In the latest episode of JARO’s Podcast, Tomeka M. Winborne had the pleasure of speaking with debut novelist and 2019 Kirkus Prize Finalist Alicia D. Williams about her acclaimed book Genesis Begins Again. The hour-long conversation details Williams’ early writing process and the novel’s plot. Williams takes listeners through a poignant yet hopeful adolescent journey impacted by colorism and abuse, and also shares her key advice for aspiring novelists.
Here is the book’s official synopsis, courtesy of Williams:
“Genesis Begins Again is a deeply sensitive and powerful novel that tells the story of a thirteen-year-old who must overcome internalized racism and a verbally abusive family to finally learn how to love herself.
There are ninety-six things Genesis hates about herself. She knows the exact number because she keeps a list. Like #95: Because her skin is so dark, people call her charcoal and eggplant—even her own family. And #61: Because her family is always being put out of their house, belongings laid out on the sidewalk for the world to see.
When your dad is a gambling addict and loses the rent money every month, eviction is a regular occurrence. What’s not so regular is that this time they all don’t have a place to crash, so Genesis and her mom have to stay with her grandma. It’s not that Genesis doesn’t like her grandma, but she and Mom always fight—Grandma haranguing Mom to leave Dad, that she should have gone back to school, that if she’d married a lighter skinned man none of this would be happening, and on and on and on.
But things aren’t all bad. Genesis actually likes her new school; she’s made a couple friends, her choir teacher says she has real talent, and she even encourages Genesis to join the talent show. But how can Genesis believe anything her teacher says when her dad tells her the exact opposite? How can she stand up in front of all those people with her dark, dark skin knowing even her own family thinks lesser of her because of it? Why, why, why won’t the lemon or yogurt or fancy creams lighten her skin like they’re supposed to? And when Genesis reaches #100 on the list of things she hates about herself, will she continue on, or can she find the strength to begin again?”
In closing, Williams offered a few words of encouragement for striving authors. While she understands this isn’t a viable option for everyone, Williams emphasized the role that graduate school had on allowing her to turn her goal of writing a book into reality. School helped her to become motivated, learn the craft of writing, brought forth a sense of community, and put her in contact with others who were already achieving the same dream she had. “If you want to do it, invest in your career,” said Williams.
Pick up a copy of Genesis Begins Again at your local bookshop, or order online through Amazon. To stay up to date with Alicia, connect with her on Facebook here.