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Genesis begins again

1st ed.
Physical Description:
364 pages ; 22 cm.
Reading Level:
670 L Lexile
There are ninety-six things Genesis hates about herself. She knows the exact number because she keeps a list. Like #95: Because her skin is so dark, people call her charcoal and eggplant?even her own family. And #61: Because her family is always being put out of their house, belongings laid out on the sidewalk for the world to see. When your dad is a gambling addict and loses the rent money every month, eviction is a regular occurrence. What?s not so regular is that this time they all don?t have a place to crash, so Genesis and her mom have to stay with her grandma. It?s not that Genesis doesn?t like her grandma, but she and Mom always fight?Grandma haranguing Mom to leave Dad, that she should have gone back to school, that if she?d married a lighter skinned man none of this would be happening, and on and on and on. But things aren?t all bad. Genesis actually likes her new school; she?s made a couple friends, her choir teacher says she has real talent, and she even encourages Genesis to join the talent show. But how can Genesis believe anything her teacher says when her dad tells her the exact opposite? How can she stand up in front of all those people with her dark, dark skin knowing even her own family thinks lesser of her because of it? Why, why, why won?t the lemon or yogurt or fancy creams lighten her skin like they?re supposed to? And when Genesis reaches #100 on the list of things she hates about herself, will she continue on, or can she find the strength to begin again?


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A Newbery Honor Book
Winner of the Correta Scott King - John Steptoe for New Talent Author Award
A Morris Award Finalist
An NPR Favorite Book of 2019
A School Library Journal Best Middle Grade Book of 2019
A Kirkus Reviews Best Middle Grade Book of 2019

This deeply sensitive and powerful debut novel tells the story of a thirteen-year-old who must overcome internalized racism and a verbally abusive family to finally learn to love herself.

There are ninety-six things Genesis hates about herself. She knows the exact number because she keeps a list. Like #95: Because her skin is so dark, people call her charcoal and eggplant--even her own family. And #61: Because her family is always being put out of their house, belongings laid out on the sidewalk for the world to see. When your dad is a gambling addict and loses the rent money every month, eviction is a regular occurrence.

What's not so regular is that this time they all don't have a place to crash, so Genesis and her mom have to stay with her grandma. It's not that Genesis doesn't like her grandma, but she and Mom always fight--Grandma haranguing Mom to leave Dad, that she should have gone back to school, that if she'd married a lighter skinned man none of this would be happening, and on and on and on. But things aren't all bad. Genesis actually likes her new school; she's made a couple friends, her choir teacher says she has real talent, and she even encourages Genesis to join the talent show.

But how can Genesis believe anything her teacher says when her dad tells her the exact opposite? How can she stand up in front of all those people with her dark, dark skin knowing even her own family thinks lesser of her because of it? Why, why, why won't the lemon or yogurt or fancy creams lighten her skin like they're supposed to? And when Genesis reaches #100 on the list of things she hates about herself, will she continue on, or can she find the strength to begin again?

Reviews 6

Publisher's Weekly Review

Genesis Anderson is a fragile middle schooler whose turbulent home life and drive for acceptance fuel this emotionally rich debut. Forced to start over time and again because of a series of evictions, Genesis has a dearth of self-confidence (and a list of 96 reasons that she hates herself) and trouble making new friends. That slowly begins to change when her African-American family moves to an upscale white suburb, and Genesis has to find her footing in an entirely new environment. While some students uphold the same racist ideas she's familiar with, others treat her with a depth of compassion that has her questioning the colorism that's seeped into her own psyche. It's agonizing to follow Genesis through attempts to bleach her skin to fit in, but the lows only make her triumphs feel sweeter as she slowly begins to find strengths she never suspected she possessed, friends who love and accept her, and a mentor who encourages her to let herself shine. With its relatable and sympathetic protagonist, complex setting, and exceptional emotional range, this title is easy to recommend. Ages 9-13. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

