Title: Black Girl Unlimited
By: Echo Brown
Published: January 14th, 2020
By: Henry Holt & Company
Genre: YA | Contemporary | Magical-Realism
Buy it: Book Depository
Echo Brown is a wizard from the East Side, where apartments are small and parents suffer addictions to the white rocks. Yet there is magic . . . everywhere. New portals begin to open when Echo transfers to the rich school on the West Side, and an insightful teacher becomes a pivotal mentor. Each day, Echo travels between two worlds, leaving her brothers, her friends, and a piece of herself behind on the East Side. There are dangers to leaving behind the place that made you. Echo soon realizes there is pain flowing through everyone around her, and a black veil of depression threatens to undo everything she’s worked for.
Heavily autobiographical and infused with magical realism, Black Girl Unlimited fearlessly explores the intersections of poverty, sexual violence, depression, racism, and sexism—all through the arc of a transcendent coming-of-age.
A powerful memoir for fans of Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson and American Street by Ibi Zoboi.
| Goodreads |
WOW, I didn’t expect to end up so moved by this book, but it managed to get to my heart and not only that, I think it’s that type of book that everyone should read because although it’s not an easy read at all, it confronts you with reality in a very crude way, of what black community must face and go through in an ignorant and racist society. In addition to this, we follow a heartbreaking story, but in the same way, inspiring. It’s perfectly combined with touches of magical realism and will leave you thinking, as will also leave you great teaching. I loved it, obviously, and I won’t stop recommending it to everyone from now on.
In this book, we follow Echo Brown who’s a wizard who lives on the East Side, where life situations are precarious and her parents are addicts, but she’s still able to find magic everywhere. When new opportunities open up to her, Echo is transferred to a rich school on the West Side, where she meets a teacher who will soon become a great support and mentor. But, there are dangers to leaving behind the place that made you and soon Echo will begin to see the pain of all those around her, and the black veil of depression will appear as a threat to destroy everything she has achieved.
I think it’s very difficult to describe this story and do it justice, it’s certainly an impossible job that I will not even begin to try, but as I’ll do always try to give all of me to transmit to you all that this book meant to me as I was reading it and its great and powerful message.
I want to start by mentioning that it’s not a coincidence that the name of the main character is the same as the author’s, but that this story is highly inspired by the author’s own life, but with a magical realism touch. I can’t even imagine how hard it would have been for the author to write this book, but I have great admiration for her for having done it and for having also been able to convey so strongly everything that the Echo of the book has had to go through. I don’t know how much of this book is really the author’s life, though, so I prefer to focus on the Echo of the book, because I wouldn’t want to disrespect her person in any way.
In the plot, we follow Echo from the time she’s just 3 or 4-year-old until she’s 18 years old, and we accompany her seeing from her point of view all the stages and all the experiences, both good and painful, that she has had to go through during this period of time. It’s heartbreaking, guys, I’ll not lie to you this is a very hard book to read because it has a very graphic content of extremely difficult experiences that Echo must live either herself, as much as her loved ones, we witness from drug use and domestic violence, up to several cases of abuse and rape, among other things. This is something I can’t help but mention because it could be hard content for sensitive readers, so be careful when reading it. Although it’s not an easy experience, it has been a great pleasure to experience it, there was a time when I had to stop because it broke my heart, but then I continued and I realized how inspiring this story is, and how the final message it’s really beautiful, it’s about getting ahead despite adversities, it talks about family and the importance of love, and above all, about forgiving others and forgiving yourself for the mistakes of your live.
I felt super connected with Echo on the family side, thank god I’ve never experienced violence in my family or drogue use, but my family is made up in the same way with my mother, my stepfather and my two little brothers, so that felt very similar, besides that my brothers are my life and seeing how Echo cares about them, how much she loves them and wants the best for them, touched my heart.
That a book of only 300 pages has the power to reach your soul as this has done, is 100% merit of the incredible author’s writing style, her style is super beautiful and poetic, but also has the power to leave you breathless with every word. It’s so beautifully told it’s insane, one of my favorite styles I’ve come across in a while. The book is also written in a very unique way that I hadn’t seen until today, where in a single chapter we can jump between scenes from the past and present, but with a perfect connection and transition where the words are linked and has a lot of meaning. I found this kind of difficult to read at first, but then when I was moving through it, it began to make more sense and I end up liking it a lot.
