When You Learn the Alphabet
by Kendra Allen
Pub Date 15 Apr 2019
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These dynamics strive for some semblance of accountability, and the essays within this collection are used as displays of deep unlearning and restoring—balancing trauma and humor, poetics and reality, forgiveness and resentment.
When You Learn the Alphabet allots space for large moments of tenderness and empathy for all black bodies—but especially all black woman bodies—space for the underrepresented humanity and uncared for pain of black girls, and space to have the opportunity to be listened to in order to evolve past it.
“Kendra Allen’s When You Learn the Alphabet is a roaring meditation on what black daughters in our nation do with what and how they’ve been taught. The book brilliantly animates the formal and informal education processes of becoming grown in America. Allen somehow manages to make explorations of colorism, language, trauma, war, and love sit comfortably next to one another. Allen’s book is an ambitious, dexterous collection that really obliterates convenient understandings of the sentimental in favor of dynamic, fleshy layers of soulful sincerity. It is a remarkable artistic achievement.”—Kiese Laymon, judge, Iowa Prize for Literary Nonfiction, author, Heavy: An American Memoir
“Kendra Allen will not, as she writes, make anyone feel good at her own expense. Nor will she let herself be comforted at the expense of others. Instead, she brilliantly writes her tender origins into history, creating for future readers a complex sense of self-recognition missing from her own past.”—Hali Felt, University of Alabama
“Every generation has its seer, a writer of radical, fierce talent who tells it true, who writes the being and identity like a punch in the gut. Kendra Allen is this generation’s sharpshooter. To think: this is her first book. We are witnessing the birth of this astonishing star.”—Jenny Boully, author, Betwixt-and-Between: Essays on the Writing Life