Regina and the popular girls are coming over after school to hang out, eat snacks, and watch music videos. Its a dream day for thirteen-year-old Genesis. That is, until she gets to her house and sees all of her familys belongings put out on the street. Genesis is devastated, and the situation is made even worse when Regina and her crew make fun of her (as usual). Beginnings are nothing new to Genesisshes started over after being evicted three times before, all because her dad doesnt pay the rent. Genesis hates moving almost as much as she hates the way she is teased about her dark skin (kids call her Char, short for charcoal) and kinky hair. Now, she has to worry about a new home and school (again), as well as the unraveling of her family from past secrets that threaten to undo her as well. In her debut novel, Williams tells the story of a girl who feels invisible, unloved, and un-pretty and her journey to learning that beauty really is only skin deep. In addition to the challenges of colorism, Williams addresses the consequences of addiction and the instability that goes along with it. monique harris January/February 2019 p 108(c) Copyright 2018. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

Her dad is an alcoholic with a gambling problem who never pays the rent, so her family keeps getting evicted from their homes. But that's not the only reason Genesis hates herself. Mostly it's because she is dark-skinned, and she wishes she were lighter. Genesis tries multiple ways to lighten her skin and help her family, both with disappointing results. Only after she learns to appreciate herself for who she is does everything else starts to fall into place. The year in the life style of this story gives readers an opportunity to look into someone's day-to-day, observing experiences that might be quite different from or similar to their own. This lengthy debut includes many common tropes the inspirational teacher, the group of best friends, the mean girls but its final message is powerful and challenges Genesis to define her life on her own terms, not society's. Genesis comes out stronger in the end, and the reader who sticks with her story will hopefully feel the same.--Florence Simmons Copyright 2018 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

