion. Genesis is constantly made aware of how much people dislike her because of her skin color (this hatred comes from Black people not White) and a lot of it takes place on page. Some of the cruel things that I read and watched her internalize literally broke my heart. She longs to look like her mother who has straighter hair and lighter skin and constantly searches for ways to feel validated. The relationship or lack of relationship that she had with her father only made things worse. As a reader, it's going to be difficult watching Genesis make certain decisions because of this hatred that she feels for herself. A lot of the time, you'll be rooting for her to do other things while understanding why she makes attempts to mask the pain and inadequacy she feels.

Williams does a brilliant job also illustrating the generational pain that is passed down when Black people don't acknowledge their colorist behaviors and internalized racism. It is passed down from generation to generation and it takes family members willing to acknowledge that pain and have the tough conversations for the cycle to be broken. I saw this same theme in the Vanishing Half and acknowledgement makes all the difference.

There is a WONDERFUL supporting cast that stuck by Genesis' side while she attempts to figure out what it means to accept and love her Blackness. I think that these characters do a phenomenal job correcting Genesis' behavior without putting her down for making mistakes. It was definitely needed after the heartbreak that Genesis was forced to go through over and over again. And while Genesis doesn't get the "perfect" ending, I think I enjoyed that the author did an amazing job leaving even more room for development and growth.

I highly recommend this book if you want to learn more about colorism in the Black community, but I wouldn't go into lightly and expect a fluffy story. It's not meant to be and I'm glad that Williams wrote a novel that exuded so much truth.
Profile Image for Kristen.
1,794 reviews29 followers
December 26, 2018
Edelweiss+ provided me a DRC of this book in exchange for an honest review.


I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again: there are not enough middle grade books that feature African American girls and their day to day lives, along with some of the unique issues they face. This one was PHENOMENAL.

Genesis deals with so many issues that children face--academic struggles, poverty, a parent struggling with addiction, making friends, racism. RACISM. Williams explores not only racism that exists between African Americans and other races, but also the prejudice that occurs within the black community. Are lighter-skinned blacks "uppity"? Are darker-skinned blacks judged unfairly?

Genesis struggles to find love for herself while dealing with outside insult from people who claim to care about her. She hates her dark skin, her thick hair...in fact she has a whole list of things to hate about herself. My heart ached for her the entire book. I wish she could see some of the former students on my Facebook timeline--gorgeous girls who embrace their skin color and post amazing selfies with hashtags like #MelaninMonday.

I love her friends Sophie and Troy, and I adore her music teacher. Her parents are complex characters that you both love and hate, and her experiences with "mean girls" will resonate with all girls--middle schoolers and anyone who's ever been one.

This book went into my library's "to buy" cart before I was even halfway through.
Profile Image for Christy.
3,809 reviews32.4k followers
March 27, 2021
4.5 stars

Genesis Begins Again is one of the most hard hitting middle grade books I’ve read. Genesis story was heartbreaking and difficult to read. For such a young girl to go through the feelings she went through, it was just devastating. To know that people are made to feel this way… it makes me so sad. This is a book that will give you all the feels. It brought me to tears more than once. Genesis is a character you will root for. Her story is so important for people to read and I highly recommend it.

Also, the audiobook was narrated by the author and she did a fantastic job voicing it. You could really feel all of Genesis’s emotions while she was reading the story.

Audio book source: Libby (library borrow)
Story Rating: 4.5 stars
Narrator: Alicia D. Williams
Narration Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Contemporary Middle Grade
Length: 8 hours and 48 minutes

Profile Image for Michelle.
1,354 reviews124 followers
November 5, 2022
This is a middle grade book tackling colourism in all corners of society.

Genesis is a Black 13 years old girl. At school she's called Charcoal or Blackie, it's not much easier at home as her Dad wishes she was lighter skinned like her mum. And let's not get started on grandma and her brown paper bag test.

Genesis has tried multiple ways of lightning her skin.

Written in an age appropriate format and style this is the story of Genesis beginning again.

Whether you are a teen or a fully grown adult (as I am at 41), the conversations happening within the page need to be had in everyday life.


Five stars, hands down.

