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Black Girl in Paris

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  869 ratings  ·  97 reviews
In her critically acclaimed new novel, Shay Youngblood, the Pushcart Prize-winning author of Soul Kiss, chronicles the Parisian odyssey of a young African-American woman retracing the footsteps of the literary legends who inspired her.
Paperback, 256 pages
Published January 1st 2001 by Riverhead Trade (first published January 24th 2000)
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3.82  · 
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 ·  869 ratings  ·  97 reviews

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Cross-posted at Outlaw Reviews and at Shelf Inflicted

I love Paris, its grandeur, its palaces, museums, monuments, breathtaking views, restaurants, cafes, its rich culture and history. It is a dynamic, international and happening place.

It’s been about 5 years since I’ve been there last, so I was really looking forward to taking a literary trip to Paris.

Eden, a 26-year-old Black woman from Alabama and an aspiring writer, journeys to Paris with just $200 in her pocket to follow in the footsteps of
Jan 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Black Girl in Paris by Shay Youngblood is a colorful literary jazz arrangement where the author's narrative improvisations transport the reader through the streets of Paris, deconstructing in their wake many fixed preconceived ideas about France and its influence on African American artists. The interest these virtuosos show for the city of lights is still undeniable in spite of, or due to, the present tumultuous situation between the United States and France. However, one must confront the imag ...more
Feb 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
One of my favorite works of fiction. Got really mad when the book ended.
 The Black Geek
Aug 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
I believe that I read this book after my first trip abroad; I could not put it down. Youngblood uses language like a poet and definitely knows how to write a scene...She captures emotion in characters with the most beautifully crafted detail. There is a warmth in her writing; her language never stagnant. It truly does not surprise me that Youngblood is also a painter. The skill and imagination that she has with a paintbrush and canvas is evident in her storytelling.
Feb 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Before I left home I cut my hair close to my scalp so I could be a free woman with free thoughts, open to all possibilities. I was making a map of the world. In ancient times maps were made to help people find food, water, and the way back home. I needed a map to help me find love and language and since one didn't exist, I'd have to invent one, following the trails and signs left by other travelers. I didn't know what I wanted to be, but I knew I wanted to be the kind of woman who was bold, took ...more
Aug 10, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommended to Fiona by: Queereaders Group-Read
Hmmm… I had much higher expectations of this novel. These expectations were partly based upon the fact that this book was my first ever ‘group-read’. Perhaps my indifference to this fictional memoir is underpinned by my current temperament; perhaps I simply could not endure the idealism of the impassioned and inspired protagonist Eden, as she chased her literary dream around Paris.

“The words were crowded together carefully as if they had been written in a small, dark place by someone with plenty
Nikita T. Mitchell
May 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all young black women
I read this book during my freshman year in college as an English assignment. I couldn't put it down. I loved it so much that when I began writing my essay that was assigned(which I love doing for books anyway), I ended up rereading the book. Choosing quotes was so hard because there was so much about the book that I found beautiful. It is now my all time favorite book. EVER. That could also be due to the fact that for much of my teenage years I dreamed of the possibility of living in Paris one ...more
Julie Ehlers
Dec 19, 2013 rated it liked it
I liked the premise of this novel, about a young aspiring writer who travels to Paris to attempt to follow in the footsteps of her idols, Langston Hughes and James Baldwin. Some aspects of the book were quite vivid. But the language was too flowery for my taste--I found it alienating rather than intimate.
Jan 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Granted, I read this years ago, but I loved the imagery and the prose. I'm also a big fan of Youngblood's Soul Kiss.
Feb 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: i-own-these
I thought I would love this....I wanted to love this. This cover is beautiful. However I did not care for this book at all unfortunately. This is a character driven book. I am not a fan of books like this. I need plot. Plot. And more plot. If you are someone that loves Paris, lives in Paris, aspires to go to Paris this is for you. There are a lot of references to places that could be of interest if you cared. One thing I liked was the referencing of different writers, and music. The main charact ...more
Feb 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
This was a book club selection and the title sounded interesting enough...and so direct- it’s nice to know what you’re reading just by the title. I love the idea of this book. I personally have dreamed of moving to another country alone and starting a new life...sounds so exciting and I looked forward to how this story would unfold.

