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  • Writer's pictureEvangeline Lawson

Training School for Negro Girls by Camille Acker (A Review)

A collection of vignettes about Black women at various stages in their lives makes up "Training School for Negro Girls" by Camille Acker. I chose to listen to this book via #audible and the dialogue along with well-placed humor, made it fun to listen to. The stories were not necessarily interconnected in that each chapter was specific to that character and they did not appear in stories outside of their own. The experiences were relatable as common rites of passage tales of the Black woman's reality. But I must admit that some of them had a unique or unexpected twist which added layers to these individual stories. What may have initially seemed lightweight or superficial actually had deeper implications when given critical thought.

For example, in one chapter the story of a woman who worked as a teacher was explored. She taught children of color, but as a Black woman, in many ways struggled with her own ideals of prejudice and classism. The interesting thing about this narrative was I found myself questioning the motivation behind her behavior because while she seemed committed to teaching these children about the broader society, she allowed her biases to impact how she did that. The story further examined her personal relationships and how her upbringing and choices impacted her dynamics with others. This particular vignette was brief, but there was definitely a lot to unpack about systems of oppression—how even victims can become oppressors if not fully aware of how those trappings can manifest.

As a person who loves short stories, I appreciated this listen. While they were distinct enough to be able to take breaks and not feel lost between the chapters, they were not so disconnected that I felt like I was reading a new book each time. You walk away from "Training School for Negro Girls" realizing that even in the midst of all of our diversity, there is a lot of intersection in the lives of Black woman. And while our differences should definitely be celebrated, indentifying them can open the doors for improved understanding.

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