Eleven-year-old Keda (short for Makeda), a songwriter who loves to sing and listen to jazz and the blues, draws readers right in to her heart-rending coming-of-age story.
An African American girl adopted by white parents, Keda finds it hard to feel she belongs anywhere, except with her #ashyforlife best friend, Lena, who is also a black adoptee with white parents. For Keda, leaving Lena behind is the hardest part of relocating from Baltimore to Albuquerque with her family—that is, until her mother, who at first just seems passionate and moody, descends into depression, followed by a manic episode, and reaches her lowest point before getting help. She is ultimately diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Meanwhile, Keda struggles socially with racism from mean girls in her new town, as well as with the feeling that her 14-year-old sister, Eve, has outgrown her. The Georgia Belles, a group of women who appear to Keda in dreamlike visions, help resolve her feelings of being afloat and helpless, even as they sometimes taunt her with her fears or warn her of danger to come. Keda faces her struggles with a bold self-assurance that is refreshing to read, even as her story breaks readers’ hearts only to mend them again.
The short chapters in For Black Girls Like Me are written in distinctive, lyrical prose, with poems interspersed throughout. Keda’s world is richly drawn and seamlessly presented in a strong, authentic voice. Her difficult experiences and emotions are deeply affecting, with just enough humor to carry readers through. This magnificent middle grade debut from Mariama J. Lockington is an absolute gift of a book.