these days, parents like to think of themselves as responsible for every aspect of their children's happiness and well-being. But often overlooked in this 21st-century conception of parent/child dynamics is the powerful sense of responsibility children feel for adults. A desire to protect their elders is particularly strong during the tween years, when the darkness and complexity of the world come into focus, but the magical thinking of childhood still offers the comfort of solutions. These four middlegrade novels capture something moving and seemingly eternal: When trouble strikes the grown-ups around them, children instinctively put themselves on the emotional front lines. A prime example is Riley James, the 11year-old narrator of Greg Howard's the WHISPERS (Putnam, 226 pp., $16.99; ages 10 and up). After his mother goes missing, Riley sets out to find the magical voices from a local legend that he believes can help him bring her back. A self-proclaimed "mama's boy... without his mama," Riley struggles with bed-wetting plus another "condition" - being attracted to boys - that some in his small, Christian town consider cause for shame. Riley heads into the woods to find the Whispers, accompanied by a "Stand by Me"-like band of misfits including the overweight Gary, his only friend; Gary's tag-along little brother, Carl; and the "Redneck Superhero" Dylan Mathews, an older boy whose sympathy (or perhaps empathy) for Riley's situation makes him a winsome champion. "The Whispers" does not turn out to be the fable it at first seems, but Howard pulls off the trick of making Riley's real quest even more heart-wrenching than the fantasy that drives it. This taut, moving tale delves beyond loss into issues of sexuality, conformity and self-acceptance. Riley's relationship with his missing mother, whom we see in flashbacks teaching him new vocabulary words, is particularly well drawn. "Use it in a sentence, Button," she tells him, encouraging Riley to redefine his world through language - a lesson he takes to heart after she goes missing. "The Whispers" is a masterful exploration into the power of storytelling but also its dangers, including self-denial and escapism. escapism is the guiding philosophy of Rodeo and his 12-year-old daughter, Coyote, the titular heroine of Dan Gemeinhart's THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF COYOTE SUNRISE (Holt, 352 pp" $16.99; ages 9 to 12). Since the death of Coyote's mother and sisters five years earlier, the pair have traveled around the country in an old school bus, calling each other by hippie road names and following their hankerings for taco trucks or sandwiches. But for all his whimsy and free-spiritedness, Rodeo has a few "no-go's," as he calls them, including ever returning to their hometown, Poplin Springs, Wash. Coyote is protective of her father and accepts their life of wandering, hiding her loneliness and grief behind bravado. But when she learns that developers are tearing up the local park where her mother and sisters buried a memory box, she enlists an eclectic group of fellow travelers to trick Rodeo into driving her there. Coyote's bold, engaging voice pops off the page and propels this road-trip novel through a series of charming, if unlikely, adventures. Some of the secondary characters serve the plot a little too neatly, but there are exceptions, like the boy escaping domestic violence who becomes Coyote's protector and friend. Gemeinhart infuses the story with moments of lyrical writing and folksy wisdom served up with a dollop of girl power. Coyote's determination to face reality rather than run from it ultimately allows her to heal not just herself but her father. the protagonist of Brenda Woods's the UNSUNG HERO OF BIRDSONG, U.S.A. (Nancy Paulsen, 194 pp., $16.99; ages 10 and up) also protects a cherished adult by confronting reality, in this case the reality of racism in his segregated postwar Southern town. After Meriwether Hunter, an unemployed African-American mechanic and World War II veteran, saves Gabriel Haberlin's life, the 12-year-old tries to return the favor by getting him a job at his father's garage. But as his friendship with Meriwether deepens, Gabriel starts to see the casual racism of friends and family in a new light, and after Meriwether confronts a bigoted fellow employee at the garage, Gabriel must save his savior from a potentially violent end. Woods casts a much needed spotlight on the history of African-American troops in World War II, including the all-black 761st Tank Battalion, which took part in the Battle of the Bulge. Meriwether embodies the dignity and frustration of these men who fought for their country overseas only to return home to prejudice and oppression, especially in the Jim Crow-era South. An underdeveloped villain and a hard-toswallow turn of events in the crucial scene threaten to weaken this important story. But Woods regains control with a realistic ending that incorporates the Great Migration and shows the limits of Gabriel's power to protect his friend. genesis Anderson, the heroine of Alicia D. Williams's stunning debut novel, geneSIS BEGINS AGAIN (Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum, 382 pp., $17.99; ages 9 to 13), is another character who grapples with the legacy of race in America and the challenge of righting adult wrongs. Thirteen-year-old Genesis is tired of her family being constantly evicted, so when her alcoholic father moves them out of Detroit to a middleclass home in the suburbs and promises to start attending Alcoholics Anonymous, she's cautiously hopeful life will change. But Genesis and her family are still haunted by the past - including her darkskinned father's self-loathing and grief over a childhood tragedy and the prejudice of her light-skinned mother's family, who use "the paper bag test" to judge acceptable skin color (a test Genesis herself doesn't pass). When her father starts drinking again, eviction notices appear, and her parents' marriage falters, Genesis tries to fix her family by changing herself; by lightening her skin and straightening her hair, she hopes to make her family, and especially her father, proud of her - and by extension, themselves. In "Genesis Begins Again," Williams explores racism within the black community, creating a fully realized family with a history of complex relationships to one another, and to their own skin colors. The suburban school where Genesis finds herself navigating a diverse cast of friends and foes is no less vivid; a music teacher who introduces Genesis to blues greats like Billie Holiday and inspires her to sing in the school talent show is particularly memorable. But the standout voice in this tender and empowering novel - reminiscent of Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye," but appropriate for a much younger audience - belongs to Genesis herself, as she discovers a truth that we adults would do well to remember: Growing up isn't just about taking responsibility for the happiness and well-being of others. It's also about learning what you can and should fix, and what you cannot. As Genesis discovers, there is no true reinvention without self-acceptance. Katherine marsh's most recent middle-grade novel is "Nowhere Boy," a 2018 Times Children's Notable Book.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-8-Genesis comes home from school to find her family's belongings on the lawn; they've been evicted again. Her father promises that this next time will be different, renting a house in the suburbs and promising that he will get a promotion at work so they can afford it. At school, Genesis makes friends for the first time and is mentored by Mrs. Hill, the choir teacher, but Genesis's father still drinks too much and her parents' marriage is unraveling. Genesis tries lightening her skin, begs to be able to use relaxer in her hair, and keeps a list of things she hates about herself, believing that if she only looked like her light-skinned mother and not her dark-skinned father, the situation at home would improve. This message is hammered home by her father's cruel comments and her grandmother's story of the "brown paper bag" test. Genesis escapes by singing; she is inspired by greats like Billie Holiday and Etta James. When she has the opportunity to sing in the school talent show, Genesis must find the power in using her voice to speak her truth. Genesis' struggles are age appropriate but do not shy away from the hard truth about colorism within the Afro American community. Through each character, readers come to understand the significance of how one's story plays out in reactions and interactions with the people around them. The hopeful but not happy ending adds to the realism and emotional impact of this powerful story. VERDICT This is a sensitive and nuanced portrayal of a girl grappling with hard truths about her family and her own feelings of self-worth. A must for all collections.-Kefira Phillipe, Nichols Middle School, Evanston, IL © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

