These third-generation daughters of the Great Migration come of age in the 1970s, in the warm glow of the recent civil rights movement. It has offered them a promise, albeit nascent and fragile, that they will have more opportunities, rights, and freedoms than any generation of Black Americans in history. Their working-class, striving parents are eager for them to realize this hard-fought potential. But the girls have much more immediate concerns.
... wholehearted ... Turner interrupts the monolithic narrative of Black Chicago as ruined and broken, as well as the one-note stereotypes about growing up in public housing. In their place she offers a textured portrait of a moment in time in a particular place ... In episodic chapters that read like self-contained short stories woven together into a whole, Turner seeks to understand how three Black girls with very similar aspirations ended up with wildly divergent fates ... Turner’s suspension between two worlds provides an ideal vantage for the book. Even when she leaves Bronzeville, she never leaves it behind. Like the poet Gwendolyn Brooks and the playwright Lorraine Hansberry, she is a native daughter of Black Chicago with a bone-deep knowledge of the place and its people. Rather than judge her friend and sister for their choices, she holds fast to her through line: 'There but for the grace of God go I' ... Recalling their youth, Turner describes the girls’ unchaperoned roaming through the asphalt landscape with attentive detail, hitting all the familiar touchstones of ’70s Black girlhood.
... uses the trope of little Black girls inventing and reinventing themselves at certain points in history to help define the era and the country. Through the stories of three generations of women, Turner has given us a tutorial of urban decay, White privilege, poor city planning and the influence of fads and digital advances on Black urban teenagers ... Turner is a natural born storyteller and a sponge for knowledge, trivia, memories, gossip and urban folk lore (many Black women readers may be particularly shocked at the origins of a common anatomical nickname). She is a keen observer with a journalist’s curiosity and the wisdom to know that the panorama becomes clearer the narrower the focus ... With each exciting or mundane story from the girls’ upbringings, Turner makes the reader feel that he or she is the only observer in the world at that spot in Bronzeville ... Turner allows the reader to see the next page in that truly American story of migrating and reinvention, through the eyes and adventures of her and her childhood friends. Turner’s tone is true whether she’s describing the girls’ quotidian race to a special spot on a ledge above Bronzeville, in their mid-range building seemingly planted between the projects and a fancy, new apartment complex, or the heart-racing discovery of what her grandmother calls 'that nasty photograph' – a polaroid of a naked Black woman young Dawn finds in the laundry room. She may have begun as an awkward nerd, stumbling through life, afraid to question any rules, but she has clearly grown into a powerful speaker of truth. As narrator of this volume, Turner has learned a thing or six about perspective and forgiveness, acceptance and humility ... At times, the lives and personalities of the adults threaten to eclipse the girls’ tale. Still, this is an exceptional work, a memoir told with honesty, grit and a sly wit that continually takes readers to unexpected places. It makes one hope that Turner might return to this memoir in 10 or 20 years for a second volume. I’m hooked on these women.
Turner's vivid recollections of her girlhood in Bronzeville ground Three Girls from Bronzeville in the experiences of those in the Chicago neighborhood, as Turner expertly combines memoir and social history in her analysis of the many systems that made Bronzeville into the place it is today--and how those same oppressive systems shape the lives of even society's youngest neighbors.