Khristi Lauren Adams
Fortress Press, 200 pages
Reviewed by Fay C. Acker
Through contemporary parables, Khristi Lauren Adams introduces us to seven brown girls, including the insecure brown girl, the brown girl finding her voice and the brown girl in search of an identity. “Parable of the Brown Girl” demonstrates how girls who have been marginalized, overlooked and discredited began to see themselves through God’s eyes and are nurtured into an understanding of themselves as valuable. These brown girls are telling their stories and resisting the way they’ve been defined.
Of varying ages and circumstances, the brown girls articulate their own grief, suffering and hope in light of family difficulties, bullying, identity and cultural heritage crises, academic and social challenges, and class distinctions. With the focus on the girls, the author interweaves their narratives and her personal story with theology, contemporary scholarship and current events. Adams confronts stereotypes, such as the angry black woman, demonstrating how that stereotype feeds into society’s “negative perception of black women and girls” and ignores God’s call to justice. Adams’ interweaving of these parables with contemporary examples will enable readers to see how these parables play out in local communities and on the larger national stage.
An ordained Baptist minister and founder of The Becoming Conference, Adams offers biblical interpretations specifically aimed at working with girls of color — interpretations that seem obvious, but are like truths hidden in plain sight. She challenges readers to see how the biblical text is being interpreted and how it is being heard. For example, Adams examines imago Dei in light of brown girls, stating: “Black girls are made in the image of God. While this shouldn’t be a revolutionary statement, it is because of how rarely people acknowledge this fact.” How do brown girls accept being made in the image of God when people and society criticize and reject their bodies, hair and way of being? One girl poignantly asks, “Why did God make me this way?” Another asks, “If my words aren’t important, or my feelings, or my personhood, then why am I here?”
“Parable of the Brown Girl” is a jewel, offering its treasures to all who work with, raise, want to understand and desire to empower brown girls to live the lives God intended for them. The author’s hope is that “readers will encounter the spirit of God within these girls’ stories just like they do through Jesus’ parables, which encouraged others to reflect on spiritual truths through the lives of the overlooked.” In this way, the girls through their parables serve as teachers to pastors, spiritual directors, social workers and academics. These stories will also resonate with women of color who have experienced the same efforts to marginalize their voices, disempower them and critique their bodies, hair and spirit. Women who read this book can bring their own stories in conversation with the narratives of these girls, tracing the lines of how they came to be the women they are and creating an intergenerational dialogue — perhaps to even consider issues with which women and girls continue to struggle.
Fay C. Acker is a Presbyterian minister and former associate dean of Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel at Howard University. She lives in Washington, D.C.