At time of posting this book is available on Kindle Unlimited.
Profile Image for Erin Entrada Kelly.
Author 30 books1,471 followers
April 3, 2020
Genesis is such a likable character. We're so close in her interior thoughts that it feels like we're walking in her shoes. I related to Genesis in so many ways. Obviously we are quite different, but there are some things that transcend race and environment -- like struggling with feelings of self-worth; not feeling good enough; and keeping a list (whether real or imaginary) of all the ways you fall short. She was a wonderful person to spend a few days with, both for the things we share and the things we don't.
Profile Image for Korrie’s Korner.
1,065 reviews13.6k followers
March 30, 2021
5 stars!!

First off let me just say that this book broke my heart. It was so hard to read because colorism is alive and well within the black community, and I don’t ever see it going away. I would love to be able to say that I think it will, but how can it? It’s been here since the beginning of “time” here in America, and within other races in other countries. We’ve come along way, but just like with racism, there is still so much work to do.

Genesis is my girl. I feel like I was able to crawl into her broken heart while reading and feel her pain. I definitely have seen the “brown paper bag” test done when I was younger, and even then it was so confusing, but definitely obvious the difference in how you were treated amongst black girls according to how light or how dark you were. The way Genesis internalized her pain due to the hate she received from her peers for her skin color, and even her family. Her grandmother—ugh, that conversation they had broke me...and not in a good way. The ones that should have been her safe space, and a place of comfort, we’re not. Her mom was to an extent, but she was so blinded in the area of Genesis’s father, and how terrible he was in their life. She forgave him one too many times.

I literally squirmed in my seat over the ways Genesis tried to “fix” or “handle” her blackness. You just have to read because I don’t want to spoil details, but just know it’s so heartbreaking. This book has opened my eyes even more as to not only how hard internalized racism is within the black community, but how hard darker skinned girls can be on themselves, and getting a front row seat into Genesis thought process broke me. Thank God for the couple of real friends that Genesis found at a new school she attended..they saved her in so many ways. This isn’t an hea per say, but this book is real, and leaves you with a hope that Genesis will make it in life okay. I loved this so much.
Profile Image for Afoma (Reading Middle Grade).
579 reviews300 followers
March 21, 2021
In Genesis Begins Again, thirteen-year-old Genesis grapples with intense self-hate worsened by her father's verbal abuse and her grandmother's backward ideologies about skin color.

Told in Genesis's slangy voice, Genesis Begins Again flows naturally. My heart ached for Genesis as she does everything from bathing in milk to scrubbing with a scouring pad to rid herself of her black skin. Her naivete is shocking and often hard to believe, but the rise of bleaching creams shows me otherwise.

Genesis Begins Again is a phenomenal middle-grade debut with a strong message about colorism, self-love, and the power of music.

full review on https://readingmiddlegrade.com/review...
Profile Image for Josiah.
3,211 reviews146 followers
November 30, 2022
A more significant debut for Alicia Diane Williams is hard to imagine. Genesis Begins Again was a hot commodity when it first found its way onto bookstore shelves in 2019, and that popularity was later affirmed by the awards it received, including a 2020 Newbery Honor. Not every decorated novel is great, but this one lives up to the hype with a sweet, searing story that challenges ingrained preconceptions and reminds us what wonders can emerge from our broken, backwards world. Thirteen-year-old Genesis Anderson of Detroit, Michigan hasn't had a stable home for some time. Her father is an alcoholic who struggles to hold down a job, and her mother works hard but doesn't draw enough of a salary to keep the family afloat. The Andersons have been evicted from several houses, but the latest occurrence stings bad: just when Genesis had convinced a few girls from school to swing by her pad and visit, a familiar sight greets their arrival: furniture stacked on the lawn, a sure sign of eviction. Genesis's new "friends" mock and call her rude names, and she's back to square one, moving on to a new school and hoping for a better outcome. How long do things gotta be this way?

When sober, Genesis's father is a charmer, convincing her and her mother that he'll get things under control this time. When he's drunk he gets mean, criticizing Genesis for being too dark-skinned, insisting she doesn't take after him in the slightest despite her skin resembling his much more than her light-skinned mother's. But this time when he drives Genesis and Mama to their new home, it feels different: instead of another Detroit ghetto, he takes them to Farmington Hills, where elegant homes line the streets and there's not a hint of gang activity. How did Dad manage this? Genesis and Mama tamp down their skepticism to marvel at the size and beauty of the house, a place Genesis would be proud to show off to friends...if she ever makes any. Dad reveals he has a high-paying new job, and is pleased as pop to buy this place for his wife and daughter. He pledges to take it easy consuming alcohol and cigarettes, and Genesis wonders: could the change be for real? Can she have a comfortable life like the white kids in this neighborhood?

