If someone stopped me on the street and asked me to use a few words to express what it means to be a Black woman in the United States, I would say pure exhaustion, frustration, and rare moments of exhilaration. Why these particular terms? Because no matter how astute, accomplished, attentive or agreeable you are, none of these things are noticed first! The first thing that is always noted is your Blackness. So, exhaustion as you grind for every inch of advancement, frustration as you invisibly move in the world burdened by the weight of unseen tethers–and stagnate on the corporate ladder– knowing you have no control. Lastly, the rare moments of elation arrive when your entire person is finally chosen to be recognized as Human. These were my reflections while reading the book Black Girls Must Die Exhausted by Jayne Allen.
The novel centers on a black female protagonist, Tabitha, who is in her mid 30’s, living in L. A., and is set to have it all – the perfect job, the dream house, and a family of her own. However, the book starts with Tabby’s doctor informing her of an unexpected medical condition that halts her in her tracks and may pause her future goals. This realization is in the backdrop of navigating life and a cutthroat career as a Black woman. The story touches on the biological clock, the corporate ladder, dating, divorce, fertility, marriage, mental health, police brutality, and women’s friendship.
I had mixed feelings about this novel because I loved the book’s concept, but not the execution. It was exceptionally wordy, which caused the book to be listless. The truth is that the modern-day, single professional black woman does tackle a significant amount of baggage; however, the author tried to undertake too many topics, causing most issues to remain only surface level. The author might have engaged the reader better if she had focused on fewer themes and delved deeper into each.
In addition, the main character, Tabitha, was too tepid. She received suggestions from everyone around her and never took control of her life until the tail end of the book. I wanted her to find her voice earlier and make smarter decisions.
In conclusion, while the book did not reach its full potential, it’s still quite relatable because of all the topics broached by the author and her attempt to enlighten the reader about the difficulty of being a black woman in modernity.