Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “When You Learn the Alphabet” as Want to Read:
When You Learn the Alphabet
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

When You Learn the Alphabet

4.50  ·  Rating details ·  30 ratings  ·  11 reviews
Kendra Allen’s first collection of essays—at its core—is a bunch of mad stories about things she never learned to let go of. Unifying personal narrative and cultural commentary, this collection grapples with the lessons that have been stored between parent and daughter. These parental relationships expose the conditioning that subconsciously informed her ideas on social is ...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published April 15th 2019 by University Of Iowa Press
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about When You Learn the Alphabet, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about When You Learn the Alphabet

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.50  · 
Rating details
 ·  30 ratings  ·  11 reviews

More filters
Sort order
May 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: usa, 2019-read
The fantastic Kiese Laymon made me read this, and this man clearly knows what's new and interesting: Kendra Allen's debut is a mixture of memoir, essays and poetry, and all of her texts are discussing what it means to be a twentysomething black women in today's America. We learn about Allen's family (both of her parents are veterans ), how the "war on drugs" affects her community, the effects of absent fathers, the racism she has to deal with, how she experienced Europe (Paris, in this particula ...more
Jan 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: want-to-buy-read
This book is a collection of essays. But it's so much more than that and I know that I cannot do it justice. When you learn the alphabet is composed of these fragments of themes that compose the sentence of life. She's too black to be considered beautiful, too cool to not be like other girls in the eyes of men but when in the realization of her faults and pavement to grow, too female; a word uttered in repugnance. This book shows that you can grow and become stronger at every basis, something th ...more
Kelsey Down
Mar 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book was well-written, and it covers some important and compelling themes. However, I had a hard time feeling engaged and wanting to read on. I think that part of the problem was that I didn't realize it was a book of essays when I picked it up—I was expecting fiction. While I certainly appreciate the form of the personal essay, it was just not what I'd been expecting (obviously, that's on me).
Apr 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
I know I'm probably not the target audience for this book, but I think it is always a good idea to read outside your comfort zone.  This book is certainly outside my usual reading, and I recommend it for anyone wondering what the other side thinks.

Though I'm not a black woman, seeing issues from Allen's side is eye-opening.  I know she will have a different view on things as she experiences things differently than I do, but to have her talk about absent fathers and casual racism from someone who
Apr 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Thank you Netgalley for a free eARC of When You Learn the Alphabet!

Kendra Allen's collection of essays, poems and personal memories plays nicely with different formats and dips in and out of stating her own experiences and opinions and sharing more private family history. I did find myself more interested in the latter, wanting to hear about the complex relationships she has with both her parents, and recognizing the need of a now adult child to reconcile feelings of love and hate towards the pe
Carla L
Apr 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Read upon arrival if you have the time - I did! The winner of Iowa Literary Nonfiction 2018 did her just do. So personal, relevant,honest,selfless, and real is how it makes you feel. Having already read “Dark Girls” on I had an idea of what was to come. “The Beautiful Ones Always Smash the Picture” about her trip to Paris makes you want to gin yourself and sit down and breath the air and write too!. The way she wrote “Legs On His Shoulders” made me laugh and say who cares what He Says ...more
Emi Bevacqua
Jan 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
I devoured this new collection of smart, witty, funny poetry and poetic essays on race and color, that also incorporate the n word (that Eminem went his entire rap career without saying), degrees of fatherlessness, multifaceted love, and the utilitarian inception of crack. I can't believe the day I read about Kendra Allen crediting black gay community storylines in shows such as Empire, actor Jussie Smollett who plays a black gay musician in Empire, is nearly killed in a MAGA hate crime attack. ...more
Jun 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I related to a lot in this book. The first essay Dark Girls was everything I’ve ever said and wanted to say about being a dark skinned black woman. And the collection’s eponymous essay is thoughtful and clever. So many special moments in this collection.
Jun 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Obviously Kendra Allen has learned the alphabet. Her grouping of thoughts, words, and sentences is phenomenal. Read it....and prepare to be blown away!
A Diveglia
rated it it was amazing
May 09, 2019
Emily Montgomery
rated it it was amazing
May 26, 2019
Bria Blaylock
rated it it was amazing
Apr 04, 2019
rated it really liked it
Jun 07, 2019
rated it liked it
Jun 27, 2019
valerye memelord
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I`m not used to reading essays, but i found this book to be intriguing in its subject matter and HIGHLY educational without being boring!! It really made me think, the essays are really compelling and raw, even if sometimes the subject is difficult and complex, going through it was easy and i feel like after reading this i`m aware of a lot of issues i was not aware of before, i REALLY think this book is a must read, to be honest!! ...more
The Book Lover
rated it it was amazing
Jun 16, 2019
Dora Okeyo
Apr 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
Like most people, I was distracted from reading this book by a gallery of pretty covers and romance novels, but when I got down to it, I could not stop taking in each word, each emotion, each frustration as though the author were peeling off my skin, layer by layer and telling me as it is.
Thanks Netgalley for the eARC, if ever there's a book that I wish I could quote word for word in a review, it's got to be this one, but there's something called reading the fine line...and towing it.
rated it it was amazing
Apr 16, 2019
rated it really liked it
Jul 16, 2019
Smileitsjoy (JoyMelody)
rated it really liked it
Jul 12, 2019
rated it really liked it
Apr 30, 2019
rated it it was amazing
Jul 25, 2019
Kendra Allen
rated it it was amazing
Mar 13, 2019
rated it it was amazing
May 07, 2019
rated it it was amazing
Aug 21, 2019
rated it really liked it
Aug 04, 2019
rated it it was amazing
May 04, 2019
rated it it was amazing
May 01, 2019
rated it really liked it
Jan 09, 2019
rated it it was amazing
Aug 18, 2019
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »