32 Candles- Ernessa T. Carter

“I cut the article out and placed it reverent-like between the pages of my hardback edition of The Colour Purple. It was my favourite book and home to Celie, the black character I identified with most in the world, because she was ugly and got treated ugly but still found her way to a happy ending. Sort of like Molly Ringwald. And exactly like me. Eventually. I hoped.”- 32 Candles- Ernessa T. Carter

It’s been years since I’ve read anything resembling chick lit (disclaimer: I know the term is considered quite contentious and probably even derogatory by some but I have no idea what to call this genre otherwise) but this one came highly recommended so I thought I’d give it a go. With the birthday-themed title I decided to read it on my actual birthday and I’m glad I did.

I think one of the main reasons I fell out of love with this genre in the first place is because of its lack of diversity, though I’m sure that has changed from a decade ago. Reading a book like this with a black heroine was very refreshing and, like I’d suspected,  more relatable.

The story started off sadly. Our afro-wearing heroine, Davidia,  nicknamed “Monkey Night” by her classmates, doesn’t know who her father is, is abused by her mother and eventually decides to stop talking due to the abuse she experiences. And she happens to fall in love with the most popular guy in school.

Davidia sees her life through Molly Ringwald eyes; Ringwald’s movies played a huge role in determining  how she view the world, and it’s even more poignant when we realize how isolated she is, with no friends and nobody to show her love:

“What’s a Molly Ringwald ending?” Mama Jane asked.
“It’s a perfect ending. It’s when somehow, against all odds, people manage to surmount all issues of class, status, and personality to get together at the end of a story.”

Having a black heroine means the need to discuss issues like colourism and hair texture; they are definitely part of the black female experience after all, and why diversity in this genre is needed.

I really enjoyed this book. It was extremely well-written, thought-provoking,  and funny. There were lessons learned, and a clearer understanding of humans.  Highly recommended.

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