However, I found myself pretty bored throughout most of this book. It didn’t help that I read a James Baldwin book right before this that I also didn’t love, and this
Tamara Evans
Nov 10, 2007 rated it really liked it
It's not too often that I read a book that I can't put down. In reference to this book, that was exactly the case.Although this is the author's first work, I found myself unable to stop reading because of the way in which she writes.I feel that this book is great because it allows the reader to be exposed to various personalities of the main character.

When I first saw the title of this book, I'll admit, I was somewhat offended.I didn't know why I felt that way, it just seemed like the term "bla
Aug 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a great read and a story that I will definitely revisit. I love the bravery of Eden and found myself envying her (oh responsibility, why are you so heavy?). Shay has hit the nail on the head with the racial tensions witnessed by the characters. Whether it's interracial dating or immigration, the views expressed are relevant today which makes me sad especially when expressed by the President of the United States of America. I've definitely recommended this book to friends and hope they d ...more
Victoria Carter
Mar 02, 2017 rated it liked it
I wanted to love this book entirely but I have to admit that closer towards the end, I felt like I was waiting on something big to happen, but when that moment came, it felt so small. I did enjoy the journey through Paris and it does make me want to visit there more than ever. I just wish that this book could've given me something more. It's kind of hard to put into words. However, I don't regret reading this and I hope to read other works by Youngblood soon enough.
Feb 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was a joy to read. It helps that I’d recently visited Paris and Versailles at the beginning of winter. Thus, I was transported to several of the locales with the protagonist. Standing on the street, outside of a restaurant. The cold nipping at my nose. One day, I’ll have to visit again, using the map laid out between the pages of this book as my guide.
Jun 09, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: summer-reading
Wonderfully nuanced book, though again, I probably took too long to read it. I might go back and reread during the winter when a plaee like Paris will fuel my depression based wanderlust and self imposed isolation.
Leia G
Jan 21, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Okay Read

I liked the content it was actually perfect. But the turns were too sharp for the plot twist and other settings.... I found myself having to read the paragraph over and over just to catch on. Overall though the story was well. I understood the message. But if it were a pillow, more swan feathers would be needed in order to fulfill.
Jan 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Read all of my reviews at:

The theme for the Mocha Girls Read book of the month in January was Paris. As a group, we voted to read Black Girl in Paris by Shay Youngblood. This relatively short and extremely beautiful book was essentially a coming of age story for its protagonist, Eden, and a lovely way to kick off 2019.

Black Girl in Paris is the story of a young lady and budding writer who picks up from her home in the United States with a little money and travels to Europe in
Jan 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
I could not put this book down. Disappointed by the ending.
 Imani ♥ ☮
Been reading this book since about August, when I fell across it randomly at my university's library. I had heard of the title 'black girl in paris' before and vaguely understood as a risque-y novel not for kids despite its seemingly childlike title. since i am older now, i picked it up and started reading even though i don't have much time for fiction anymore unfortunately. even still, i got caught up in it and over the past few months kept returning to it despite all the work i have to do and ...more
Elizabeth K.
Jul 31, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2008-new-reads
This was one of those novels where, as I was reading, I thought two things. 1. This is a pretty good book, and 2. This book probably isn't for me. A young African-American woman decides to leave her job and set out for France, based on the long and rich tradition of black artists finding inspiration and sanctuary in Paris. Once there, she meets a series of people from all walks of life, each of whom give her some insight into an aspect of Paris. Naturally, as these things go, some of these encou ...more
Lovelyn Bettison
Jul 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: yes
I'd never heard of this book when I got it out of the library. I simply picked it up because I liked the cover art. I didn't even read the blurb on the back to find out what it was about. Black Girl in Paris was a pleasant surprise. This book is about a young black woman who moves to Paris to follow in the footsteps of her literary heroes, mainly James Baldwin.

The story describes her struggle to survive in a foreign city with no work papers and no money. During her time there she has a variety
Lisa Mcbroom
I am not african American but some parts of this book I could identify with, In 2011, I borrowed money and fulfilled a "little girl " dream of going to Paris. Ever since at the age of four I have been fascinated with Paris. First of all the beautiful cover attracted me to this book. Eden is a 26 African American. Whilst at her curator job she reads works of James Baldwin. She also researches the travels of Langston Hughes and the great Josephine Baker's experiences in Paris. Eden wants to be a w ...more
Jan 25, 2010 rated it it was ok
I read most of this in two sittings. I still find myself picturing some scenes in my head, her language is descriptive and poetic.Though it's a quick read, it's compelling in that it brings a different perspective to a city that is so generally romanticized. It brings in the serious uprisings that were happening in the 80's all over Europe: bombings, hostage crises, mixed with the quintessential coming of age book. She was honest about the racism she felt, but I wish that the author could have b ...more
Jan 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I LOVE this book. It is full of snippets that still follow me everyday. Here are a few of my faves....

"I am not afraid to die, because I am living, really living, not wondering what living would be like."

"No teacher can teach as well as the careful study of one great poem."

"You got a cup of African blood and that mean something, means you got a responsibility to be proud of it and use your talents or suffer self-destruction."

"You have to be willing to make mistakes to learn."

"Don't take only wha
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
This beautiful book is both a coming-of-age story of Eden, an American woman of color, and an homage to the Paris that Americans flocked to in the '20s and 30s. Eden goes through a series of low paying (and occasionally humiliating) jobs in her search for James Baldwin. Eden reflects on Baldwin's life and his writing as well as her own life as a woman of color in late '80s Paris. Facing violence -- from Parisians, foreign terrorists -- she still finds friends and lovers, and eventually, some of ...more
Joree S Gray
Aug 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-own
I've seen this book at the stores for years, while the cover was beautiful I never picked it up. I saw the short film based on this book and loved it. Shay Youngblood created a character that I fell in love with Eden was so likable but managed to get on my last nerves at times. She was so brave but extremely naieve at times. She grew so much during her time in Paris and I'd love to know what became of her.
Feb 02, 2011 rated it liked it
More like 2.8 stars. Hits and misses. Very disjointed. Sometimes the writing was great. Other times I couldn't care less about what was going on with the protagonist, which made me really want to put it down and never pick it up again. I think Youngblood is an ok writer. Just not my cup of tea, though I might have enjoyed this had I read it in high school or college. I also can see this being much better as a movie. I'll definitely check it out if it finally makes it to the big screen.
R.K. Byers
Sep 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
this book wins when at the end, she actually meets James Baldwin.
Jul 25, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: queer-lit
I had high hopes for this book, and... not so much. It had a pretty equal balance of good and bad. The stuff that worked really worked, but the stuff that didn't... well...

My main complaint is that it's profoundly unfocused. It feels like a first draft. There is no real grasp on time; it just kind of drifts from scene to scene, sometimes interrupting itself for pages at a time. It was almost impossible to figure out what was going on sometimes. I get what it was trying to do: establish itself as
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Georgia born writer Shay Youngblood is author of the novels Black Girl in Paris and Soul Kiss (Riverhead Books) and a collection of short fiction, The Big Mama Stories (Firebrand Books). Her plays Amazing Grace, Shakin' the Mess Outta Misery and Talking Bones, (Dramatic Publishing Company), have been widely produced. Her other plays include Black Power Barbie and Communism Killed My Dog. She compl ...more
“The world ain't ready for true black genius. In every nigger is a cup of African blood from kings and queens of divine nature, mathematicians, craftsmen, men and women of the land. I have known some sisters and brothers would scare Einstein back into East European caves with the magnificence of their minds. We are a people with a practical nature and great vision. We have built nations, discovered treasures for everyday use. Our people are a great race of people, and though the Europeans raped and plundered, we have kept inner riches. You got a cup of African blood and that mean something, means you got a responsibility to be proud of it and use your talents or suffer self-destruction.” 7 likes
“I was a woman and did not yet think of myself as a writer. I was a mapmaker.” 3 likes
More quotes…