Stephanie Hill Alexander's Reviews > The Black Girl Next Door: A Memoir

The Black Girl Next Door by Jennifer Baszile
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Mar 29, 2010

did not like it

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.
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Veronica The point of the book is to discuss her childhood. It's a memoir not an analysis of her adult choices and experiences based on her childhood. Your comments prove my hypothesis that this book was written for a black audience. As tired as you are of reading about the black experience, I am equally tired of non-black people attempting to dictate what a black experience should be in order to satisfy them.

I am willing to bet that you have never been called a nigger so I think I can start there with the differences in your experiences and hers.

Rather than take a defensive tact, I hope you will reflect upon how open your mind is to just accepting the experience for what it is.

Stephanie Hill Alexander First of all me and the memembers of my book club are African American. Second many of us including me belong to as mothers, members, or former childhood members of many of the organizations that the author discussed so I'm living the black experience. My opinion of the book was that it was flat and not appealing to me; I thought the author didn't addresss any of the hidden issues in her family as many of us do as to not perpetuate what many already think of us.
As a matter of fact no matter how light my skin or my age, I've experienced names and worse therefore my analysis of the book is that the author's characters were flat and lifeless-I didn't have any emotions while reading this book. I felt her book was an attempt to politely tip toe around/gloss over issues, and had the author provided more round vivid characters that left the reader feeling some type of emotion other than let me finish this thing; I think it would have been a better book.
Our experiences as African Americans and all the other many diverse cultures we present have given us (me) something way more deeper than I gleamed from this memoir--My opinion as one Black woman.
Moreover, it is my hope that you will consider a reader's opinion as how they feel and not make any assumptions just consider it as their review of a book.

Veronica Thanks for your response. Your original post did not focus on character development. I was thrown by the contradiction that on one hand the experiences were not unique and on the other a desire to hear more about the more common experience of an abusive home with a womanizing father.

I to am reading this with my African American book club and many of us have had similar experiences in the same organizations as well. It goes to show that people can come away from very similar experiences with entirely different thoughts on the matter. It certainly gives me food for thought -- and another aspect
for our group to discuss.

As for your obsevations regarding character development-- I agree, but it didn't bother me as I think her motives in writing the book were more to illicit discussion rather than to reveal much about herself.

Stephanie Hill Alexander Thank you for your comment. I'd like to add you to my friend list if that is ok. I think we can have some lively discussions about books.

Let me know what you guys are reading next.

Veronica Stephanie, it is very gracious of you to want to do that-- especially after the inital email I sent to you! Please do add me. I would be very interested in discussing future books.

We are having our annual meeting in mid-August to construct our booklist for the upcoming season. Last season we each chose our own book to share, and this season we are trying a consensus format. I'll keep you posted.

Stephanie Hill Alexander Each member of our group submits 1-2 books in December to serve as our next year's book list. Your profile is private so you'll have to add me as your friend and we can keep our discussions going.
Looking forward to hearing about your next book.

Nicola Italia Stephanie,
Thank you for touching on my issue EXACTLY. I checked the book out from my local library and was excited to read it. I had lived in SoCal all my life and recognized all the place she wrote about. But very early into the book I thought the characters were very flat. Natalie comes across as a Black Barbie doll, the mother seems very cold and the father really scared me.
At the end when we actually witness an abuse she completely glosses over it and moves on.
I think if an author is going to set about to write a memoir they need to write about the good and the bad.
Maybe she was frightened to write about her dad in his true sense because she knew that after it was published she would have to face him and her family.
But towards the end I didn't like the weak mother or the abusive father. Very poorly done.

Stephanie Hill Alexander Interesting thought, I hadn't thought about how the family might feel about the book but you're probably right.

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