Black Girls Must Die Exhausted: A Novel for Grown Ups

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Pub Date 15 Sep 2018 | Archive Date 15 Mar 2019

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“Black girls must die exhausted” is something that 33-year-old Tabitha Walker has heard her grandmother say before.  Of course, her grandmother (who happens to be white) was referring to the 1950’s and what she observed in the nascent times of civil rights.  With a coveted position as a local news reporter, Marc-- a “paper-perfect” boyfriend, and a standing Saturday morning appointment with a reliable hairstylist, Tabitha never imagined how this phrase could apply to her as a black girl in contemporary times – until everything changed.

An unexpected doctor’s diagnosis awakens Tabitha to an unperceived culprit, threatening the one thing that has always mattered most - having a family of her own.  With the help of her best friends, the irreverent and headstrong Laila and Alexis, the former “Sexy Lexi," Tabitha must explore the reaches of modern medicine and test the limits of her relationships to beat the ticking clock on her dreams of becoming a wife and mother.

She must leverage the power of laughter, love, and courageous self-care to bring a healing stronger than she ever imagined - before the phrase “black girls must die exhausted” takes on a new and unwanted meaning in her own life.    

About the Author:

Jayne Allen is a black girl from Detroit who smiles widely, laughs loudly and loves to tell stories that stick to your bones. Her debut novel, "Black Girls Must Die Exhausted," which Kirkus Reviews called "both timely and enjoyable," touches upon contemporary women's issues such as workplace womanhood, race, fertility, modern relationships and mental health awareness, echoing her desire to bring both multiculturalism and multidimensionality to contemporary women's fiction with dynamic female protagonists who also happen to be black. When she's not writing "chocolate chick lit with a conscience," she's spending time with her girlfriends, keeping one ear open for her next saucy tale.

“Black girls must die exhausted” is something that 33-year-old Tabitha Walker has heard her grandmother say before. Of course, her grandmother (who happens to be white) was referring to the...

Advance Praise

"Allen writes in a sharp, lively voice that is full of warmth and humor...Tabitha and her friends are well-drawn, and it is the dynamic between the protagonist and the women in her life that propels the story. Touching on issues of professional womanhood, race and family, the author crafts a novel that is both timely and enjoyable."

- Kirkus Reviews

From The BookLife Prize:

"In this book, Allen crafts an engaging and evenly plotted story of a woman who, after learning that she has only a limited window in which to have children, evaluates her relationships and personal aspirations. Allen explores themes of racial prejudice, infidelity, and family dynamics in this voice-driven work..."

"The protagonist faces a unique dilemma, and Allen explores her uncertainty about having a child with sensitivity and maturity. The focus on systemic prejudice provides a welcome layer of complexity to the plot..."

"...readers will readily connect with her search for fulfillment on her journey of self-discovery."

"Allen writes in a sharp, lively voice that is full of warmth and humor...Tabitha and her friends are well-drawn, and it is the dynamic between the protagonist and the women in her life that propels...

Available Editions

ISBN 9781732696808
PRICE $7.99 (USD)

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Average rating from 70 members

Featured Reviews

I love a book with strong female characters. I love reading about women at their best, supporting each other emotionally, financially, psychologically and culturally and this book just served me a whole series of “Girlfriends!”

Tabitha is career focused. She’s got her sights set on being a Senior Reporter, but there’s also Marc, he’s educated, intelligent, sexy- but for one a half years they have been dating and when she gets a verdict from the doctor, she starts evaluating her life, priorities and relationships based on that.

I loved her friendship with her girlfriends, Laila and Alexis. They each have their own battles and are as bold as they come. I could use a Laila in my life, especially when she tells Tabby:

“Do you want me to go key his car?..Because I will- just say the word and I will light that Porsche right up!”

The author’s tone of writing is simple and each character’s voice is undeniably strong. You cannot help but also appreciate the diversity of women from age, race to social status and they all influence Tabby in one way or the other. I found her relationship with her grandmother most interesting and there’s this point where in relation to the title of the book, Gretchen, her grandmother’s friend tells her “I say, don’t ever die of exhaustion on somebody else’s terms!”

I could sing praises of this book all day long, because it I could relate to it. I see myself in Tabby, Laila, Alexis, her mother, grandmother and I see myself in her career struggles, however the ending was not a reader’s paradise. I know there’s a second book, but come on…why exhaust my emotions over this?

I got to read this book courtesy of the Publisher and Netgalley and that eARC was so worth it! How else would I have felt so drawn to a character like this?

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Very Interesting. Well Written and Well Developed Story.

Had A Nice Time Reading It. And Would Definitely Read More From The Author.

Thank You For Providing An Advanced Copy Of The Book.

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This book was enjoyable on so many levels. I loved that Gretchen had such a strong relationship with her grandmother. It was also nice to read a book where women supported each other. This was just a great read.

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I really enjoyed this book!

I was uncertain in approaching it, as it appears to be aimed at younger, professional women of color (none of which describe me).

Yet the magic of good fiction for me is that it transports me into other lives and realities than my own, and this title delivered.

Tabitha Walker and her best friends Laila and Alexis are well-drawn characters who I came to care about. And I loved Granny Tab! The male characters are a little thinner, but Jayne Allen resists making them two-dimensional. They are complex and human, as are the conflicts in work and romance which arise here.

The plot moves right along. It nods to current cultural issues (me too, police violence) but does not allow the issues to hijack the characters (a big pet peeve of mine). I particularly appreciated the work issue that arises between Tabitha and her boss for its nuance and complexity.

I'm already hoping for more from Jayne Allen.

Thanks to NetGalley for a free copy in exchange for my honest review.

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Black Girls Must Die Exhausted was everything you could think of and more. We meet Tabitha Walker who some of women if not all women can identify with. Tabitha faces real issues and concerns. The way she handles all that life throws at her (with grace) is AWESOME. Black Girls Must Die Exhausted allows you to sit, evaluate, and correct your life.

With all of the challenges black women face, this book was worth reading. Perhaps a movie will bring it all to life.

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My thoughts on this book:
1. The cover art is beautiful.
2. The title is interesting!
The story line is refreshing and modern. This gem is a hidden treasure. So satisfied I took the chance on this novel and new to me author. I will definitely keep my eyes-wide open for the second book in this series.

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Strong women- character have been written with strength in mind. The book is written in such an interesting way. Really interesting to read. The cover is also beautiful
Thanks to NetGalley and Quality Black Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest unbiased review

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I absolutely loved this book and I will recommend it to anybody who liked THUG or books like the Kiss Quotient (minus the sexy times).
It was a perfect contemporary read, with great characters and dialogue - especially Granny Tab and Gretchen were my favorites.
It's an entertaining read with deep and important topics like race, equality, fertility, police brutality, relationships, forgiveness and more, perfect for a book club in my opinion!

Thank you so much NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC.

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What makes this book so different is the cultural perspective that you usually don't find in other books and weren't expecting in this one. It shows how family secrets shape the family dynamic, and how it plays a role in other aspects. This book has the ability to transport you to that story with those characters, it's beautiful and much needed with everything that is going on in the world. I can't wait to read more from this author. I highly recommend this book to others.

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Strong female characters and lots of women supporting each other, a breath of fresh air. Very well written, and even though I'm a middle aged white female i was able to connect with the characters with no problem and really enjoyed every moment of it! Well recommended for anyone!!
Thank you NetGalley for free advance reading copy!

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I confess, the title is what drew me in. And the book kept me engaged. The story itself wasn't particularly new, but I enjoyed reading about the challenges of a woman of color trying to 'have it all' and realizing that everyone, no matter what their background, faces a unique and discrete set of obstacles along the way to the happiness they seek. Well written, with very life=like characters, the book is set in LA and obviously written by someone who either knows or researched the area well. I recommend to anyone wanting a good, quick read.

