REVIEW: Black Girl Unlimited

“So I have many stories in my head to explain the world.”

Cover of Echo Brown's "Black Girl Unlimited"
Title: Black Girl Unlimited
Published: 1/14/2020
Page Count: 304
ISBN13: 9781250309853
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’s a lot to be said about taking the plunge to write an autobiographical piece laced with sexual violence, abuse, drugs, and all the tragedies that plague black girls and women from a young girl’s perspective. There’s more to be said for this book to be a debut. Black Girl Unlimited follows Echo Brown, a teen wizard, growing up on the East Side of Ohio, trying to navigate life and all the lessons she has to learn as a young black girl. Throughout the book, Echo (the author) infuses the narrative with the magical element of wizardry that can only be done by women. The choice of this particular device first reads as a sort of insulation for the reader, almost making me assume it was middle-grade. But as the story progresses, it becomes clear that the wizardry is, in fact, what women, women of colour, and more importantly, black women possess inside them. With these powers and the consequent shells they have to build against society and against men, what Brown describes in this book turns the metaphor into something much more potent.

The prose, even as it explains the many sexual, violent, and degrading horrors that black people face, stays quite simple throughout. There is a certain level of mindfulness that Brown puts into her words to make them understood, ingested but steady enough to not overwhelm. One of my favourite techniques was the use of abrupt paragraph breaks to switch back and forth between scenes, usually mirroring situations parallel in tension or in (what I would call) rhythm of pacing. This is done so well, and seamlessly, a feat that doesn’t always read well without proper timing.

Echo (the character) like any young child is exploring all the facets that make up her identity. She is very aware of all the people and social constructs she is a by-product of. Even in what is an innocent day of playing with her brothers and friends, there’s something amiss. They play on an old abandoned field filled with garbage, crack needles and condoms and although that reality has always been uniquely theirs, she knows it shouldn’t be.

“It’s all worthless trash that nobody wants, including us.”

As with many other black people, there are instances where Echo reflects on all of the negative connotations that come with her blackness.

“I wish I were slightly something else so that I could have some relief from the consequences of blackness also, but I know I’m probably “just black.” The life I’m living is what happens to “just black” girls.”

This is also reflected in the language and behaviour of her friends: Jessie, who is mixed is always being pined after or teased because of his lighter skin, nicer hair and overall supposed “better looks”.

“I begin to wonder if white is the color of things to be worshipped in this world, if it is the only color to be worshipped in this world.”

Echo’s commentary on blackness also extends to religion.

“I will Jesus to wake up, to uncurl from his celestial position and live up to all the stories they tell about him in church, but he doesn’t”

Almost all of the characters are Christians or at least go to church even if they aren’t devout. Echo often makes mention of the hypocrisy and vanity of the church-goers in her neighbourhood, avidly pointing out all the instances Jesus could’ve and should’ve saved people.

“Your mother is a wizard. So are you.”

Black Girl Unlimited is told in chapters that are titled and centered around the lessons on how to become a wizard. Each is an insight into how Echo and all the women in her life have had to learn to live with all the limitations and expectations that are forcefully bestowed upon them merely because they are not men. Mostly through the observation of her mother does Echo learn these lessons. The rage, addiction and the overall detached nature of her mother, is a source for a lot of Echo’s self-discovery and sympathy. The magic in this book, deepened in every page is the magic of protection, self-preservation, and inner strength. It is a lesson the author simplifies so that it can be passed along – to empathize with every black girl who has had to build their own protective shell around ourselves.

“So I have many stories in my head to explain the world.”

Black Girl Unlimited is a story that Echo Brown has graciously given the world, meeting fantasy and her own reality in the middle. She has made young Echo and every black girl that comes across this book something we are not always afforded – being akin to magic. Being magic itself. Being something no one would ever call a black woman – a wizard. And though the wizardry is a vessel for the story, it is much more real than I can express. It is a belief we should not be afraid of having, a power that is only ours if we take it without permission.

There is so much potential I look forward to in future works by Echo Brown because young Echo showed me the possibilities are unlimited.

A Software Engineering Graduate with a bigger love for anything books rather than computers. As an avid reader, writer and fan of all things content-related, she has found joy as a freelancer working in copywriting and content management. She is always trying to materialize creativity and strives to better understand abstract concepts through consuming arts that reflect society and social behaviour – anything that appeals to all types of people. You can easily find her on Twitter: @KayAyyDoubleU, Instagram: @Kayyyreads or posting on Goodreads: If not, she's probably too busy getting lost in a story.
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