Dad still heads out for days at a time without coming home, but that isn't so bad as long as he pays the mortgage and doesn't show up drunk as a skunk. He promised to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and Genesis is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he's actually going even if they don't see results right away. Genesis is awestruck by her huge new school, a place that's clean, well-supplied, and safe. She isn't a natural fit among her peers—she figures the light-skinned black girls don't want to associate with someone as dark as she is, and most of the white girls ignore Genesis—but she notices a white girl named Sophia Papageorgiou who tends not to interact with classmates. Sophia looks normal, so why doesn't she have friends? Genesis's curiosity leads her into Sophia's orbit, and once they begin conversing, nothing can stop a cautious friendship from blooming. Genesis finds another friend in Troy Benson, who's as dark-skinned as she is but seems to have no problem accruing friends at their school. He's assigned as Genesis's math tutor, and takes to the task with cheerful charisma. Soon she understands concepts that eluded her before, and has an easy rapport with Troy. There are other dark- and light-skinned black kids she's yet to feel comfortable with, but two friends is a a head start on any other school Genesis has gone to. Farmington Hills is treating her pretty well so far.

Genesis and her mom know not everything is right when Dad keeps staying away from home, only dropping in for an occasional night or two. They're disgusted by his failure to go to AA meetings like he promised; a few times Mama packs her bags and takes Genesis to stay at Grandma's house, but neither of them likes Grandma's preachiness, especially her attitude toward Dad. Mama's side of the family is light-skinned, and when Dad gets drunk he lets Genesis she was supposed to look that way, not coal black like he does. How does she expect to get along in life, or have anyone love her, with skin black as night and kinky hair that defies all efforts to tame it? Grandma feels the same way about dark skin; her side of the family often married white folks, to lighten the skin tone of successive generations and lend them credibility in a world where whites just seem to do better. Grandma pities Genesis for being born dark, which makes Genesis loathe her own skin tone more than ever. Why can't she be pretty and light like Mama? Not telling anyone, Genesis tries soaking in a bleach bath, and later on resorts to scrubbing herself with steel wool, but it does no good. The steel wool opens sores all over her body that she has to cover for by inventing a story about tumbling down the stairs. Genesis will try anything to look more like Mama, even purchase skin-lightening cream using an emergency credit card, but will anything work? And are people going to like her more if her skin fades to a softer color?

Home and school life bustle with activity and drama. Genesis's chorus teacher, Mrs. Hill, is one of the only black teachers on staff. She presents her students with a variety of creative warmups to expand their ability to visualize the importance of music. Genesis has long imagined being a light-skinned diva with satiny hair, singing for huge crowds, but she shies from performing in front of people. Mrs. Hill encourages her to shed her inhibitions and use the considerable talent she possesses. She loans Genesis a few compact disc recordings from her personal collection, and soon Genesis is luxuriating in the rich vocal stylings of Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Etta James, opening up her own range to see what her voice can do. When the time comes for the school's annual talent show—an evening showcase that every student takes seriously and would love to win—Genesis contemplates auditioning. The competition will be elite; does she have the gall to test her pipes against the best this school can offer? Sophia and Troy want her to, and so does Mrs. Hill; maybe she will throw caution to the wind and find out if she's made of the right stuff like Billie Holiday and her other new music idols.

If she's going to sing in front of hundreds of students and parents, Genesis wants to do it right. That means speeding up the process of lightening her skin. She finds a product that gradually leeches out her melanin in small, barely noticeable patches, but Troy catches on right away and confronts her. Why is Genesis ashamed of her natural pigment? What drew him to her in the first place, Troy says, is that she didn't look like everyone else. Genesis has a unique style, and her coloring is a nice visual accent in the predominantly white school. She knows her mother won't approve of what she's doing; Mama is busy working, and Genesis has taken advantage to keep her from noticing the evolution of her skin tone until after the talent show. Genesis has dreamed of a night like this, a chance to reach for stardom and be seen, and her nerves go wild as the big event approaches. Should she stick with her original plan and sing solo, attempting to recreate Billie Holiday's emotional potency? Or should she accept Yvette and Belinda's offer to join One Star Trinity, their song and dance team that placed second in the show last year and is favored to win this time? Yvette is dark-skinned and popular, but Genesis has reservations about her. Sophia seems uncomfortable around Yvette, as though something bad happened between them. Genesis wants to ask, but refrains from doing so; if Yvette did something awful to Sophia, Genesis would feel obligated as her friend to cut ties with Yvette. The tension heightens as talent show night arrives and everyone preps their bid for the grand prize. What happens next will change the way Genesis is perceived at school.

