From early childhood through high school in upper class Palos Verdes California, Baszile was the only (or rare) African-American girl other than her sister on her street or in her school. This coming-of-age memoir focuses on issues particular to her situation, but that also apply to any young woman growing up in America. The anxieties about how she looks, dating, and her rocky family relationships are pretty universal.
Baszile was a thoughtful child and has an impressive memory of what was going through her head during a conflict with her father that started when she was about seven, a conflict that changed over the years, but I think was always rooted in the older Baszile's guilt over leaving Louisiana and black community behind. (btw, Young Jennifer blamed herself, not her father, for the difficulties.) Both of Baszile's parents grew up poor—in Jefferson Davis Parish Louisiana and Detroit. They strove to provide something different for their children, and yet hated them when they didn't know how to be around other black people.
I of course didn't have that same scenario with my parents, and yet I could relate to the dynamic between Jennifer, who I am close to age wise, and her father, whose economic history might not have been so different than my father's. Her self-doubt over dating also rang particularly true for me.
I don't mean to discount the importance of this memoir's focus on race; I just want people to know that while it's an excellent African-American coming of age memoir, it's appeal is much broader than that. i.e. I don't like it just because it's black!
That said, I do appreciate the insights into the otherness, isolation, and racism both overt and covert that the author faced growing up. The book would be a great starting off point for discussions of race for white people and people of color alike. Plus, she's really funny.
Okay, so a black girl walks into Kentucky Fried Chicken looking for a summer job ... Mingled with the smog, I caught the familiar scent of eleven herbs and spices. Denise Huxtable would never do this.p.238
Only people who understood the world my parents had come from, and the world we now inhabited, could look at a black chicken-and-biscuit-slinging debutante without irony. p.243
Maybe he finally understood that integration had been as hard on me as segregation had been on him. p.307