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Overall, a well written, engaging read. You know it's good when I talk out loud TO THE BOOK. I had a few character nits, but nothing really worth ranting about. You've heard the saying about having to work twice as hard to get just as far as our non black counterparts-- well, this is that saying, in print. Tabitha's life, from her job to her boyfriend to her family seems to be coming apart at the seams and the only thing holding it together is her grandmother, for whom she is named. They simply call her Too, because she is Tabitha, too.
I found Grandma Tab to be delightful and surprisingly woke... perhaps because her husband was black and her son is half black but she was progressive for an older white woman. I kept bracing for her to say something off, but of course that never happened. A common theme, and something I'm definitely going to take away from this book is 'if a man has no plan for you, that isn't your man'. Ain't that the truth, and a hard truth to learn and accept. For Tab, too... but I said I wasn't gonna rant.
This was a sometimes emotional, sometimes funny look into the life of a young urban professional, just trying to life her best life, despite life itself getting in the way of that. An enjoyable read!

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I've always been told that you should never judge a book by its cover, but it was the beautiful cover that caught my interest with this one. Fortunately, what was inside certainly lived up to that cover.
The idea that both women and black people have to work much harder to get the recognition that they deserve is certainly not a new one. Of course being a black woman means therefore that you have to work even harder again, which is why the title of this book proclaims that Black Girls Must Die Exhausted. For the lead character in this book, Tabatha Walker, that is certainly true. She has to constantly fight to get ahead, without wanting to be seen as too pushy or too aggressive. Everything is a struggle and even her body is turning against her in her attempts to succeed in her career, her personal life and the dream of one day being a wife and mother.
This book is not just about race, although it is an important theme in the book, it is also about relationships. Tabby has a number of strong women in her life, from her best friends Leila and Lexi to her grandmother, who is also called Tabatha. Added to this is her complex relationship with her father, less than ideal relationship with her boyfriend Marc and a long distance relationship with her mother. It is all of these relationships that add to the rich and complex mix that make this story.
This isn't a fairy tale with clearly defined goodies and baddies. Although there are people that are not so good at points, there are also explanations and reasons given for the way that they act. Not that you can excuse everything, but somehow giving reasons makes people seem more real and human.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The added bonus is that it was actually the first in a trilogy (which I didn't realise until the very end) and I'm really keen to read the next instalment.
I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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I don't usually pick up contemporary fiction, but I had to give this one a try due to the title! I'm glad I did because it's full of amazing, supportive female characters. I really related to the characters struggles around fertility, racism and the career issues. Having read hundreds of books to date, I am glad to finally see myself reflected in diverse fiction. I'm looking forward to the next instalment!

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I was drawn to the book from the title, and I felt the story didn't disappoint. Tamara walker, in her mid 30's is dealing with what a lot of us are dealing with, fertility and relationship issues. She is a frequent visitor to her paternal grandmother, who is a Caucasian woman and her best friend, Ms. Gertie at the assisted living facility where they both reside.

There were several surprises I enjoyed, as well as some things I wasn't expecting. It had a really good flow, and several of the issues in the story was extremely relatable to some of the current situations that's happing in real life. It was a great read, and even though this was the first time I've read a book from this author, it won't be the last.

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Thank you #QualityBlackBooks and #NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read this wonderful book. I have to admit that I experienced various emotions while reading this book as I am sure many will too. It broke my heart that Two had to go through the things that she did, but mostly I felt bad for her because she had such a fear of police officers. The black community has been treated unfairly I agree but every race has it just hasn't been aired. However, we must remember that we cannot allow those few bad ones speak for the entire group. We need less cowering and more hugging. This story also made me aware of the fact that our health care system needs to be looked at even further to assist women in dire need of help with fertility assistance. I can say so much more but I I am just going to recommend that you read this book because you will not be disappointed!!!!