Thirteen-year-old Genesis Anderson is a black girl who has been dealt a heavy hand in life.She's had to move several times because her family keeps getting evicted thanks to her alcoholic, gambling father, who defaults on the rent. Genesis hates her circumstances, and even more, she hates the skin she's in. Dark-skinned like her fatherwho takes no pride in their resemblance, especially when he's drunk and meanGenesis wants nothing more than to look like her light-skinned mother. With kids calling her names (Charcoal, Eggplant, Blackie) and a chiding grandmother who spouts backward colorist ideologies, it's no wonder. Genesis desperately wants to be accepted, even causing herself physical pain to change the look of her skin and hair in order to attain it. But Genesis has a talent that demands that she stand out. With the help of her chorus teacher, Genesis discovers a way to navigate the pain she carries. With smooth and engrossing prose, debut novelist Williams takes readers through an emotional, painful, yet still hopeful adolescent journey. Along the way she references accomplished black activists, athletes, artists, and, notably, musicians such as Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Etta James, all in a way that feels natural and appropriate. This book may bring readers to tears as they root for Genesis to finally have the acceptance she cravesbut from herself rather than anyone else. It's a story that may be all too familiar for too many and one that needed telling. (Fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.



Genesis Begins Again one Nobody could tell me that today wasn't gon' be my day. Even though I couldn't determine the correct term of equality in math, shanked the nearly airless volleyball in PE, and truly didn't care to discuss the effects of the Civil War in social studies, I was unshook, 'cause today my girls finally agreed to hang out with me--at my house! And with Regina to my right cracking jokes, Fatima and Tasha and Angela to my left laughing insanely loud, shoot, every eye is on us. Boys jockin' us--well, actually jockin' them. Regardless, they're grinning like we're all a bag of M&M's. I'm so amped that I actually yell this to the guys. And don't you know--Regina uses my line as a jump off, cracking, "And y'all ain't 'bout to taste none of us either!" We all slap hands and keep it moving. Regina's going on about her plans for us to watch music videos, 'cause Tasha's crushing on some new hot singer. And in my mind, we're all sitting on the couch debating which rapper is the finest. Then, we'll drink Sprite and eat the chips that Mama went out to buy especially for us. But as soon as we round the corner of my block, my heart skips like a scratched CD. Not again. Please, not again. But yes, again. All our furniture sits in the front yard--but this time it's laid out exactly like it had been inside the house, as if the movers are playing a cruel joke. Our glass living room table sits in front of the couch with a cocktail table on each side. The kitchen chairs are properly placed with the dining table. Even our beds are still made with the blankets and pillows. "This your house?" Regina says, flicking her long braids. "Uh, no." Dad. Didn't he know today was epic for me? "I live over there," I say, pointing to a house where the metal bars on the security door swirl in an elegant design. "She lying," Fatima butts in. "I saw her go in this one the other day." "This one" is a small brick house with peeling green trim, chipped up cement steps, and straight metal bars on the door and windows like a prison. Now I understand what Grandma means when she says, "There's always one." Regina snorts, "Hey, y'all, Genesis gotta pee outside!" Then she throws back her head and bursts out laughing. The other three start laughing too. A bunch of copycats. I open my mouth, but nothing comes out. They're whispering and pointing, and my family's STUFF IS SITTING IN THE YARD! "You know what?" I finally come up with. "I forgot, my mama said we were getting new furniture." Angela raises an eyebrow. High. "Not with that big ol' metal thing covering the doorknob, you ain't." They all swivel their heads at the same time and mutter, "Danggggg." "Nobody's getting through that door besides the landlord," Angela jabs. Regina turns to me, smirking. "Just admit your folks are bums." I search their faces, hoping at least one of them will stick up for me. But no one, not even Tasha--whose mama's car was repossessed in the middle of the night just the other week!