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Publisher's Summary

This program is read by the author.

"Just brilliant." (Kirkus Reviews)

Heavily autobiographical and infused with magical realism, Black Girl Unlimited fearlessly explores the intersections of poverty, sexual violence, depression, racism, and sexism - all through the arc of a transcendent coming-of-age story for fans of Renee Watson's Piecing Me Together and Ibi Zoboi's American Street.

Echo Brown is a wizard from the East Side, where apartments are small and parents suffer addictions to the white rocks. Yet there is magic...everywhere. New portals begin to open when Echo transfers to the rich school on the West Side, and an insightful teacher becomes a pivotal mentor.

Each day, Echo travels between two worlds, leaving her brothers, her friends, and a piece of herself behind on the East Side. There are dangers to leaving behind the place that made you. Echo soon realizes there is pain flowing through everyone around her, and a black veil of depression threatens to undo everything she’s worked for.

Christy Ottaviano Books

A Macmillan Audio production from Henry Holt and Company

©2020 Echo Brown (P)2020 Macmillan Audio

Critic Reviews

School Library Best Books of the Year 2020
YALSA William C. Morris Finalist 2021

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What listeners say about Black Girl Unlimited

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Incredible.

Echo Brown is a modern Maya Angelou. This book is a fictionalized—but still deeply personal—memoir. Brown hops between timelines mid-scene to draw powerful parallels between multiple experiences. Her use of magic realism took my breath away; she uses it to paint a stunning picture of the kind of resilience required to survive poverty, rape, racism, and addiction-related neglect in America.

The author does a wonderful job reading and acting out her own story. When she cried during the acknowledgements, that got me. <3

2 people found this helpful

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Wonderful Story, Beautifully Read

I first got a glimpse into Echo Brown’s life when I saw her one-woman show – Black Virgins Are Not for Hipsters – which enjoyed a long and successful run in the San Francisco Bay Area. I saw her show at least four times, organizing groups of friends, happy to introduce this gifted storyteller to others. In an hour she invited us into a life that was as challenging as it was filled with love for her family and the community that raised her. And we cheer for all of Echo's triumphs, which are many.

Black Girl Unlimited is a great listen (beautifully read by the author, well worth all eight and a half hours) and is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. The book has all the elements of great storytelling with finely drawn situations and characters. Take her kindergarten classroom in East Cleveland. “School is no ordinary place, it is an extraordinary place for extraordinary little boys and girls . . . We begin each morning by twirling on the magic carpet. It’s old and falling apart like the rest of our school, but Mrs. Jackson-Randolph says we shouldn’t focus on the negatives; we should search for the positives in every situation so we don’t become bitter and discouraged. When the ceiling tiles leak during a big storm, or our toys fall apart, or a mouse darts across the classroom, Mrs. Jackson-Randolph shouts, “but look how much of the ceiling isn’t leaking! Look how many toys we still have! We are blessed and bountiful.” We shriek with glee. We clap. She is right, we still have so much. I know that even more is on the way thanks to the wishes we make while twirling on the magic carpet.” Wow.

Poverty, racism, violence, misogyny rob so many children of the bright futures they should have. We see Echo’s parents, brothers, classmates, teachers, and neighbors in their full humanity. The book is infused with love for all these characters including her mother, whose own life story is filled with hardship and tragedy. We see all sides of her. Echo learns early on that danger lurks - her mother’s words, “this ain’t no place for a gil chile. Lawd, I prays fo da day when someone helps da lil girl chiles of dis wold’, ‘specially da black ones.” It breaks my hear when her mother puts Echo and her brothers in danger as a result of her drug addiction.

She loves and admires her mother who is a wizard who can make something out of nothing. “Reading time is my favorite. I can’t read yet but I love listening to the adventures of all the characters in the stories. Plus, reading time is the only time my mother softens. Her voice and eyes grow warm, and she kisses us on the forehead after each story. I secretly wish reading time will never end.”

You get all this in the first few minutes of the book. Loved it so much, I bought the hard copy as well, which I’ll be donating to my local library, after other family members read it. Do yourself a favor, listen to this, and buy a copy to pass on to someone else.

