“A funny, fresh novel about growing up African-American in 1960s Chicago” by an author who “writes like Terry McMillan’s kid sister” (Entertainment Weekly).
In this hilarious and insightful coming-of-age novel, author April Sinclair introduces the charming Jean “Stevie” Stevenson, a young woman raised on Chicago’s South Side during an era of irrevocable social upheaval.
Curious and witty, bold but naïve, Stevie grows up debating the qualities of good hair and dark skin. As the years pass, her family and neighborhood are changed by the times, from the War on Poverty to race riots and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., from “Black Is Beautiful” to Black Power. Against this remarkable backdrop, Stevie makes the sometimes harrowing, often comic, always enthralling transformation into a young adult—socially aware, discovering her sexuality, and proud of her identity.
“Whether she’s dealing with a subject as monumental as the civil rights movement or as intimate as Stevie’s first sexual encounters,” writes the Los Angeles Times, “Sinclair never fails to make you laugh and never sacrifices the narrative to make a point.”
Winner of the Carl Sandburg Award from the Friends of the Chicago Public Library and named a best book of the year in young adult fiction by the American Library Association, Coffee Will Make You Black is an exquisite portrait of adolescence that will resonate with readers of all ages.
Dialogue that evokes the tough attitudes of wisecracking teenagers on Chicago's South Side galvanizes this debut novel--and balances its sometimes heavy-handed use of well-known history. Set in a secondary school during the late '60s, it juxtaposes narrator Jean ``Stevie'' Stevenson's coming-of-age story with the emergence of the civil rights movement. Its confrontational title is explained by Stevie's mother, who says, ``The old folks in the South used to tell that to children so they wouldn't want to drink coffee. The last thing anybody wanted to be was black.'' Echoes of that superstition still trouble members of Stevie's generation, who, even as they listen to Martin Luther King Jr. and rally around a ``Black Is Beautiful'' grafitto, still compare dark skin unfavorably to light. Shyly at first, Stevie gains personal and racial confidence, refusing to be cowed by a jealous girl who wants to fight, a string of chauvinistic boyfriends, or a rich girl who looks down on the neighborhood. Even if transitions are often jarring--as when a reserved, square boy is suddenly transformed into a dashiki-wearing revolutionary--Sinclair gives a realistic portrayal of personal awakening during a politically tumultuous time.