I want to give it a separate paragraph to talk about the magical realism, that’s the main protagonist of this story. Magic in general, even if it’s put there as a compliment, I love it in my books, and this time it had a very big impact on the story. Echo is a wizard, but she also gets to know other wizards throughout her life, who touches her and support her in different ways. At one point, I thought that all these magical and surrealistic touches were metaphors for dark moments that the author described, but then I realized that it had greater meaning and it was actually real within the lives of the characters. There are beautiful moments, where Echo along with another wizard friend use their power to inspire and help their brothers to go the right path, we also see moments where Echo begins to see this black veil surrounding people or flying over them, which then you interpret it as depression and it appears more and more as bad, traumatic and sad things happen to them in their life, which seemed very clever to me. There’s also a time when we travel to the in-between, which is this place where magical things happen and where some wizards go when something very bad happens to their bodies. It’s very complex to explain, but basically, it’s a wonderful factor, which is very well used in addition to giving a poetic and beautiful touch to the plot, it gives a lot of depth and meaning to each scene. INCREDIBLE.
The characters are all awesome, I don’t want to talk about each one of them this time, I’ll only mention them briefly because they’re a lot of characters and have SO particular and diverse personalities, it’s fantastic, but also each one has a unique life story that greatly impacts on the plot and I wouldn’t want to reveal too much, so here we go. First, we have my beloved Echo, who’s a wonderful main character, is a super-strong girl who reborn from her ashes and dreams of helping others who have struggled for the same things as her. This character is SO inspiring, I love her, and despite having gone through unthinkable and cruel things, there’s a sensitivity, innocence, and beautiful goodness in her that never disappears and in the end, it’s still there, within her. Her brothers are Jerone (Rone) & Tendre (Dre) and they’re very particular boys, I like how the author has given them different personalities and although they’re both “rebellious” boys in some way, it shows that deep down they want to be better and have a full life, the relationship they have with Echo is EVERYTHING, one of my favorite things. Her mother April, is a person who’s constantly fighting with herself, fighting for her children, but also with many problems from her drug issues, and traumatic events of her childhood that she’ll have to face at some point. I think her story is very impressive and shows great growth and courage. Then we have Echo’s friends and important people who have always been in her life like Jessie, a sweet and strong boy, Jin (Asian/queer) super epic, I love his personality, Davante, with a revolutionary spirit, Karen, Rodman, Alex, Tiffany & my personal favorite, Elena (Muslim/queer) who gives fresh air to the story with her amazing and brave personality. I can’t fail to mention Mrs. Delaney, Echo’s teacher, who reminded me a lot of Miss. Honey from Matilda, because she’s such a noble and really good soul, I love her, she’s that beacon of hope and unconditional support that Echo needed. There are many more characters, which have perhaps more negative impacts, so I don’t feel like mentioning them here.
I adored the friendships that are created, as well as hope and salvation that comes from unexpected angels, I adored the positive romantic aspects, I love that also focuses on families and their diversity, I LOVE that talks about puberty, about the future, about what you want to do with your life, about so many things that will surely impact you in some way. But above all, it’s a story of rebirth and fights against excesses. And of course, the topic of racism and white supremacy is discussed a lot, so it’s a very delicate, but super important topic that we should all know and informs ourselves every day. Seeing Echo go through discrimination and degradation just because of the color of her skin or where she comes from, is SO painful, but it also opened my eyes a lot, it’s necessary to have first-person knowledge to be able to start changing the world in which we live. It’s also very interesting how it discusses the issue of macho violence even within the black community, I liked it, and the empowerment of the rights of women and especially black women. I want to clarify that I could never put myself in the place of what the black community has to live because nobody knows or understands it, only those who have had to live it every day, that’s why I feel SO grateful with the author for putting all this on paper and giving us this story. It discusses hundreds of aspects to be such a short book, so I can say that it’s an exceptional job.
The ending is beautiful, I cried like a baby because I felt so happy for Echo, she deserves every good thing in this world. The fact that the ending felt like the beginning was simply all I needed.
Obviously, I highly recommend it, I think everyone should read it, it’s short, it will not take you long, but it will leave you a lot and I know you’ll learn a lot from it too. It’s an extremely powerful, touching, and heartbreaking book, but I repeat … INSPIRING, meaningful, and emotional. I would really love you to read it and tell me your own opinion. I don’t think I’m able to reflect the real meaning of the book because it’s much more than what I could express in words. Do you know when you’re wiser after reading a book? well that exactly. I LOVED IT! and I hope you do too.