One of our recommended books is Black Girls Must Be Magic by Jayne Allen

BLACK GIRLS MUST BE MAGIC


In this highly anticipated second installment in the Black Girls Must Die Exhausted series, Tabitha Walker copes with more of life’s challenges and a happy surprise—a baby—with a little help and lots of love from friends old and new.

For Tabitha Walker, her grandmother’s old adage, “Black girls must die exhausted” is becoming all too true. Discovering she’s pregnant—after she was told she may not be able to have biological children— Tabitha throws herself headfirst into the world of “single mothers by choice.” Between her job, doctor’s appointments, and preparing for the baby, she’s worn out.

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In this highly anticipated second installment in the Black Girls Must Die Exhausted series, Tabitha Walker copes with more of life’s challenges and a happy surprise—a baby—with a little help and lots of love from friends old and new.

For Tabitha Walker, her grandmother’s old adage, “Black girls must die exhausted” is becoming all too true. Discovering she’s pregnant—after she was told she may not be able to have biological children— Tabitha throws herself headfirst into the world of “single mothers by choice.” Between her job, doctor’s appointments, and preparing for the baby, she’s worn out. And that’s before her boss at the local news station starts getting complaints from viewers about Tabitha’s natural hair.

When an unexpected turn of events draws Marc—her on and off-again ex-boyfriend—back into her world with surprising demands, and the situation at work begins to threaten her livelihood and her identity, Tabitha must make some tough decisions about her and her baby’s future. It takes a village to raise a child, and Tabitha turns to the women who have always been there for her.

Bolstered by the fierce support of Ms. Gretchen, her grandmother’s best friend, the counsel of her closest friends Laila and Alexis, and the calming presence of her doula Andouele, Tabitha must find a way to navigate motherhood on her own terms. Will she harness the bravery, strength, and self-love she’ll need to keep “the village” together, find her voice at work, and settle things with Marc before the baby arrives?

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  • Harper Perennial
  • Paperback
  • February 2022
  • 272 Pages
  • 9780063137929

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About Jayne Allen

Jayne Allen is the author of Black Girls Must Die ExhaustedJayne Allen is the pen name of Jaunique Sealey, a graduate of Duke University and Harvard Law School. An avid traveler, she speaks three languages and has visited five continents. Drawing from her unique experiences as an attorney and entrepreneur, she crafts transcultural stories that touch upon contemporary women’s issues such as workplace and career dynamics, race, fertility, modern relationships and mental health awareness. Her writing echoes her desire to bring both multiculturalism and multidimensionality to a rich and colorful cast of characters inspired by the magic uncovered in everyday life. She calls the Black Girls Must Die Exhausted series “the epitaph of my 30s.” A proud native of Detroit, she currently lives in Los Angeles.

Author Website

Praise

“Sign me up for the trilogy!”— Tia Williams, New York Times bestselling author of Seven Days in June on Black Girls Must Die Exhausted

Discussion Questions

1. In the beginning of Black Girls Must Be Magic, Tabby is grappling with her decision to become a single mother. Did you agree with her decision? Why or why not?

2. Just as she’d started to get comfortable with her self-expression, Tabby has to deal with comments from viewers about her choice of hairstyle. Can you relate? How have you navigated the perceptions of others in your workplace or school environments? Has the desire to advance influenced your decisions?

3. Andouele gives Tabby her personal view on motherhood and single motherhood in particular. Do you feel like society imposes a perspective on single motherhood?

4. What did you think about Marc’s initial reaction to the news from Tabby’s doctor visit? Should Tabby trust the “new” Marc?

5. We see a very different Laila in this book, from her noticeable absence as she builds her startup company to her assertion of boundaries for self-care. In the context of their friendship, Tabby struggles with the disappointments that come with Laila finding herself. Can you relate to this? What advice would you give Tabby? What would you say to Laila if you were in Tabby’s position?

6. Just as it seems like she’s going to get the “fairy tale,” Tabby starts to evaluate what it is that she really wants – life beyond the story of what she feels she’s supposed to want. What do you think Tabby should do?

7. Alexis has her reasons for considering a return to her marriage. Do you think she should go back to Rob? Do you think Alexis has changed? Do you think Rob has changed? What would you do?

8. Ms. Gretchen gives Tabby encouragement and an idea to find courage on the outside when she can’t quite find it on the inside. Do you have a special item or routine that you use when you need a little extra courage? What is it?

