Three Girls from Bronzeville: A Uniquely American Memoir

I’ve been reading quite a bit lately, picking up and putting down various titles and genres. Most of my reviews are posted via Goodreads, but every once in a while I stumble onto a 5-star book that demands to be shared here.  Three Girls from Bronzeville:  A Uniquely American Memoir of Race, Fate, and Sisterhood debuts on Sept 7, 2021 and is available to pre-order. (I received a digital Advanced Review Copy via NetGalley.com.)

After a career of writing about other people, author Dawn Turner tackles her own coming of age story, skillfully choosing what and how to share her personal experiences growing up in the 1970s with her younger sister and best friend in this powerfully written memoir.

Living in the historic Bronzeville section south of Chicago, these three children of working class parents are inseparable until life draws them on separate paths to adulthood. Although I recognize the historic people associated with Bronzeville (Ida B. Wells, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Coleman, Richard Wright – to name a very few), I am not familiar with Chicago neighborhoods and relied on a map to get a sense of its physical location. If anything, this endeared me more to the story because I could be present in the descriptive recreation of her childhood home without any preconceptions. The author beautifully juxtaposes her family structure within the neighborhood, connecting the original three girls from Bronzeville with the current girls, and Lordy, Lordy, Lordy, the passage of time that consumes it all.

Her memoir richly captures the poignant message that it is up to each individual to find and adhere to a plan for their life. Without one, they are swallowed up by life’s experiences and circumstances. Dawn uses these circumstances to get into college, where she learned how to develop and manage her plan.

While our future is dependent upon our individual ability to recognize and seize opportunity through our own personal determination and hard work, seeing that opportunity often requires others – as guides and mentors. Yet, people can only do so much for others. As Dawn repeatedly tried to be a positive influence, encouraging her sister and best friend, she could not live their lives for them. They made their own choices and experienced more challenging hardships as a result. Also evident throughout the story are the serious effects of recreational drug use in America, intensified with the introduction of crack cocaine in the 1980s. In some ways, “Three Girls from Bronzeville,” shares broad-stroke commonality with J. D. Vance’s bestseller, “Hillbilly Elegy.”

With incredible vulnerability and authenticity, Dawn Turner shares with us some of the most important people who shaped her life – parents, grandmother, aunt, uncle, sister, best friend, teachers, classmates, spouse, in-laws, and daughter. Never perfect, but always real, her story is honest, direct, sometimes shocking, and often sad. I genuinely appreciated her invitation to visit her childhood, to embrace one’s loved ones, and see the long hard work that leads to understanding and forgiveness.

I highly recommend this book.