Issa Rae's "Awkward Black Girl"
I was a sophomore in college when “Awkward Black Girl” dropped on YouTube. Webseries were still in their infancy, YouTube beauty “gurus” were just starting to nail down sponsorships—it was a different YouTube content creator’s world back then (yes, I say that with faux nostalgia dripping from my lips. Or maybe it’s Talenti. I should get a towel.)
But for me and my friends, Issa’s “Awkward Black Girl” was as much a part of our pop culture consumption as “Scandal” Thursday’s and the slow-dying “Gossip Girl” series finale viewing parties (Hey, treat yourself--those "Scandal" and "Gossip Girl" links are to vintage #BrionnaJimerson content during college days. Thanks, Internet.
It was an EVENT whenever Issa and the team dropped a new episode. Her narrative of an awkward, introverted young woman straddling several worlds and levels of self-discovery fit right into our experiences, our humor, and our hunger for deadpan comedy that looked like the Internet but felt like much more. Since those days, I’ve probably watched ABG seasons 1 and 2 at least a dozen times each. As a consumer of Issa’s creative work (and her business savvy), I’m now comfortable acknowedging myself as an insecure, awkward, black lifetime patron of Ratchetpiece Theatre and honorary Double Mint Twin.
What I Loved About “Awkward Black Girl”
The first line of “Awkward Black Girl” had me like (GIF.) I was reading it during my work commute when the first line stung me in the face like disrespectful 30 degree winds:
“At only 11 years of age, I was a cyber ho." - Issa Rae, "The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, p.1
The book is divided into chapters, ranging from autobiographical to vignettes and musings on culture, dating and fidelity, coming of age, career, and being black in America. At every turn, it feels like Issa is whispering to you, “I went through this, you gon' be alright."
On the 99’s and the 2000’s: TV Representation, and the Return of Empathy
Growing up, shows like "Moesha", "Martin", "Kenan and Kel", "Family Matters" (AKA “Urkel”), "Living Single", "Martin", and "A Different World" filled up my mental registry of relatable black people as regulars on my TV. It can be demoralizing if the pop culture that you consume doesn’t represent you in the meaningful ways you need. It can be hard to create loving links for yourself. I'm grateful that empathy is back, and just in time for my quarter-life crises. In the 'era' of "Scandal," "Sleepy Hollow," "Empire," everything Mara Brock Akil touches ("Being Mary Jane" and "Girlfriends"), "Atlanta," and everything in between, I'm grateful there's an empathic space as we try to love ourselves every day.
On My Creative Journey: "Bri Books" is to me what "Awkward Black Girl" was to Issa
For me, my podcast is for me what "Awkward Black Girl" was for Issa Rae--it's not so much a foot in the door, it’s about saying the following to myself:
- YES, I can create something of value that serves a community.
- YES, I can put TIME behind PASSION.
- YES, I'll create like no one knows my name.
I recommend the book! I loved reading Issa's development into herself. I love that Issa learned quickly and she learned hard. She figured things out very quickly, even the difficult parts. Pick up "The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl" and treat yo self.