Amid learning surprising truths about her father's tragic childhood and gathering evidence that suggests he isn't keeping up with the mortgage payments, Genesis musters the courage to go investigate by herself at his place of employment, but isn't ready for what she discovers there. Genesis panics at the prospect of being evicted again, this time from a gorgeous home and a school district where she has real friends. Can she say goodbye to Sophia and Troy and return to the slums of Detroit, resuming her life as the dark-skinned girl everyone hates? Dad's drinking problem is serious, a dependency he can't seem to lick regardless what incentives are placed in front of him. It could be the family's undoing, as bills pile up and pressure mounts. What personal demons has Dad passed on to Genesis, and how will she cope with them as her social progress is threatened? Family chaos, the talent show, new friendship, and the development of her own character: these elements are a swirl of passion and anxiety for Genesis as the walls close in. Can she avert catastrophe, or will it all be counted a loss as she is forced to start from scratch once again?

Poignant and powerful, Genesis Begins Again stands above most middle-grade novels of its kind. I love the connection Genesis makes with the classic jazz vocalists she wishes to emulate, drawing inspiration and comfort from who they were and how they sang. Billie Holiday used her mournful voice as an escape valve for the depression resulting from a life somewhat parallel to that of Genesis's father; Ella Fitzgerald injected the pain and disappointment of life into her music without allowing it to trample the natural joy of her sassy scatting; and Etta James could fill any room with the magic of life, its glories and defeats alike. Genesis has vocal talent, and it's by consuming the work of these great artists that she creates an original style she can use to enrich the world. Genesis reflects on this: "And I'm sure I like a whole lot of things...and truth is, I can't wait to discover 'em all." What new heroes and art forms will she take interest in throughout adolescence that push her to explore who she is and find hidden areas of potential? The future is uncharted wilderness waiting to be explored, and Genesis couldn't be more excited.

The biggest idea in Genesis Begins Again may be the thin line between self-improvement and destructive self-criticism. Cultivating good character is important; you should proactively oppose your worst impulses, but Genesis gets preoccupied with the size and shape of her nose, the density of her hair, and the darkness of her skin. She has difficulty letting go the idea that these things make her unattractive. It's vital not to dwell on physical traits you can't control; everyone has features we wish we could change, but you can be attractive by accentuating your good points, maintaining hygiene, and projecting confidence to the world. That's a lot more important than facial features, skin tone, or birthmarks. Stay focused on that and invest in becoming a likable, interesting person, and friends will come. This is what Troy tells Genesis. "Here's the deal. You were dope before the auditions. Before the fancy hair. Before all of it. Because you weren't chasing the hype." It's tricky, figuring out what to refine and what to accept as part of who you are, but the better job you do at it, the happier you'll be. It's one of countless tests you face in adolescence and beyond.

I love this book. It provides that rare element common to the best juvenile literature: a yearning to be part of the story alongside Genesis's family and friends. The 2020 Newbery awards committee did its job well overall, citing wonderful books including Christian McKay Heidicker's Scary Stories for Young Foxes and Jasmine Warga's Other Words for Home to be Newbery Honorees, but Genesis Begins Again might be the best junior novel published that year, deserving the Newbery Medal. The only negative I can think of is some pop culture references destined to become dated, but that's a relatively minor issue. I'd rate this book three and a half stars, and in my opinion Alicia D. Williams merits mention among some of the top children's authors of her era, such as Sharon M. Draper, Erin Entrada Kelly, Veera Hiranandani, and Rita Williams-Garcia. If you appreciate novels of emotion and truth that linger in the heart, give Genesis Begins Again a try. I'm blessed to have read it.
Profile Image for Liz.
9 reviews1 follower
October 30, 2018
Genesis Begins Again is a raw, honest view of what it can feel like to be a young girl with a dark complexion trying to conform to society's beauty standards. In addition to the ups and downs, mostly downs, of middle school, Genesis must navigate life with an alcoholic, gambling father who destroys her sense of security every month.

