Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams

Happy Tuesday! I am honored to turn over Watch. Connect. Read. for the day to author and elementary school teacher Alicia D. Williams. I am excited for Genesis Begins Again, Alicia's BEAUTIFUL and SOUL-TOUCHING debut novel, to hit shelves on January 15, 2019. Congratulations, Alicia!

The advice of “write what you know” is always always given. What did I know? Well, I knew about a girl who hated being short, fat, and squatty. This girl was also told over and over that her hair wasn’t straight enough, that she’d be cute if only she were the right skin shade, and yes, perhaps her forehead was a little too big. So, when I began to write this story, I wrote what I knew . . . because that girl was me. And she’s almost every other girl—in some form or another—that I’ve grown up with or met along the way.

I’ve witnessed countless girls (and even boys) be judged and rated by their looks. Old church ladies or well-meaning elders compliment the light-skinned kids with good hair or colored eyes, but those niceties stopped with the dark complexioned ones. This type of preferential colorism isn’t only found in the church aisles, but it’s at family gatherings, the dating scene, the classroom, on the playground—it’s everywhere. And it’s not just colorism either. Too many times we’ve all heard “you’ve got too many freckles,” “your hair is too red,” or “your nose is too pointy.” 

As I began writing GENESIS BEGINS AGAIN, I knew this story about beauty must be told. As a teacher, I’ve watched students measure and compare themselves against one another. My heart quaked for the little pre-k girl noticing how her coily hair was so different (and unacceptable) than her friend’s long blonde locks. I’ve consoled a kindergartner being teased about her big, frizzy hair. It hurt to watch children choose light tan, instead of their own beautiful shade of brown from the multicultural crayon colors. Through every revision of GENESIS I wondered, could our girls one day defy society’s definitions and norms, and define beauty for themselves? And more importantly, would they ever have the courage to be okay with their reflections, even if the world tells them otherwise? I sent off the final draft hoping and praying that GENESIS BEGINS AGAIN will not only become part of the conversation of colorism and self-hate, but begin the journey to self-acceptance and love.

Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams 

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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