9. Tabby’s mom has a particular view of how Tabby should present herself and what’s “supposed” to be, likely similar to most parents. What do you think of her views and what conversation would you want to have with her if you were Tabby?

10. In this book, Tabby’s getting closer to finding her “magic.” What do you think that means for her? What’s your “magic”? Do you think any of the other characters are getting closer to finding their magic as well?

11. As the characters evolve, whom do you most closely relate to in Black Girls Must Be Magic? Tabby, Laila, Alexis, Ms. Gretchen, Mrs. Walker-Williams, or Lisa Sinclair? Someone else?

Excerpt

1

 

“IS IT MINE?”

Across the table, Marc’s face crinkled with intensity as he spoke. Handsome Marc. Elusive Marc. My ex-boyfriend and sometimes-friends-with-benefits Marc. The glow of the Los Angeles brunchtime sun served as a perfect accentuation to his richly hued brown skin and made his eyes look like bottomless flowing pools of melted chocolate. Light danced across his pupils, and I couldn’t tell if it was simple curiosity I was reading there or something more. Being very new to pregnancy, I hadn’t had a chance to really miss alcohol, at least until now. Turning water into wine would be the first of many miracles I needed in this moment. It hadn’t even been two months, but damn, I really missed wine. And before today, I’d also been missing Marc. He had an uncontrollable effect on me; every time we shared space, there was an undeniable thrill that even the deep disappointment of his unavailability couldn’t diminish.

“Is that what you want?” I shot back at him, inhaling sharply and swallowing hard, bracing myself for a harsh response. I hoped he wouldn’t notice how much I cared about his answer. It didn’t matter anyway. Too late now, Tabby. I picked up my water glass, trying to imagine it contained a crisp Chardonnay. Maybe I could get drunk on my own imagination.

The cloud across Marc’s face darkened. “Does that matter to you?” he challenged. “It’s a little late, don’t you think? To be asking that kind of question?” His eyes traveled downward to my still-flat belly and lingered on my just slightly swollen breasts. They had become so sensitive that I could almost feel his gaze physically. When his eyes met mine again, his intense stare caused a traffic jam of words in my throat.

“I mean . . . I guess,” I fumbled. “I . . . I remember you said you didn’t?” My mind continued to spin through deeper thoughts I lacked the courage to say. His glare cut into my contemplation. I started to get the feeling that however I answered the question was going to upset him in some way. But regardless, I owed him the truth. He had a right to know, no matter how it changed our current friendship.

“It doesn’t matter what I said, Tabby. And I didn’t say I didn’t. I said I didn’t know.” His eyes drifted below my breasts again and stared intently, as if he could see inside me to find out for himself.

“Marc, you’re confusing me.” I wiped my forehead with the first two fingers of my right hand out of pure nervousness. Why was I so nervous? “Look, the reality is that yes, I am pregnant—not even two months. And when this conversation started, I was unsure how you’d take the news, but now I really have no idea. So, to answer your question . . .”

Marc used the pause to cut me off and make his next interjection. “The baby’s mine, isn’t it? That’s why we’re here? Just tell me—I can’t take this anymore, Tabby.”

Oh no.

“Marc, the baby . . . it’s . . . it’s not yours.” I got the words out as quickly as I could. “It’s mine. He’s mine.” Marc’s face registered the slow spread of shock.

“Tabby, what in the hell does that mean? How is that even possible? What do you mean it’s not mine—or he’s not? How do you even know he’s a he?” Marc’s words came in a flurry of hard consonants. At this point, he had leaned so far forward that I could almost feel his breath on my face.

“Marc, I know because I went to the doctor.” I said the words slowly, trying to regain control of the spiraling situation. “Timing forced me to make a decision, so I did. I found a donor, and I moved forward with having a baby.” Confusion clouded Marc’s face. I continued, “Only one embryo cleared all the testing—a boy.” Trying to explain something so complicated, thinking about those weeks of waiting and uncertainty and constant fear of loss, the pang of tears began to threaten my eyes. Still, I forced myself to finish. “And, after Granny Tab died, I knew I didn’t want to waste another day before meeting my child. Son, daughter, it didn’t matter. All I wanted . . . Marc, all I want is a healthy baby. And if I didn’t try, maybe I’d lose the chance to ever know . . .” Those words pleading for health were my truth as much they were my daily prayer. It was out of my control now. All of it. The tears that welled blurred the view of Marc in front of me, mercifully hiding his reaction.