The book begins with Genesis feeling euphoric because she has made friends with the most popular girls in her grade. They have agreed to visit her home and they arrive to find all of the family's furniture and belongings sitting on the lawn. They had been evicted. Genesis stammers and tries to make up stories about the situation, but the girls ruthlessly mock her. Genesis must always begin again, new friends, new school, and new realizations. Why does her grandmother "hate" her dad? Why does her mom always forgive him despite the humiliation? How can she learn to love herself as she is?

Genesis Begins Again tore me apart and pieced me back together. The dialog was so authentic, I felt like I was watching events unfold. As a person of Afro Caribbean descent, I could relate to the colorsim that Genesis and her father lived through. This is the first book for middle grade readers that addresses this issue honestly and fearlessly. The reader comes away understanding that Genesis is beginning to accept herself, but she has a long road ahead. I enthusiastically recommend Genesis Begins Again.
Profile Image for D.T. Henderson.
Author 4 books57 followers
May 6, 2022
I can't help but wonder how it feels to be so bound up that you can't be or do what you want" (pg 72).

Despite the gorgeous cover, I was a bit wary about reading this because I didn’t know if this was just going to be a depressing-beat-you-down story. That type of stuff can drag your esteem down if you’re not already in a place of self-love. Thankfully, that wasn't the case.

I think this is a great book for young black girls. It tackles the effects of colorism in a relatable way, even for those who colorism affects in a more positive light. Hopefully, this models why all the derogatory, color-based names are wrong (I’m looking at you, my old Sunday School class. first time, I had heard of kids referring to themselves as burnt shea butter, burnt chocolate, and anything else burnt).

This is definitely realistic fiction! Poor Genesis’ mom is with a dusty, colorist, and drunkard broke-a-joke. Count the struggles, y’all. Even though Genesis’ dad is trifling (no buts about it), the story doesn’t neglect his own struggles with colorism. No one likes being on the receiving end of you-so-black/dark jokes. Even Genesis’ grandma is on some paper bag test junk!

I really like Genesis’ narrative because you understand exactly why she thinks and acts like she does. It even digs a bit uncomfortably with Genesis' light-skinned mother who loves her but even abides by colorist notions herself sometimes and doesn't quite understand what her daughter is going through. SN: I know that hot comb struggle.

This might be lost on those who don’t recognize all the lesser effects of colorism. But, yes, Genesis’ father berating her skin despite being dark-skinned himself is very realistic. I have seen it many times when men marry their opposite and are surprised when their daughters come out looking like themselves and not the mothers.

I won’t lie. My eyes started watering at certain parts. It acknowledges that you can bring up “Black is beautiful (and yes, it is! No negation there),” but it doesn’t magically erase everything. Sometimes, you can’t put a band-aid over the names, the way society or even loved ones can view your skin. This is why colorism can be such a tough topic to talk about because sometimes people don’t want to talk about the nitty-gritty.

Still, I think this book was great. It's tough seeing Genesis' various methods to try and lighten her skin, but the conclusion at the end is worth it. Genesis Begins Again manages to tackle heavy issues in a simple and relatable way and sneak in some Harlem Renaissance singers/Black History facts.

4 stars only for...

Anyway, I recommend it!
Profile Image for Darla.
3,340 reviews525 followers
January 10, 2019
An intimate portrait of the life of a 13-year-old girl who struggles with self-loathing. She is part of an intact family, but where do you cross the line from keeping the family together to putting the father's needs above the child's? Unfortunately the faith in her grandmother's life does not translate into the love and support Genesis needs. The world Genesis lives in is unfamiliar to me and this novel opens my eyes to the struggles of young women like her. Many young tweens and young teen girls will be able to relate to Genesis and root for her.
Profile Image for Danielle.
Author 2 books228 followers
August 24, 2020
"I recall every bad memory, every negative word, because when I sing, I'm gonna conjure the loneliness of Billie Holiday, the joy of Ella Fitzgerald, the soul and longing of Etta James. I'll sing for every girl who feels like...feels like me."
Profile Image for Shari.
464 reviews14 followers
February 11, 2019
This book is INCREDIBLE. My heart absolutely broke for Genesis as I read her story, thinking of all the amazing kids I’ve taught who might have felt that same self-loathing. This is a story that I hope will be a kinder mirror for those kids, showing them an honest glimpse of their own beauty, and an empathetic window for others. I was drawn right into Genesis’ story, feeling her conflicted emotions, her courageous triumphs, and her painful regrets. We need more books like this- own-voices books by authors of color - I learned SO much from this book! This is an important book that deserves ALL the buzz and hype!
Profile Image for Sharon Velez Diodonet.
278 reviews36 followers
January 3, 2021
"Every single night I've prayed for God to make me beautiful--make me light. And every morning I wake up exactly the same."


