cover image Training School for Negro Girls

Training School for Negro Girls

Camille Acker. Feminist, $17.95 trade paper (232p) ISBN 978-1-936932-37-5

This sharp and sensitive collection, Acker’s debut, traces the lives of black women and girls in Washington, D.C., across different neighborhoods, socioeconomic statuses, and decades. In “Cicada,” young Ellery impresses the crowd and emerges victorious at her piano recital, only to be brought back down to reality afterward, noticing the differences between her family and those of the players around her. “All the Things You’ll Never Do” follows a power-obsessed TSA agent—who has never been on an airplane—from her work shift to the bar, where she attempts to feel superior to everyone around her. The heartrending “Now, This” chronicles the daily drudgery of Rae, nearing menopause and haunted by failed relationships, as she decides whether or not to lower her standards for a new romantic possibility. Acker’s eye for simple details illuminates: A young girl notices how “[Her mother] always knew how much things cost without looking at price tags,” and a game of double Dutch threatens a teacher as she watches—“The ropes would savage you. It was hard to see the escape route and how to land unscathed.” Grappling with ideas like gentrification and social-climbing through the fine-tuned eyes of her characters, Acker never oversimplifies or neatens the complexities that make up life. (Oct.)