"Parable of the Brown Girl: The Sacred Lives of Girls of Color" by Khristi Lauren Adams, 2020, Fortress Press, 148 pages, $18.99
Once upon a time...
Isn't that how a good story always starts? Once upon a time, and there's a prince and a princess, and usually a castle and always a happy ending. Except, sometimes, there's not. Some stories need a little help to end well, and in "Parable of the Brown Girl" by Khristi Lauren Adams, the Bible is the place to find it.
Years ago, shortly after graduation from college, Adams worked at a residential treatment facility for teen girls with emotional difficulties. It didn't take long for her to see that each of the girls were angry at the world and she knew that they probably had good reason for that: everyone had let them down. When one girl finally confided in her, Adams knew she'd found "the call God placed on" her life: "to build relationships and work as an advocate for black girls who often find themselves on the margins."
Today, she finds that the stories her clients tell her have parallels to parables in the Bible.
Nine-year-old Deborah, for instance, was a sunny child whose "happy place" was school, mostly because her home life was no longer supportive. Adams didn't quite know what to say when the child asked why God made her "a warrior when I'm really just weak," but the answer was in the Bible.
Teenage Leah was depressed, anxious, overwhelmed, all of which led to self-harm and an eating disorder. The victim of racism and bullying, Leah was heartened by a reminder that she was made in God's image. Beautiful Lyric had also been bullied and she thought she was too insignificant for God to bother — until she figured out, as she says, that "God heard my voice."
Black girls, as Adams points out, are accused of having "attitude." They catch the "strong black woman" bit at a time when they don't want to be strong or stoic. They're accused of being "fast" and flirtatious, flaunting the body and hating the hair God gave them.
What they all should know, says Adams, is that "God's grace and wisdom aren't far from any of them."
When you first page through "Parable of the Brown Girl," you may be a bit confused. Is it a book for teens, parents, teachers, or caregivers?
The answer is: all four.
Teenage girls will get plenty of wisdom and guidance within these pages, as author Khristi Lauren Adams offers Bible-based succor and food for thought. For adults, Adams explains the situations her subjects have endured and what they taught her, which is surprisingly heart-opening. Readers will see how the lives of today's girls is vastly different from that which their mothers lived, and Adams' calming voice tones down any drama that may come from misunderstanding. Her compassion toward black girls is also catching, and her shared faith could be a great comfort in what might be turmoil for both teen and family.
Read this book, share it with your (older) teen, discuss. "Parable of the Brown Girl" is one to have once upon this time.