Publisher/Date: Riverhead Books, Jan. 2001
Genre: Coming of Age
When reading Shay Youngblood’s BLACK GIRL IN PARIS, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped in to France’s capital city yourself. You’ll rendezvous with Eden, the protagonist in Youngblood’s adventurous tale, as she travels the city in search of literary greatness and her mentor, James Baldwin.
Eden grew up a poor Southern girl in Birmingham, when in the late 1960s, the racial climate was violent at its worst. The four girls killed in the infamous church bombing was a significant event in Eden’s young life, and she vows to one day live in a city where life is free. In Paris, Eden believes, black people are just people and not a color.
So at age 26, recently graduated and looking for something more, Eden takes off to Paris. She arrives with only $200 but hopes to gain immeasurable riches from life experiences.
During her stay in the City of Lights, Eden befriends many eccentric personalities, including her flamboyant tour guide, Indego, who shows her the real Paris that tourists never see. She also involves herself in romantic tête-à-tête with Ving, a white jazz musician. It is with him that despite how liberated Paris seems, she’s reminded with disdain that she’s still a black woman. Eden also engages in an erotic friendship with a woman, Luce, which teaches her the true meaning of love.
Every adventure, every moment is vividly captured in Eden’s expedition in Paris that you feel as if you’re there, traveling with her through the French boulevards and savoring the foods. Although her outing was the poor man’s experience of Paris–many days she didn’t know where she would lay her head that night– she emerged a much stronger person.
Youngblood’s lyrical prose was superb, and her characters rang true. I wouldn’t take nothing her
Eden’s journey now — except to one day go myself.
Reviewed January 2006