“You had a baby with a stranger?” Even though Marc’s voice sounded more like a hiss, I was glad that he’d managed to whisper. “Tabby, I thought you were just freezing your eggs! A donor?” Marc spat the words out and looked away, his hands closed in tight balls on the table. After a few seconds in suspended animation, he finally looked back across at me, his voice now almost an octave higher than his usual, slightly raspy baritone.

“Why are you even telling me this?” This was the exact question I’d been starting to ask myself. It had all made sense before the conversation started. As Marc finished speaking, he made a gesture to the server to come over. He probably wanted the check immediately so he could run for cover like he always did. It’d be fitting, since the last time he ran away from me when we were dating was basically what forced this decision in the first place. But what I wasn’t going to do was to allow him to make me feel bad about it. I sat forward, grounding both of my feet on the floor beneath me.

“Yes, Marc. I had a baby with a donor. And thank God I did. You knew that I didn’t have much time or many options. Maybe you thought I was joking, but my egg reserves were low. Way low. The doctor said if I could, it’d be better to make embryos to even have a shot. I got pregnant, but many women in my situation don’t wind up as lucky.

“Even now, I still have to clear another round of screenings and tests, just to make sure that everything is progressing well. Timing forced a decision and I didn’t have a second to waste or wait—not on you and not on anybody else.”

“Wow, Tabby, this is some heavy shit.” Marc finally leaned back in his seat with a sigh, slouched and deflated. He signaled “one more” to the approaching server, who acknowledged with a nod. “Sorry, did you want something else?” He gestured toward my half-full water glass.

“No, I’m fine,” I said. Regret was fading my patience. “Look, Marc, this is not heavy, and it’s not your problem. There’s no problem here at all, only a blessing. I’m only telling you because . . . because, you know . . . we had . . .”

“Oh damn, Tabby, we were freakin’ while you were getting pregnant? Are you serious?” At this, his body shot upward, and all of a sudden Marc was sitting stick straight again. “Why didn’t you tell me? Were we even supposed to be doing that?” Marc was practically yelling at this point. I had no idea why he cared so much. I tried to stay as calm as possible, and turn my voice into a lullaby.

“Technically no, Marc, we weren’t. But with everything going on, I just needed something familiar, and . . . we have . . . history. I had a lot of decisions to make, and it was nice to be able to count on you for that . . . comfort.” My cheeks reddened. After the years of mine that Marc wasted, I finally had an admission of my own. The expression on Marc’s face was hard to read. His eyes were wide, in contrast to the narrow slits that they had become earlier, and his mouth was still slightly ajar, even though he didn’t seem to be making an effort to say anything. I was willing to answer other questions for him, but at that point, it seemed like anything I offered might be too much.

“I mean, a son . . . a son? Tabby, what are you going to do? You’re going to raise him all alone? As a single mom? Who will be his father figure? His role model?” His words felt like a sharp stab.

“Marc, Black women have mastered raising men as single mothers.” I said, trying not to sound defensive. “My Granny Tab did it with my dad. I have plenty of examples to lean on. And, I will have the village.”

“The what?” Marc’s brow crinkled.

“The village. You’ve never heard that it takes a village to raise a child? I don’t need anything from you, and I’m not asking you for anything, but I’m hoping that we’re actually friends. Maybe one day you’ll be a positive part of my child’s life. But, for right now, I have to get past this next round of tests. I just want him to be healthy. I want me to be healthy. The rest, I’ll worry about after.”

“Tabby, you’re crazy. You know that?” The sides of Marc’s mouth tipped slightly upward for the first time in our tense conversation. His hand reached for his refreshed drink on the table. Ice clinked against the glass as he pulled it up to take a generous sip. He shook his head after he’d finished and just looked at me.

“I’m not crazy, Marc. I’m just doing what I can to live the best life possible, whatever that looks like for me.” And with that said, just like the old days with Marc, I knew I’d be leaving our time together with more questions than answers, more doubt than certainty about the future of our relationship. Somehow, he’d also succeeded in making me doubt myself again. In some ways, Marc had a point. What if I had made the wrong decision? All the things I had felt so certain of started to feel flimsy after our conversation. As my thoughts whirled, Marc seemed to be relaxing into the understanding that the news I’d just delivered was actually not his problem. I watched his face soften further while his eyes continued to study me as if I were some sort of newly discovered being sitting across from him. And then he started to laugh subtly to himself as his demeanor shifted.