--says a peep. Yes, I know a repossessed car ain't as serious as finding your stuff spread out in the yard for everybody to see, but still. "No, uhm . . ." I'm out of lies. Dad. Dad. Dad. "It's just that--" "It's just that it is what it is, ain't that right, y'all?" They all "yep" as Regina now roams around the couch and tables, stalking. "Furniture so busted even the Goodwill don't want it." The copycats "hee-hee-hee" again. This time I force myself to laugh right along with them. "I know, right!" I agree, trailing her. "I knew you were poor, but dang . . ." Regina struts past our kitchen set, pokes at a wobbly chair. "This is pitiful, Char." I try hard to not visibly wince. Char. Short for Charcoal. Since I started at this school, I've laughed at their jokes and sucked it all up to make friends. And I'd made progress; just this last week they stopped calling me Eggplant. And then they'd agreed to come over. . . . Regina beelines toward a cluster of furniture that had clearly been in my bedroom. "Y'all wanna see some of Char's hand-me-downs?" "Don't!" I slip in front of my dresser, stretching my arms across it protectively. Regina shoves at me, but I'm not budging. "Move it, CharCOAL!" And now I'm mad. And when I get mad, my mouth shoots off before it can connect to my brain. And now my mouth's dishing out a response faster than I can stop it, because how could she? How dare she?! "You know what?" I shoot back. "Forget you! You're not all that with yo' ratchet Black Barbie wannabe self." Silence. Dead silence. Now I've done it. Good-bye, Regina. Good-bye, Tasha, Fatima, and Angela. Good-bye, any chance at--stop it! I tell myself. Maybe she won't take too much offense to my clap-back. No chance. Regina stands rigid, her hands ball into fists. Her posse rallies closer. "What did you say?" she says, her voice low, dangerous. All four of them edge toward me. Slow. Steady. "Say it again." No way am I saying it again. Regina narrows her eyes. One fist starts coming up. And then, oh merciful Lord, a screen door slams. My neighbor. My neighbor who's never said two words to me since we moved in now stands, wide-legged, on her porch. She sizes up the furniture, me, Regina, and the girls. Regina glowers back, maybe waiting for her to leave so they can pummel the living daylights out of me. My neighbor doesn't leave. She stares us down. Finally, Regina raises her chin. "Don't let me catch you around, Eggplant. Come on, y'all," and in unison the other three turn and march out of my yard. Down the sidewalk. Bang! The screen door closes as my neighbor goes back into her house. And now I'm left with, well, with this! I fall on my bed--which is OUTSIDE--and pray I don't ever have to see Regina and 'em again. Then I curse Dad for not paying the rent. Again. I curse him for making me wait out here while passing spectators stare stupidly, like maybe I don't realize furniture is supposed to be inside a house. Then I curse myself. For believing someone like Regina would even be friends with me. But I'm not gon' cry. I'm not. Especially 'cause even though our neighbor might be back inside, she's watching from her window. It's getting chilly now, so I reach over and dig in my drawer for a sweatshirt. But my hand first finds a sheet of paper--The List. I pull it out. The List. Even though the paper's wrinkled and worn, I review and add to it all the time. Back in fifth grade, Chyna and Porsche slid a note onto my desk. Gullible me thought it was an invitation. And then I read the title: 100 REASONS WHY WE HATE GENESIS. Stupid girls. Couldn't even count. They only listed sixty reasons; and they were stretching it, too, because some were really dumb, like #1: She smiles too much, or #39: She thinks she got pretty writing, and even #46: She bumped into me and acted like she didn't know it. Shoot, they should've just asked me for the rest. Because I've already added twenty-four others, like #73: Because she's always getting put out of her house. Or, what I'll add now, #85: Because her friends dump her when they see her stuff on the curb like a Salvation Army pickup. After reading over the entire list, my fingers refuse to fold the paper back up. Thoughts of how badly I wanted to strut down the halls with Regina and her girls keep needling me. Of course I'd never actually be one of them, but just being with them was good enough, you know? When I'm with them, someone else is on the sidelines admiring me, no clue I'm fronting like my life's all that. But now I picture Regina's face from fifteen minutes ago and how I laughed at myself to prove I could take a joke, because yes, I really could. Except none of that was a joke. So, I guess I proved I'm great at frontin'. Now, my fingers tremble as I add #86: Because she let them call her Charcoal, Eggplant, and Blackie. I bury the note back in my dresser and pull out that sweatshirt. Then I patrol around the yard like a security guard. On my third round, a cab pulls up. Mama jumps out wearing pink scrubs, and the cab speeds off. "You all right?" she calls, immediately wading through the "rooms," inspecting each item. "I'm cold, and I gotta go," I say, nodding at that big device covering the doorknob. "Anybody bother our stuff?" Mama rummages through her dresser drawer. "Not since I've been here. Why we get put out again?" "Not now, Genesis." Mama removes some papers from the drawer