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I received an ARC of this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Empowering novel about hard choices in life and a woman who takes control of her future. This is a fun and inspiring read--it would be a great choice for a women's book club.

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There is a substantive distinction between BLACK fiction and fiction written about characters who happen to be black, among other traits, that’s difficult to quantify. Black Girls Must Die Exhausted, the first entry in a scheduled trilogy, falls into the latter category. It is integrated in ways that mainstream contemporary fiction rarely is beyond ethnicity, including socioeconomic class, geographic region, age, and gender.

Blend a 21st-century New Adult version of Waiting to Exhale and “Girlfriends” with candid revelations about traumatic injuries of the spirit reminiscent of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf. Toss in the caustic wisdom of seasoned women a la “Golden Girls” or “Grace and Frankie” into a sometimes exclamatory narrative style familiar to fans of Sophie Kinsella to create this endearing tale that’s provocative, funny, and emotionally satisfying.

Of its many thematic layers about 33-year-old Tabitha’s professional and personal struggles, Black Girls Must Die Exhausted portrays the challenges of women to maintain their integrity of self and exert agency from multiple angles: career opportunities, proactive medical and mental health advocacy, family obligations, and romantic relationships.

Tabitha’s, Alexis’s, and Laila’s complicated man troubles each qualify for their own “Ask Steve Harvey” segment. Tabitha broods about single, thirty-something men’s attitudes toward monogamy on page 10:

They treated love like a disease you catch, and if real adult commitment was the incurable version of it, then for them family was basically death.

The ensuing relationship drama practically screams validation of Dr. Maya Angelou’s quote about believing people the first time they reveal who they really are.

Inclusive representation is also addressed from multiple points of view. Seeds for a less fraught variation of themes from The Hate U Give are planted on page 27 when Tabitha thinks, “Communities that were underrepresented in the newsroom were underrepresented in the news.” The words newsroom and news are easily substituted for words like innovators and innovations or executive suites and workplaces.

Tabitha’s rude awakening regarding her fertility options resonates as a timely call for proactive self-advocacy consistent with revelations shared by former first lady Michelle Obama in Becoming, the #startasking campaign started by 2018 Mrs. North Carolina, and the series by Nicole Ellis for The Washington Post.

The level of reading enjoyment provided by Black Girls Must Die Exhausted bodes well for the release of And Baby Makes Two in September 2019.

[Proofing note: In the NetGalley ARC offsetting commas for directly addressing a person by name are frequently missing as on page 48, “Hi Nate,” and throughout the text, a pattern that was probably corrected in the final galley.]

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I received an advance readers copy in exchange for an honest review

This book presents a basic chick-lit trope-try to rustle up a husband before the baby clock runs out-through the eyes of a Black woman navigating the blend of sexism and racism she and her friends have to face every day. So in that way the plot is revolutionary just by being so ordinary – this is the lived experience of many women who don't often see themselves in mainstream women's fiction. I hope it gets the attention it deserves

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Jayne Allen is an outstanding writer. I enjoyed her characters and her story immensely, and respect the way she covered the issues in her book. At times I felt like she was writing a social justice tirade, but she didn't vilify one group in order to make a point. If I felt a particular section was preachy, I simply skimmed the few sentences and moved through to the rest of the thoughtful, engaging story.

Tabitha and her friends and family were real, lovable, interesting. I adored the relationship Tabitha had with her grandmother, and I appreciated the growth she achieved in the relationship with her dad. Again, the book was beautifully written. That title drew me in, and the beautiful story that goes with it did not disappoint.

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4.25⭐️ enjoyable, relatable, thoughtful, and now I have to call my honorary grandmother. OK, I’m back. I appreciated all the different aspects of Tabby’s life—family, friendship, complicated relationships, work, romance, etc. By the end of the book she feels like an old friend.

When this becomes a movie, I’ll get a babysitter and see it opening weekend.

