On Monday, awkward black girls from around the A as well as people that appreciate Issa Rae’s special brand of quirky, self-deprecating and smart humor swarmed the Alliance Theatre to attend a book signing for debut author Issa Rae. Her recently released book The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, now a New York Times Best Seller, is a collection of heartfelt essays charting her love affair with the Internet and how she become a YouTube sensation with her comedy series Awkward Black Girl, her journey to loving her natural hair and weight, growing up with an African dad, connecting with other types of (not awkward) black people and more. Since she created her web series in 2011, she has secured more than 25 million views and over 200,000 subscribers on YouTube. And her astonishing success has led to other opportunities including being one of the co-hosts of ASPire’s popularly weekly talk series exhale which will have four new episodes in June. In addition, she developed a TV series with Shonda Rhimes for ABC and is currently developing a half-hour comedy for HBO.
“I ultimately want to be a super producer like a Shonda Rhimes meets Oprah meets Diddy meets Ellen,” Issa Rae said with a laugh after I asked what is her ultimate career goal.
So that ends my official journo recap of Issa Rae’s book signing…Up next, my personal connection with “Awkward Black Girl.”
I’m now at that age (41) where I’m still young enough to look up to people, but I’m just old enough to be inspired by people younger than me as well. It’s an awkward age, but I’m trying to embrace it a day at a time. While chatting with (interviewing) Issa Rae, watching her officially be interviewed by Pearl Cleage at the book signing and listening to her read from her book, I realized that knowing that someone like her would have gone a long way to encouraging the awkward black girl that I was…
So here is a picture of me when I was at my most awkward…that’s me in the pink sweater vest…so cool, lemme tell ya…I was one of three black people in my sixth grade class at Sandy Springs Middle School as you can see…That was awkward enough, but there is more…Although I was of one of three black people, I was the only one bussed to the school that was in a primarily white neighborhood from the south side of Fulton County as a part of the Minority to Majority Program. People assumed I came from the ghetto although I was in private school the year before…I remember one of the white boys in my class asked me if I could rap seeing I was from the hood and all…Did I look I could rap? Yeah, right…With my button-down shirt and clear school boy glasses…My best friends were Judy Blume books and chocolate bars…I think not…(Although Issa Rae can bus a rhyme) And this was around the time that my interest in boys was most painful (other than in my ’30s) because I liked black boys and there were very few of them at the school…And then I couldn’t figure out what to do with my hair…My hair was permed, but I didn’t know how to style it…And let’s just say my fashion sense was in transition…Did I mention I love/loved chocolate? (Yes, I did. See above…) So I was plump (not fat) on top of everything else that made me awkward…
So last night, all of this came back to me particularly as Issa Rae read from her book and later as I sped read through a few of her essays…(I will leisurely read and highlight over the weekend)…
Issa Rae read an excerpt of her first essay, A/S/L, of her book last night in which she described being drawn to the Internet at 11 years old and how her interest in boys burgeoned behind the safe or not-so-safe anonymity of a computer screen…(So glad the Internet wasn’t around when I was that age or I would have been in trooouble…)
Before my parents caught wind of frightening news reports of child predators, I spent my days and after-school evenings in chat rooms, learning to speed read, talking to kids my age who were also ahead of the curve. Or pedophiles, who were remarkably creative and persistent in their forbidden pursuit. Pedos actually had it made in the mid-nineties, before the media exposed them. Talk about the glory days.My friends at school, other fifth graders, didn’t seem to relate when I mentioned “chat rooms” and “profiles” or when I sang along to the dial-up internet song I made up in my head. It seemed that, for a brief moment, only I was privy to this alternate American universe that lived online.By the time my family moved to Los Angeles to join my dad, a pediatrician, who had seized an opportunity to open his own family clinic there, my relationship with the computer had grown immensely, much to the dismay and irritation of my mother.“You’re always on the computer! Go do your homework.”“I already finished.”“Well then, go outside and play!”She just didn’t get it. Only recently, in my late twenties, did she come to realize that my excessive computer use is what led me to becoming the self-employed, almost-focused career woman I am today.
Just delicious, don’t you think?!!! And if you want to read more, you have to buy your own copy of The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl!!!
But before you go, check out more pics from this fun book signing….Shout out to my soror and photographer extraordinaire Tiffany Powell for the awesome pics!!!…Check out her blog www.powell-pics.com.