Three Girls from Bronzeville: A Uniquely American Memoir of Race, Fate, and Sisterhood by Dawn Turner
Published by Simon & Schuster
Publication date: September 7, 2021
Genres: Book Clubs, Non-fiction, Memoir
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Dawn and her baby sister, Kim, live in an apartment building in the South Chicago neighborhood known as Bronzeville. In the apartment above them lives Debra, Dawn’s best friend. The area is the hub of the Great Migration—Blacks fleeing the Jim Crow South for the prospect of prosperity and equality. Three Girls from Bronzeville is a memoir by Dawn Turner about how she, her sister, and her best friend all started in the same place, but ended living wildly disparate lives.
In the 1970s, Bronzeville was a vibrant artistic, cultural, and economic community fueled by the momentum of the civil right movement. The Turners, Dawn and Kim’s family, have lived there for four generations, first in public housing but now in a private apartment complex. Dawn’s parents divorce when she’s in second grade and shortly after this she meets Debra at school. Debra, who is her exact opposite—bossy, talkative, brave. The two realize that Debra’s apartment, and therefore her bedroom, is directly above Debra’s. A fast friendship is born, with little sister Kim as the annoying tag-along.
From here, Three Girls from Bronzeville progresses through the three lives, from childhood to adult. By seventh grade, the once inseparable Dawn and Debra begin drifting apart, with Debra being more interested in boys, parties, hanging out in a group. Dawn’s focus is on school and getting to college, while Kim’s seems to be on aggravating their mother and getting into trouble for stealing and skipping school. When Debra’s family moves to Indianapolis the girls’ time together is over. They manage to stay in touch off and on, but the differences in their lives impinges on their previous closeness.
Given how well Turner writes it’s no surprise that she went on to become a novelist. But there’s a world of difference between creating a story and recounting one’s own life for the page. Her task is even more difficult, writing a memoir not just of her life, but of two other women. She accomplishes it with an immediacy that’s riveting. Dawn, Debra, and Kim all have lives that include darkness, whether it’s racism, abuse, sexism, or addiction, but Turner conveys resilience and joy as well. It all comes together to make Three Girls from Bronzeville an intimate portrait of a time, a place, three girls, and their lives.
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*I received a free copy of this book from Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review.*