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Yes, we must. Living the life of a black girl is beyond exhausting. Yet we persevere every day. Circumstances can push us to the grave prematurely. We are hit with disappointment when we don't meet the standards set for us. Get good grades, go to college, succeed in a career, get married, have children... But in reality, those things don't happen often in that order.

When 33-year-old Tabitha receives an unexpected diagnosis from the doctor, she panics. Tabitha has less than six months to have a baby naturally. This was not the plan! With the help of her best friends, she tests modern medicine, a ticking biological clock and how to become a wife and mother quick.

I must admit that I judged this book by its awesome cover. The title was a bonus. I skimmed over the description because I assumed it would be just as creative as its cover design. The story must match, right? Little did I know that it was mostly about having children (which is something that highly disinterests me). For this reason, I could not relate to the main character. But look at what good writing skills can do! Author Jayne Allen, from Detroit, wrote in such a way that I felt invested in Tabitha's journey and rooted for her throughout the book. Black Girls Must Die Exhausted may not relate to your own personal experience, but it's a good read.


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Absolutely lovely story. First it starts like a basic rom-com but then you get so much more out of the characters. So much love in it. Pointing at real problems of our society. I loved it and can't wait for the second volume!

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Amazing book with fully fleshed characters and a solid plot. I couldn't put this book down! Utterly amazing! I will read it again in the future.

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I’ll say right now that this book was a little difficult for me to read initially, not because it didn’t interest me or wasn’t well written. It was for a very personal reason. One of the topics of the book kind of hit home, and as a result I’ve been putting off finishing and reviewing it.

Tabitha Walker is a fantastic character. She’s strong, compassionate, capable, and passionate about her job and furthering her career as a news reporter. She’s the kind of lead character I like to read about. Moreover, there are some other fantastic female characters throughout the story, from Granny Tabs (who, by the way, I adored), to Tabby’s best friends Alexis and Laila. All have their quirks, all are strong women, all have their issues to overcome, and all have flaws. It is the flaws that make them each relatable in their own way, and I appreciated all of them in this novel.

The novel deals with some difficult topics. From the title, you can correctly guess that the lead character is black. The author deals with a lot of contemporary issues surrounding race right from the beginning when Tabitha is pulled over whilst driving, and running through her head are all these scary stories of black people being pulled over by cops. The empathy and compassion showed by the officer was a relief, but the general topic is hard hitting. Later on in the story comes the question of Tabby’s (possible) promotion. If she gets it, will it be because they need a black senior reporter in order to show diversity within the company, to get a different perspective on stories? Such topics are discussed with care and without alienating the reader, no matter their race.

Another topic discussed is infertility. The novel opens with Tabitha receiving the news that if she doesn’t do something about it quickly, her chances of having a family are basically reduced to zero. Thus arises the discussion regarding options in this situation. Tabitha deals with it with surprising and inspiring strength, though not without the constant help and support from her friends and family.

Well written, and dealing with difficult but important contemporary issues that women experience, Black Girls Must Die Exhausted is a hard hitting novel. In places it made for tough reading, but then the overwhelming support base around the characters made me want to weep in gratitude. Thank goodness for family and friends. If you’re looking to read outside your comfort zone, with diversity and fantastic female characters, check out this novel!

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I loved this book! Everything about it from Tabitha, her family and friends- in particular her grandmother- the contemporary issues facing women today- dating, fertitiliy, health and views of society- all felt so fresh and up to date, so relatable, that after finishing the book I honestly miss it- I miss Tabitha! I hope there is a second book as I loved everything about this.

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I was drawn to this book because of its beautiful cover and the title. As a black girl struggling to survive in this world, I can definitely relate. I love the story of sexism, racism, relationships and hardships. The author's writing was very authentic, visual, and amazing. I love a strong female character that embodies perserverance and realism. I look forward to reading more from this author in the future. I highly recommend this book.

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