and shoves them into her purse, picks up her jewelry box and tucks it under her arm. "Well, this is a first." Mama's surveying the yard, turning in a complete circle. "I don't think we've ever been put out so neatly before." After what seems like forever, but actually is only five minutes later, a silver Cadillac parks in front of the house. Mama checks her watch and says, "Right on time, thank God." An old man climbs out. "Mrs. Anderson . . ." "Mr. Myers, thank you so much for meeting me." Mama blinks her big brown eyes. "Ordinarily, I wouldn't because it's your husband's name that's on the lease, and--" His eyes meet Mama's and just like that, his clenched jaw softens. "I hate to do this, Mrs. Anderson, I really do, but you all haven't paid in months." "I know, cutbacks at the plant. My husband lost half his hours, half his paycheck." Mama gives that same reason every time, but never confesses where the other half of Dad's paycheck goes. "We're awfully sorry." We follow him to the porch and up the cracked steps. Mr. Myers gives Mama a gentle smile as he unbolts the metal lockout device. "I'll do this favor . . . only for you." "I'm truly grateful," says Mama, stepping inside. "I really am." I race to the bathroom and my bladder's grateful that the movers left behind the tissue. When I come out, Mama's searching the kitchen cabinets. She turns to me, instructing, "Genesis, do a final sweep of your room, just to make sure the movers got everything. Okay?" In my room, a mirror hangs on the other side of the closet door. No matter how many times I shut it, that door cracks back open. Now, as I check inside to make sure nothing's been left behind, the mirror faces me. It hates me too. We stand in a stare-off like Celie did in The Color Purple, this old movie that Mama watches every dang time it comes on TV. In the movie, gorgeous Shug Avery makes Celie face herself in the mirror to convince her she's beautiful, even though Shug called Celie ugly in the first place. "You sho' is ugly." That's exactly how Shug said it too. And here I am, facing myself like Celie. "Well?" I say. "Get on with it." Look at you, with that wide nose, my reflection says. I pinch my nostrils down. And those big lips. I smash my lips tight. And that nappy head. I finger the tangles loose. Don't get me started on how black you are. I want to say something, but what? That I think I'm cute? 'Cause I'm not. That I have good hair? 'Cause I don't. That I'm not dark? 'Cause I am. Who you think's gonna love you with the way you look? Cackling echoes through the mirror so loud it could shatter. "I can't stand you," I say to my reflection. I slam the door, trapping the voices inside. When we're done, Mr. Myers ushers us back outside, then covers the door handle with the lockout device. Mama holds a box full of spices and canned foods that she found in the kitchen. My search came up empty. She apologizes again for the inconvenience, and for not paying the rent. Mr. Myers kindly shakes his head. He feels bad for us, I can tell. He doesn't have steely eyes like the last three landlords. They looked at us like we were dirt, even though they're probably only mad about being cheated out of their money. Which is fair, I guess. But Mr. Myers's eyes are sad, even as he drives away from the curb. I wave good-bye, but he doesn't see it. Mama finds the trash bags and hands me one. "Get your clothes out of the drawers and put 'em in these." She does the same. When we're done, we both sink onto the couch and wait for Dad. I shiver and Mama takes the couch's throw blanket and wraps it around my shoulders. She checks her watch again. "What time is it?" I ask. "Almost five." Mama rubs the chill from her legs. Her scrubs are no match for the cold. I take the throw from my shoulders and cover us both. She digs her cell phone from her purse and checks it. More cars drive past, folks looking at us like we're crazy. "Mama . . . ," I say hesitantly. She looks at me, confused, so I add, "Did you forget? Today my friends were coming over." Mama slaps her forehead. "Oh, Genesis, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry." She asks what happened, and I tell her everything besides the confrontation part. She apologizes again and promises to make it up to me when things get back to normal. Things are never "normal," but I make a mental note to remind her, if they ever are. For another half hour we sit on the couch, cuddled up. Mama calls Dad twice, and each time he says he's on his way. She's about to hit his number for a third time when he drives up, followed by a U-Haul truck. Before Dad can step a foot on the curb, Mama's already up, fussing. "What took you so long? You know how cold it is? Guess you want us to catch the death of pneumonia, huh?" "Calm down! I told you I had to pick up Dwight and Mike." Dwight and Mike stand next to the U-Haul and nod when Dad says their names. "Then we had to go back 'cross town to get the truck." "From