RATING: 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

Thank you to @authoraliciadwilliams for gifting a beautiful signed copy.

Genesis Begins Again is moving, heartbreaking and gutwrenching. Genesis is a 13 year old who is carrying an unbearable weight of grief, self hate and pain caused by generational colorism, her father's alcoholism and gambling problem, unstable housing and evictions, bullying at school and family conflicts. Genesis equates all the pain in her life to her dark complexion and "black features." She secretly resorts to home remedies for lightening, bleaching cream and making a list of why people hate her.

I loved that this story took us through Genesis' journey and we see her transform and finally come to a place where she could love herself as she is and find her voice by confronting her inner voices as well as her family. She channels her pain through singing after her teacher introduces her to Billie Holiday and Etta James. It was beautiful to see Genesis come into her own skin by being inquisitive and also by tapping into the good relationships and friendships she made at her latest school. By the end of the story I was feeling hopeful for her. I'm still thinking about her as I write this and she will stay with me.

Although this was a middle grade read, this book is so necessary and tackles deep issues such as:
● colorism & racism
● poverty & disparities in education
● mental health & stigma
● the power of friendships
● effects of white beauty standards
● bullying
● teachers as support networks
● how trauma affects self esteem
● addiction

Please get this books into schools everywhere because colorism is an issue that transcends many cultures. This book can literally save a life and spark some conversations.
Profile Image for The Dusty Jacket.
286 reviews26 followers
February 26, 2023
Thirteen-year-old Genesis Anderson hates moving (her family is on number four), broken promises (too many to count), her father’s hateful words when he’s had too much to drink (too painful to count), her hair, and staying with her grandmother. She also hates the darkness of her skin, which she’s tried to lighten using a variety of household products. But mostly, Genesis hates the list that was started back in sixth grade by two classmates who listed one hundred things (the stupid girls only listed sixty) they hated about her. The joke’s on them because Genesis has been adding to that list on her own and will probably make it to 100 in no time. There’s a lot of things Genesis hates, but a new school with new friends and new opportunities finally show Genesis that there are a lot of things to like. With things finally beginning to look up, you can bet that it won’t be long before something comes along to mess it all up. Genesis hates that.

Very few young adult books have grabbed me the way Genesis Begins Again has. Williams’s opening paragraph leads us into a false sense of security that is quickly and horribly stripped away in a matter of paragraphs. Williams snuffs out our girl’s light in one raw and shameful event that immediately shows us the obstacles that Genesis faces, the character of the “friends” she has, and the girl that she ultimately is. Behind all that self-loathing is a strong, loyal, fierce, and intelligent girl who is wise beyond her years and determined to make her fractured world whole again…no matter the cost. She is instantly a character that we root for and we find ourselves either wanting to take her by the shoulders to remind her that she’s better than she thinks or wrap our arms around her to reassure her that everything will be alright.

It's hard to believe that this is Williams’s debut novel. It received the Newbery Honor award in 2020, as well as the John Steptoe Award for New Talent. Her book began as an autobiography but was soon revised to better reflect the present rather than the past. The themes of bullying and colorism play predominantly throughout the story and often emanate from surprising and unexpected sources. The characters are wonderfully developed, the prose is engaging and allows us to fully immerse ourselves within Genesis’s world, the conflicts and outcomes are realistic, and there’s enough drama and tension to keep the story moving at a wonderful pace.

