Review of Black Girl You Are Atlas

Black Girl You Are Atlas Black Girl You Are Atlas
by Renée Watson; illus. by Ekua Holmes
Middle School, High School    Kokila/Penguin    96 pp.
2/24    9780593461709    $18.99
e-book ed.  9780593461716    $10.99

This poetry collection masterfully encapsulates Watson’s experience of Black girlhood and womanhood. Through an array of poetic styles, she weaves together her personal reflections, celebrating the multifaceted nature of her own upbringing. The poems serve as a testament to the diversity of cultural influences she encountered during her childhood. She describes her identity as coming from “east coast hip-hop and island tradition…Baptist hymns and secular jigs,” embodying the intersectionality of her experiences. While she celebrates her uniqueness (e.g., Renée is the only one in her family whose name origin is not connected to another family member), she honors and respects that she is part of a broader sisterhood of Black women. From biological sisters to “aunties by blood & by choice” and other “knowing women,” the author pays homage to Black women’s collective strength and wisdom. The title poem, appearing after definitions for atlas, especially adds depth, with Watson drawing parallels between Black girls and the Greek mythological figure condemned to hold up the heavens. The collaboration with Holmes, whose magnificent collages accompany Watson’s words, adds a visual dimension that also spans cultures and experiences. The result is a celebration of the complexities of, and the bonds formed through, Black girlhood and womanhood.

Pubissue-From the March/April 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Eboni Njoku
Eboni Njoku is a children’s librarian at the Anacostia Neighborhood Library Branch of the DC Public Library.

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