I first came across the web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl about four years ago on YouTube and was immediately hooked. Not only was it hilariously funny, but in J,the awkward black girl of the series (played by Issa Rae), I had found my awkward hero, someone I definitely related to and at the time the series represented a sort of validation for my own awkwardness. Finally there was someone who was a little bit like me in all her awkward glory!
Issa Rae quickly became one of my favourite people to follow on YouTube with her sharp humour and brilliantly funny social observations. So imagine my delight when she released her book about her own awkward misadventures.
This is not so much an autobiography but more a collection of personal essays about Issa’s navigation through friendships, family, love and cultural identity, interspersed with ‘ABG guides’ such as connecting with other blacks, eating in public and of course the hot topic of hot topics, natural hair.
The essays are funny and told with an endearing amount of humility and honesty as Issa describes the woes of being a introverted awkward girl trying to fit in with people way cooler and less awkward than her with mostly hilarious and at times slightly cringe worthy results.
I think my favourite elements of the book is where Issa talks about her family, in particular her regular trips to Senegal to visit her father’s family, which provide a small taste of Senegalese culture, and really made me want to visit (another destination to add to the list!). There’s also a very poignant section where she describes trying to connect with her dad and working through her anger about the things that were left unsaid for many years after her parents divorce, and her dad’s seemingly dismissive response to her voicing her feelings. Like the rest of the book, this is told with so much honesty and also with a beautiful respect for her dad, in that she acknowledges her hurt, his mistakes and calls him out on it but in a way that doesn’t diminish her obvious love and respect for him.
My only gripe with Misadventures is that it was not long enough, I was really really sad coming to the end but also inspired. It’s no coincidence that whilst reading this I relaunched Just Read It, as I thought seriously what am I doing with my life, why am I not passionately following my dreams. So Issa, thank you for that metaphorical kick up the bum, and also thank you for making me laugh, laugh, laugh albeit loudly and awkwardly in public!