Highlighting the important and influential role that teachers have on our children, Genesis is highly influenced by her music teacher, Mrs. Hill. It is she who introduces Genesis to Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Etta James who showed her that there is beauty in brokenness and joy beyond the pain. Music healed Genesis…it freed her…and proved to be a lifeline to those around her who needed it the most. Billie Holiday once said, “If I’m going to sing like someone else, then I don’t need to sing at all.” All through the story, Genesis was always trying to be someone else: lighter, braver, smarter, hipper, or more popular. It was only after she discovered and began to sing her own song, that she was truly able to begin again.

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Profile Image for Gretchen Rubin.
Author 44 books88.5k followers
July 2, 2020
Powerful, haunting, about many things. I was particularly interested in the main character's complex, deep love for her difficult father.
Profile Image for Roxanne.
866 reviews59 followers
October 16, 2020
This incredible book packs a ton of emotion. Told from the perspective a young black girl in her early teens, it reads almost like a memoir, giving us a first-person account of the day to day life of a child embroiled in a psychological war with the world around her. Poverty, substance-abuse, racism, colourism, bullying and generational trauma are the weapons fired relentlessly at Genesis. She is trying so hard to make sense of all of it and trying to make it STOP. But she's a child with only a child's abilities to protect herself and you can literally see the damage being done to her fragile psyche with each turn of the page. The introspective narrative is brilliant and perfectly appropriate for the age of the protagonist. The author doesn't try to give Genesis insight or sophistication that's beyond her years. Her inner dialogue is exactly the level of comprehension that a 13/14 year old would have which adds so much power to the story. And you realize (with horror) that millions of young girls are listening to similar internal voices as they desperately try to defend themselves against the onslaught of cruelty thrown at them.

Genesis Begins Again brought out all kinds of emotions in me. I don't remember ever reading anything that awakened the ferocious mama-bear in me and made her roar in anger and frustration quite like this book. But, I think I'm most disturbed by the knowledge that this is a story of a "normal" modern-day life. There's no actual war. There's no pandemic. There's no extraordinarily horrific event that triggers the plot. Nobody dies. Nobody saves the day. But it's a traumatic story that's being lived by millions of young teens right NOW. It hurts so much knowing that we do these things to ourselves and to the people we love, whom we're supposed to protect.

There is some joy in this story too. But it's hard-won. I know this is a middle grade book but this should be read by adults, especially parents.
Profile Image for Amber Webb.
729 reviews12 followers
May 22, 2019
We all have hurts. We all have pain. We all have lists of things we don't love about ourselves, but we all deserve a chance to begin again. We all deserve a fresh start.
Genesis Begins Again is a beautifully written novel about discovering who you are through those around you. It's about learning your history for better or worse. Genesis gets moved around the greater Detroit area thanks to her Dad's bad habits and irresponsibility. She is finally starting to feel settled in a place with people she actually considers friends when the hinges fall of. Genesis does a lot of learning about herself and who she really wants to be through various challenges.
Great read!
Profile Image for Kristin Kraves Books.
259 reviews128 followers
January 25, 2019
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This is a story about growing up, discovering your self-worth, and learning how to navigate complicated relationship. Genesis Begins Again is one of the best middle grade novels that I have ever read. I appreciated the fact that Williams did not hold back simply because she was writing a middle-grade novel. I want to put it in the hands of everyone of any age. I think a lot of young girls will really relate to Genesis’ story and her struggle to fit in when her complexion makes her stand out. Genesis also faces struggles that other young readers may also be experiencing including having a parent who is an alcoholic, living in poverty, and having to constantly change schools and start over. I instantly felt a connection to Genesis, and actually found myself getting protective of her. I cried along with her and I cheered her on. It breaks my heart to know that there are real girls going through the same things as Genesis. I hope that this book finds its way into their hands and it gives them some hope. I will personally be purchasing a few copies to donate to my local library. That is how important I think this book is!

I am in awe of Williams ability to write raw and honest characters, and I can not believe that Genesis Begins Again is her debut novel. I am anxiously awaiting to see what she comes out with next!

