You might remember this title from one of my recent post in the “What’s Ginny Reading Next?” series. (https://booksandbevs7.org/2022/12/10/whats-ginny-reading-next-2/) If you missed it here’s a quick synopsis from that post:
Black Girls Must Die Exhausted (A Novel For Grown Ups) by Jayne Allen (audiobook.)
This book has been on my TBR list for a while, and I’m excited that I have finally made my way around to it. It tells the story of Tabitha Walker, a woman who seems to have all of her ducks in a row. She is a successful local news reporter. She’s in a steady relationship. And she’s preparing to put a down payment on her first house. But navigating this complex world can be taxing, especially for a black woman. Having to pay vigilant attention to the way in which you present yourself; in how you look and the volume at which you speak. The need to constantly prove yourself in professional settings; working that much harder to show beyond a doubt you deserve to inhabit that space. Add to this, the dangers of just…being, where a routine traffic stop can inspire very real fears and anxieties.
The pressures of life can be overwhelming. And unfortunately, for Tabitha this will be reaffirmed when she receives an unexpected diagnosis from her doctor. With the window for having a biological child quickly closing, Tabitha must make some hard decisions. She will explore the options available to her through modern medicine, and turn to her best friends and her very wise grandmother, for the emotional support she so desperately needs.
I had very high expectations when I started this novel, and it saddens me to say it didn’t quite live up to them. Black Girls Must Die Exhausted has such a strong premise. Its message of female empowerment resonated with me. And it was so refreshing to see the lives of professional black women represented in literature. But the execution of the story fell short.
At times meandering, and with a storyline piled high with conflicts and unfortunate events, Black Girls Must Die Exhausted reads more like a soap opera than a work of higher social purpose. I derive no pleasure in saying that. I really wanted to love this novel.
I listened to the audio version of this work. My relationship with audiobooks is complicated as you may remember from my blog post “Confessions Of A Former Book Snob.” Even the most amazing story can suffer when it’s not supported by solid narration and voice-acting. In the case of this novel, there are these highly emotional scenes depicting Tabitha’s internal struggles. Anxiety over whether or not she’s going to get a promotion at the network. Fears concerning her ability to have a child. Sadness and confusion over failed relationships and strains within her family. Along with all this come the stresses of societal woes and racial inequities. Tabitha is experiencing an avalanche of emotions, and in her internal monologues, it’s obvious that she’s spiraling. I know these to be very real, true-to-life, feelings. I’ve had similar moments of extreme anxiety and panic. But, unfortunately, the voice actor for this novel is never quite able to capture these scenes in a way that feels genuine. At times, her voice is grating, and you lose sympathy for the character. It would be interesting to hear the opinion of someone who has read the physical novel. Perhaps, their perspective is different, unaffected by an actor’s interpretation.
Black Girls Must Die Exhausted is the first in a series. Because of the premise, and the fact that, in spite of its flaws, I was still invested enough in the story to finish the novel, I plan on checking out the second installment. And next time, I’ll read the book instead of listening to the audio version.
I truly hope for a better experience with the sequel. Fingers crossed.
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Finally, I would like to wish you all the happiest of holidays! May it be filled with joy, laughter, good health, and lots and lots of books!