Scales’s childhood in Chicago’s Harold Ickes Projects takes up the bulk of the book’s first quarter, the narrative contrasting with shorter reminiscences from Jordan about her picket-fence, financially stable upbringing in Arkansas. Despite differences in their circumstances–while Scales faced city violence, including a stabbing, Jordan was a cheerleader with a boyfriend’s promise ring–both women endured attacks from bullies and sexual abuse, often from predators with power over them. “I did not tell my mom because I wanted to see her happy,” Jordan notes, heartrendingly, when discussing the demands she endured from her mother’s boyfriend. Befriending each other in college changed everything; though both understood that their bond was powered by something more than friendship, a conventional marriage, cross-country moves, and the expectations of society slowed the inevitable.
The authors’ journey toward love and acceptance is movingly told, with an emphasis on accepting and confronting challenges, such as entering counseling when things get tough. The prose is conversational, with epigrammatic wit, bursts of straight-talk wisdom, and surges of emotion, though readers of contemporary memoir might miss conventional scenecraft and pacing. This compelling dual love story is a vital contribution to the literature of what American life is actually like.
Takeaway: An arresting dual memoir and women’s love story about resilience and honoring one’s truth.
Great for fans of: E. Patrick Johnson’s Black. Queer. Southern. Women., Saeed Jones’s How We Fight for Ourselves.
Design and typography: B+
Marketing copy: A