Genesis Begins Again is coming out on January, 15th! Thank you Simon and Schuster Canada for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for D'Arcy.
228 reviews4 followers
January 21, 2019
Wonderful. We need more books like this for teens today. Genesis manages to be both wise and heartbreaking and - ultimately - uplifting. I'm sure her message will resonate with the intended readers of that age. I look forward to seeing more from Alicia D. Williams!
Profile Image for DaNae.
1,372 reviews73 followers
January 26, 2021
A lot to like here. But as a former child who spent hours upon hours feeling sorry for herself, I found the character of Genesis so emotionally manipulating it triggered unhealthy mindsets. It almost overshadowed the important subject matter.
Profile Image for Victor The Reader.
1,273 reviews15 followers
September 25, 2020
Looking for the good out of a bad situation is never easy, but it’s a big challenge for Genesis. She has a difficult life at home that include her deadbeat dad who spites her and can’t keep a roof over his family. No matter what, her father’s behavior always make her feel negative all the time and believes that is because she vaguely resembles him. School slowly becomes a helpful outlet for her, and maybe giving her a brighter attitude. It’s certainly harsh and emotional mainly, but also funny and uplifting at times. The moments with Genesis and her father were pretty gripping. Genesis’ story is amazing, touching and how much family really does matter. A (100%/Outstanding)
Profile Image for Amy | Foxy Blogs.
1,408 reviews970 followers
March 27, 2021
I love this cover so much.


From the cover, you may be able to tell that this book is about a middle school Black girl who deals with colorism.
*prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group.
*"colorism within the black community has been a serious emotional and psychological battle"
Definitions from Oxford Languages

Middle school age is a tough age to fit in at school.
Even harder when you're Genesis and these things are stacked against you:
♦ being on the verge of homelessness
♦ a father who is an alcoholic
♦ being dark-skinned
♦ always changing schools

This book packs a punch. Even though this book is geared towards middle schooler readers I think it's poignant enough to be read by anyone at any age.

"I remember on that back porch asking dad why he hates me. But I never stopped to ask myself why I hate me."

"I just want to look in the mirror and be okay with myself."

Audio book source: Library/Overdrive
Narrator: Alicia D. Williams
Length: 8H 48M
Profile Image for Ailynn Knox-Collins.
32 reviews2 followers
February 12, 2019
I loved this book. I found myself 'talking'(at times yelling) to the main character as I sometimes do to TV shows - that's how involved I was in this story. I was drawn in by young Genesis, and rooted for her all the way. Great read.
Profile Image for Tasha.
4,117 reviews104 followers
January 21, 2019
Genesis keeps a list of things that she hates about herself. Some of it is the color of her skin and the way that others tease her about how dark she is, unlike her light-skinned mother with good hair. Some of it is about the way that their family keeps getting kicked out of the houses they live in because they don’t pay the rent. Some of it is the way her father speaks about her when he is drunk. Some of it is based on her grandmother’s hurtful comments about Genesis. So after being kicked out of yet another house, Genesis’ family moves to a more affluent neighborhood outside of Detroit. Genesis discovers that she likes her new school and even finds herself making real friends for the first time. The house is the nicest they have ever lived in too. But other things aren’t any better. Her father keeps on drinking. Genesis is still as dark-skinned as ever, but she has plans to try to lighten her skin, thinking that will make her entire life better. As Genesis discovers her own talents, she must learn that learning to accept herself is a large piece of moving forward in life.

In this debut novel, Williams writes with a strong voice, taking on difficult topics including verbal abuse, racism, skin tone, alcoholism and co-dependency in an unflinching way. Williams reveals the deep pain and lasting scars that cruel words and verbal abuse can have on a young person, particularly when it is about a physical characteristic that is beyond their control. With Genesis’ parents caught in a marriage filled with anger and substance abuse, Williams offers other adult figures and also young peers who model a way forward for Genesis.

Genesis’ growth is organic and well paced. She learns things steadily but has set backs that end up with her damaging herself. She is a complicated character who looks at life through a specific lens due to her upbringing. She is constantly judging others before they can judge her, placing distance where there could be connections, and making poor decisions when offered compliments. Still, she is a good friend, someone willing to look beyond the surface and see what others can’t. But only when she allows herself to do that. Her complexity is what makes this book really shine.

Strong and vibrant, this book takes on the subject of skin tone in the African-American community as well as other heavy topics. Appropriate for ages 11-13.
Profile Image for maya.
265 reviews37 followers
June 26, 2020
oh... this wrecked me.
i really want there to be more books like this, especially for younger readers. the narrative was so real it hurt and i hate that the things genesis deals with are not just fictional— they're actually happening.

the author did a very good job at writing a middle schooler and genesis was a lovely character, i really liked her.
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