2 people found this helpful

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Raw, Fantastical, Magical!

I am recommending this book to Black women of all ages. The srory tells the tale of a wise, yet still niave, young girl who blossoms into a wiser yound woman. We follow her throughout her childhood as she tells the story of how she saved herself from the darkness that so many of us have been known to fall prey to. Her relationships with friends and family are relatable in many ways. The imagery and wording makes one feel like they're right in the story. The underlying but very loud subcontext of magic and mental health is a refreshing and beautiful take on the matter. There is inclusivity of other cultures without taking the Black woman away from the main stage. The story is so addictive I read it in a mere just over two days and could absolutely see myself giving it another listen. So many powerful quotes and sayings lie within this text. Definite must read!

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A beautiful discovery

Hi All, peace to you
This audio was first brought to my attention after My daughter choose this book for her bookclub. After listening to it in the author's own voice I became even more inspired to someday write a piece of my story too.
Echo shares some beautiful truths and some dark days that she wholeheartedly lived through.
Sometimes we dont know as bLack women black people our powers and to name it and claim it and talk about the journey of finding people who understand it too was magical. I said go myself, This book is such a smart breakdown of how some of the magic works. How is parallel to our experience here on earth. I loved it!
My daughters book club is for 9-12 and some of the children couldn't participate in this book because It spoke on abuse, drugs and rape, sex and for some parents it's too heavy to speak on at this moment. However I am looking forward to hearing what the two older children have to express and what we will have to unpack about the details of a variety of social experience that this book address.
I cant wait to see if the children recognize other wizards around them after hearing Echo's story.


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BLACNIFICENT

Here is a pure representation of what NINA sang — what LORRAINE penned — Echo is who I see and understand as being young, gifted and black. I am at once filled with hope for my black girls and boys and humbled and honored to witness their wizardry. Black girl magic indeed!

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10/10

I ENJOYED LISTENING TO YOUR SOOTHING STORY. I’m glad that you could share your experiences. This book is sooooo gooood and I can hear the heart and soul in your voice. KEEP WRITING with passion.

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Highly original!

This moving, singular story is extraordinarily beautiful and heartbreaking. Kudos to Echo Brown for her words and her narration.

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Amazing

This book had me on edge from start to finish. I really enjoyed the story and the empowerment of black women in this book in myself being a black woman it’s always interesting to me to know that I’m not alone and there’s other women out here that have been through some of the same things that I have been through in it doesn’t define them

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I love it

I love this book it everything. This book features a teenager of color and how she navigates life and deals with some of the challenges she had no choice or say in. It is beautifully written and relatable.

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Would love to see a movie version

I was pleasantly surprised, didn't expect it to be so relatable. I Want to read more books from Echo. Loved how she portrayed the inner city life, which made it relatable to me. Great read /listen!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-20-20

wow

I was actually gonna give this 3 stars but the ending brought it up for me. The reason why is because she stopped writing about the whole magic thing, I just hated it the entire book and it felt plain stupid to me. I also didnt like the writing - I wish she wouldve written it as a regular memoir. I now know I don't like memoirs written in quirky ways. HOWEVER, the topics, her, her friends, her family etc...WOW. absolutely fantastic. The shit shes gone through is insane and I'm just in tears writing that. I'm in awe of Echo Brown and I truly look up to her now. I'm also really glad I could hear about sexism from a black woman since I feel like it isnt talked enough about.

I reccomend listening to this as an audiobook, she does a GREAT job at doing different voices and accents so you feel more into the story.

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  • L. Hutt
  • 04-26-20

my first audio book - bit cheesy

From the blurb it sounded right up my street. This is my first audio book I'm not sure if it was just that the format didn't suit me or that I really didn't like the book, but the pace was annoying. The 'magic' was overdone, and it was full of cliches. I started to wonder if it was a YA book but then there was a violent part halfway through and it was fairly disturbing.
The story has a nice ending but veers towards super cheesy cringe at points.