Getting by with a little help from friends
BLACK GIRLS MUST DIE EXHAUSTED
By Jayne Allen
In July, when Naomi Osaka pulled out of Roland Garros to focus on her sanity, it seemed like permission for other black women, who also want to prioritize themselves, to give themselves the same opportunity. Later, when Simone Biles withdrew from Olympic gymnastics competition for the same reason, she also reaffirmed herself.
But in Jayne Allen’s first novel, “Black Girls Must Die of Exhaustion,” readers remember many ways black women don’t have the tranquility, time, or space to just be. The main character, Tabitha Walker, is a reporter for a local news channel in Los Angeles. She juggles infertility, fear of police brutality, a tangled family history, and the frustration and indignity of being overlooked at work just because her managers can’t relate to her as easily as they can. do with his white male colleagues. Tabitha’s fury consumes her. As the book progresses, her life recalls the experience of being stuck in a vacuum-sealed bag, the air slowly disappearing.
Like many black women, Tabitha relies on her friends: Lexi Carter, who has the family life she dreams of, and Laila, who knows how to find comedy in just about anything. The three women struggle with their own stressors, but they support each other when a blow causes one of them to fall. Even Lexi faces life-changing issues when she finds out about her husband’s infidelity on social media.
What readers will discover in “Black Girls Must Die Exhausted,” is this: Black Women Find Out. Whether Allen’s characters grapple with a problematic manager at work, a husband’s bad decisions, or a grim diagnosis, they come together and reinforce each other with a network of understanding and love that is not available elsewhere. in their life, where they have to project an image of perfection.
When Tabitha has a traumatic encounter with a police officer, she cries and removes her makeup, but with shaking hands, she hastily reapplies her “beat” in her car before heading to the office. “For me, success meant there was a 50% premium over standards to be met,” she told us, “my hair to be straightened and makeup and relevance masks to be worn on my brown skin.”
Tabitha has neither the time nor the space to deal with the trauma she has just suffered. By the time she gets back to work, her armor is in place and she’s ready to tell a story in the newsroom even though she is visibly shaken. She has no choice: her behavior was born out of the fear of being circumvented for a promotion.
“Black Girls Must Die Exhausted” is the first novel in a three-book series. If her opening salute is any indication, Allen promises to show the relentless trauma black women face every day with the solidarity of friends who can relate to each other.