Cover image for Black girl unlimited : the remarkable story of a teenage wizard
Black girl unlimited : the remarkable story of a teenage wizard
Physical Description:
294 pages ; 22 cm

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"Brown has written a guidebook of survival and wonder." -- The New York Times

"Just brilliant."-- Kirkus Reviews

Heavily autobiographical and infused with magical realism, Black Girl Unlimited fearlessly explores the intersections of poverty, sexual violence, depression, racism, and sexism--all through the arc of a transcendent coming-of-age story for fans of Renee Watson's Piecing Me Together and Ibi Zoboi's American Street .

Echo Brown is a wizard from the East Side, where apartments are small and parents suffer addictions to the white rocks. Yet there is magic . . . everywhere. New portals begin to open when Echo transfers to the rich school on the West Side, and an insightful teacher becomes a pivotal mentor.

Each day, Echo travels between two worlds, leaving her brothers, her friends, and a piece of herself behind on the East Side. There are dangers to leaving behind the place that made you. Echo soon realizes there is pain flowing through everyone around her, and a black veil of depression threatens to undo everything she's worked for.

Christy Ottaviano Books

Author Notes

Echo Brown is an African-American writer, performer, and playwright from rural Ohio. A Dartmouth alumna and the first female college graduate in her family, she is currently based in Northern California. Echo is best known for her one-woman show Black Virgins Are Not For Hipsters. Black Girl Unlimited marks her debut.

Reviews 4

School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up--Echo Brown is a dark-skinned African American girl who comes from an impoverished and dysfunctional family on the East Side of Cleveland. Her mother, April (Aprah), is addicted to crack, stemming from childhood sexual abuse and an accidental tragedy. Her stepfather, Ed, is addicted to alcohol. Her brothers, Rone and Dre, are addicted to the streets. To cope with intergenerational pain and trauma, Echo believes she and her mother are wizards. With the help of other female wizards, she transfers from one portal to another in a rich, white school on the West Side to finally heal and break generational curses. Debut author Brown crafts this empowering autobiographical novel fused with magical realism and allegory. She provides lessons of wizard training in every chapter. Readers, especially sci-fi/fantasy fans, will be mesmerized by the intersections in her parallel universes. Brown brilliantly charts her journey from a victim of her circumstances to a freshman at Dartmouth College. She succeeds against the odds of racism, colorism, poverty, sexual abuse, addiction, depression, sexism, and misogyny as an African American girl. Readers will appreciate the power of literature as a healing tool with the nods to Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, Malcolm X, and Alice Walker. VERDICT This revelatory YA book deserves space on bookstore and library shelves for its healing power for all readers to break the chains of intergenerational pain and trauma.--Donald Peebles, Brooklyn Public Library

Publisher's Weekly Review

Debut author Brown's quasi-memoir blends magical realism with a coming-of-age story in this mold-breaking novel. Echo is a black teen growing up on Cleveland's East Side, where adults worship the "white rock." She is also learning how to control her newfound powers as a "quantum wizard"; shortly after her crush, Jessie, is in a tragic accident, Echo begins to see a veil that covers people. Soon, she learns that she's not the only wizard: Elena, a gay Muslim girl who attends her mostly white middle school, discovers her own abilities, and the two become friends. In chapters organized as lessons in wizardry, Echo relays the triumphs and tragedies of her childhood, smoothly skipping across time to relate disparate moments atop one another. Using wizardry as a way to explore making something out of nothing and developing the skills it takes to survive traumatic events, Brown's novel gives readers a potent glimpse into heartbreaking, unjust experiences and profound resilience in the face of wrongs perpetrated both systemically and interpersonally. The novel never shies from tough subject matter (drug addiction, sexual assault), at the same time deftly integrating magically realistic components and allegory into contemporary scenes. Ages 14--up. (Jan.)

Kirkus Review

A graphic look at the magical black girls who are often forgotten or fetishized.Echo is a dark-skinned black girl who learns very early that life is not fair and that she must dig deep within herself to rise above life's worst circumstances. Echo is also a wizard, just like her mother, a crack addict who is often checked out of her children's lives. Echo's brothers stray to the streets while Echo navigates the hardships of the East Side of Cleveland, Ohio, while attending school on the privileged West Side. On her journey, beginning from the age of 6, Echo relays the lessons she learns while traveling between different human and magical worlds. With the help of other wizards, all of whom are women, she learns the importance of cultivating the darkness that surrounds her while holding on to the light within. Debut author Brown delves into heavy and uncomfortable topics including drug abuse, sexual violence, depression, poverty, intergenerational trauma, and the work required to end cycles that seem cell deep. The text transitions between different times in Echo's life, but the prose is smooth, as each break seamlessly transports readers to the next moment as if it's a continuation of the same thought. Through Echo's lessons, readers learn what it's like to persist despite hopelessness, survive in a world propelled by oppressive and exploitative systems, and cope with feelings of connection and disconnection.A much-needed story. Just brilliant. (Magical realism. 15-adult) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Blending autobiography and magic realism, Brown steps into her own debut novel as a teen and the only girl in her immediate family, which is characterized by parents struggling with addiction and brothers who have fallen victim to street life. Accompanying these harsh realities is the unexpected fact that Echo's mom is a wizard, whose magic (now sadly enmeshed with her addiction) has been passed down to her daughter. When Echo transfers to an affluent white school, new portals between worlds begin to open. As Echo explores the portals each day, she realizes that the pain, trauma, and struggles of everyone around her may have a sinister, magical source. She must learn to find hope and happiness amidst the pain or it will destroy her. Brown's novel deals with some very heavy themes including sexual violence, drug addiction, depression, and racism. However, it treats these themes and readers with care while uplifting both its main character and readers who may share Echo's struggles. A treasure of a story that's poignant, soulful, and inspiring.--Enishia Davenport Copyright 2019 Booklist