the looks of your red eyes, you been doing more than that," Mama says, all sly. Then she points a finger at him saying, "You told me the rent was taken care of, then you have me leave my job to cover your mess--YOURS." Dad opens and closes his mouth. I wait a few seconds for his reaction, and when he doesn't go off, then I get up too. "Hey, you did say this wasn't gon' happen again," I echo, wrapping the throw around me, and standing next to Mama. Just to think, Dad was off somewhere drinking while Regina and her crew were tryna' drag me. So I add, "And we were called bums, and I almost got into a fight." Mama turns to me. "A fight?" "Almost," I cover. Now I'm mad all over again. "How would you like to be called a bum?" For a second time, Dad seems at a loss for words. But he recovers and finally says, "But you okay, right?" I nod, but Mama . . . if her eyes were lasers, she'd surely roast Dad with the look she's giving him. "What?" he says, acting clueless. "She said she was okay." "Your child is out here about to fight over this mess? Is this what you want for Genesis?" "I hope not," I mumble under my breath. "Come on, Gen. Let's get you warm." Mama holds out a hand. "Give me the keys, so I can start the car." "So, you mad? You lookin' at me like this is all my fault!" Dad's left eye squints, like a tick. Here it comes. This is when the alcohol usually starts talking. Mama doesn't respond, and I take two steps back. But Dad, he just reaches into his pocket, pulls out the keychain, and drops it into Mama's hand. Then he jogs over to Dwight and Mike, gestures to the yard, and they get to work loading the truck. Whaaa? Whew, Dad's response was . . . chill. Then I think, Dang, the night ain't over. We say good-bye to Euclid Avenue, and hello to--where are we going now? I buckle my seat belt, my hands a little shaky. Here's the thing. The first time we got put out we stayed at a motel, and all night long we heard arguing, cussing, and police sirens. No biggie. The second time, well, we went to Grandma's, but Mama said she never ever wants to do that again. And the third time we got evicted--five months ago--we stayed in Dad's friend's basement. That's when Dad . . . drunk Dad . . . went off on me. I mean like, really, really went off. His words still ring in my head. You were supposed to come out lookin' like her . . . look at you with yo' black-- I plug my fingertips into my ears to block out his voice. But his slurry words are still there. At first I was more scared than hurt. Like, you know how you can't see dust drifting in the air, but you see the filthiness after it's settled? That's something like how Dad's words were for me. And you know what? I started studying myself in the mirror and, yeah, he's right. The radio is on, and it's now safe to remove my fingers. My coal-black fingers. I remembered overhearing Mama once telling her friend that milk baths were good for the skin, and she'd shown off her arms proudly. That's why Mama's skin is so light, I'd thought. I know, I know, of course that's not why. But it didn't stop me from sneaking a gallon of milk from the fridge and pouring it in the tub. I rolled back and forth, trying to get that little bit of milk all over my body. But after the second time, Mama griped: "Who's drinking up all the milk? Ain't nobody that thirsty!" That ended that--and I was no closer to looking like Mama. Part of me believes that Dad might not have said those things if it wasn't for us being stuck staying in a basement. So I know I'm being selfish, but I'd be happier if we stayed at Grandma's--even if her snaps are sharper than an alligator's. "Ma?" I hesitate. "Uhm . . . where we staying?" I grip the seat cushion, bracing for an answer. Please not in that basement. Please not in that basement. Dad glances at me through the rearview mirror. "Your grandmother's." "Really?" I breathe out, "Yesssss." "Shouldn't we talk about this first?" says Mama, the hard look back on her face. "You know how I feel about going there--" "I know," Dad interrupts, "but--" "And where exactly will you be?" Mama interrupts back. "At Dwight's. Somebody has to keep an eye on our stuff." Dad anxiously drums his thumbs on the steering wheel as he explains that our furniture will stay in the U-Haul until he finds us a new place. Why would he want to stay with Dwight? Besides the fact that Grandma has made it clear that a man who can't provide a roof for her daughter can't sleep under hers. But still, Dwight only keeps mayonnaise and ketchup in his refrigerator and has three German shepherds that bark all night long. Dad would be better off at a motel. After a few seconds, he mutters, "And I'm gon' need to borrow some money, too." "Really, Emory?" Mama shifts away from him, glaring out the window. Yep, that's why he's staying with those three barking dogs. Excerpted from Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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