‘Black Girls Must Die Exhausted’ examines what it takes to live a full life

'Black Girls Must Die Exhausted' examines what it takes to live a full life
Photo courtesy of CURT SOVA

Author Jayne Allen gives us an enjoyable and relatable peek into the life of main character Tabitha Walker, a “Black woman with a plan to have it all” in her early 30s and living in Los Angeles. Allen introduces us to Tabitha’s girlfriends, boyfriend, family, and her functioning ecosystem wrapped up in career and life’s pleasantries like boozy brunches. And then the boom drops as the central conflict revolves around the news Tabitha gets about her waning fertility and how that causes her to rethink life, love and her timeline for getting all that she wants out of life.

The storyline of fertility issues for Black women has been increasingly represented in written and televised content of late, and this novel does an engaging job of balancing page-turning scenes, character development and affinity with presenting a nuanced perspective of a 30-something, unmarried Black woman dealing with her fertility issues. And not just how she internally chose to process and make decisions around the news, but how she shares it with her mother, her two good girlfriends, one who is married and the other who is very single, and the man she is dating. The news shakes up her relationship with her boyfriend and does not offer a Cinderella ending in the least bit based on how he reacts to the information.

'Black Girls Must Die Exhausted' examines what it takes to live a full life

One of the most poignant parts of the novel is how Tabitha maintains a close relationship with her grandmother, a White woman, who at one point in the book begins to reveal her history and background of dating interracially at a time when it wasn’t accepted. Tabitha is her grandmother’s namesake, and they are so close she visits her frequently and talks to her about all sorts of issues in her life, including her romantic ones. They also discuss the dynamics of race whereby the premise of the novel’s title is revealed. I found myself wishing I’d had a similar relationship with either one of my grandmothers who have long since passed away.

When I received this book, the title was intriguing, and I perceived it to be a novel based on Black girls’ constant struggles in life and how that can leave us exhausted. And that is in the novel for sure. But it also presents another form in the story of ebullient exhaustion from living a full life, of leaving nothing on the table and riding the waves of life until the wheels fall off. I polished this book off during my time in the Catalina mountains in Tucson, Arizona, and it reminded me of the happy exhaustion we all seek to attain at the end of our life’s journey.


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