Format: Paperback, 259 pages
Publication: November 17, 2020 by SparkPress
Synopsis: Philly native Roberta Forest is a precocious rebel with the soul of a poet. The thirteen-year-old is young, gifted, black, and Catholic—although she’s uncertain about the Catholic part after she calls Thomas Jefferson a hypocrite for enslaving people and her nun responds with a racist insult. Their ensuing fight makes Roberta question God and the important adults in her life, all of whom seem to see truth as gray when Roberta believes it’s black or white.
An upcoming essay contest, writing poetry, and reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X all help Roberta cope with the various difficulties she’s experiencing in her life, including her parent’s troubled marriage. But when she’s told she’s ineligible to compete in the school’s essay contest, her explosive reaction to the news leads to a confrontation with her mother, who shares some family truths Roberta isn’t ready for.
Set against the backdrop of Watergate and the post-civil rights movement era, Angel Dressed in Black is a gritty yet graceful examination of the anguish teens experience when their growing awareness of themselves and the world around them unravels their sense of security—a coming-of-age tale of truth-telling, faith, family, forgiveness, and social activism.
I expected this to be a young adult novel, but it read more like middle grade. I haven’t read a lot of middle grade books, especially lately, but this was one of the best written ones I’ve read in a while. It touched on subjects like religion, racism, and divorce. This was such a heartbreaking, beautiful book that I highly recommend reading.
I was actually pretty shocked to realize that Roberta’s feelings on religion were exactly the same as mine. I was raised Catholic as well, and I’ve always felt a bit distant from the entire religion. The way Roberta described her feelings about Catholicism fit my own pretty much perfectly, which I hadn’t even noticed until reading this book.
Some of the things Roberta experiences are based on things that happened to Robin herself. I cannot and will never understand how Roberta and the author feel as a white woman, but the book definitely put into perspective the struggles that people face every day because of the color of their skin. Because of this, I would absolutely consider this book a must-read for people wanting to diversify their reading and understand the struggles people of color deal with.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book via BookSparks in exchange for an honest review.
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Meet the Author
Robin Farmer’s debut novel, Malcolm and Me, was a 2019 winner of the She Writes Press and SparkPress Toward Equality in Publishing (STEP) Contest. A national award-winning journalist, Robin specialized in narrative nonfiction projects as part of the Special Projects/Investigative team for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Her work led to a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan. A freelance writer since 2009, her clients include corporations and universities. Robin holds a degree in Journalism from Marquette University. She lives near Richmond with her husband and is working on her second novel.