“Okay, Tabby,” Marc said. “So you’re not having my baby,” he mocked. “Congratulations. I’m . . . happy for you. Really.” Marc reached for my hand and took it in his. “I’ve gotta admit, I’m relieved as hell. I thought that you were going to come with something entirely different. But this, I’m glad you told me.” Finally, I felt like it was safe to smile. “So now,” he continued, “tell me about this donor . . . and wait, when did you decide to implant the embryo?”

These felt like much easier questions than the ones Marc had introduced earlier, and they had answers. The other questions—“how will you . . .” and “what will you . . .” and “who will . . .”—those did not. At least, not yet.

BRUNCH WITH MARC WAS HARDER THAN I’D THOUGHT IT WOULD be. It left me wondering why I had bothered to tell him at all, especially so early into my pregnancy. Ever since my diagnosis, any news related to my fertility felt like waiting for the other shoe to drop. The waiting game that came along with this baby was even worse. When I went to freeze my eggs, the doctor told me that my reserves were so low that there was no guarantee I’d get another good result. The safest bet was to find a donor, make embryos, and freeze them. So I scrambled into the most unfamiliar online shopping experience ever and bought the most expensive thing that I’d ever bought over the internet. Frozen sperm.

Without any counsel from my friends or any of my family members, who I feared would try to talk me out of it, I did my best to pick someone who had donated because of needs that were more schoolbook than desperation-related, and who my kid could maybe meet someday in the future, hopefully with minimal trauma. That didn’t seem to be asking too much.

Ironically, the whole selection process contained way more information and analysis than most married couples probably go through—school grades by subject, entire family medical histories going back two generations, plus detailed STI and genetic disorder tests. And they even provided essay questions with the donor’s responses so you could check his thought process and—low key—his grammar as well. With all this overwhelming information and the impossible decisions I had to make, I just did the best that I could in the moment. It was nothing I’d planned for, but it happened fast enough to ignore the part of me screaming for more caution.

In the safety of my car on the way home, I thought back to the most critical moment nearly nine weeks prior—the one in my doctor’s office, sitting across from Dr. Young in his neutral-toned room. He was supposed to give me an update over the phone on the third day of my embryo development, but he called me in to see him instead. His face looked stern and serious as I mentally prepared myself for bad news.

“Tabitha, I know this is a lot of information coming all at once. A lot of decisions,” Dr. Young said. “And I’m sorry to add one more choice for you, but you must decide.” I leaned forward with heavy anticipation of his next words. Was something wrong with my embryos? Dr. Young continued solemnly. “Your embryos are developing . . . but slowly, all but one. We think the best chance is to implant now instead of test and freeze on day five. Best time is today, but we can wait until tomorrow latest.” Implant? Did that mean I’d be pregnant? It was all so overwhelming. My Granny Tab had passed away less than a year prior, and the pain that still lingered was a constant reminder that time is promised to no one. But was I ready to be pregnant? I wasn’t. I didn’t have a nursery ready in my new house or a childcare plan or even any thoughts beyond making sure that I preserved my options. If I said no, I stood to lose everything. But still, I hesitated. I waited, deciding to do the testing anyway. When we got to day five, there was only one embryo. Just one. And when the testing cleared, confirming that it, that he, in the miracle of the genetic lottery was deemed “normal,” it didn’t seem right to wait. All I had was a small amount of money left over from Granny Tab and enough faith to muster the courage to tell Dr. Young to move forward with a transfer, but that was enough.

Weeks later, I got my first positive pregnancy test. And where I thought the questions would end, a whole new universe of worries and anxiety opened up. There were so many more tests to be scheduled and risks to be aware of and the notorious first-trimester wait that felt like spending every second of every day walking on the most delicate of eggshells. And I still had to wonder if my body could handle this new life that was growing inside it. I still had to wonder if my heart, mind, and finances could handle all that came along with it. I didn’t have time to consider the questions that Marc threw at me from across the table, the how will yous, what will yous, and the whos of it all. I just knew that I wanted a family more than anything, and at least as far as my own fertility was concerned, that one chance was the most certain thing I had. So I took it. And I hadn’t slept a full night since.