When the Black Girl Sings

( 23 )

Overview

Lahni Schuler is the only black student at her private prep school. She's also the adopted child of two loving, but white, parents who are on the road to divorce. Struggling to comfort her mother and angry with her dad, Lahni feels more and more alone. But when Lahni and her mother attend a local church one Sunday, Lahni hears the amazing gospel choir, and her life takes an unexpected turn.

It so happens that one of Lahni's teachers, Mr. Faringhelli, has nominated her for a ...

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Overview

Lahni Schuler is the only black student at her private prep school. She's also the adopted child of two loving, but white, parents who are on the road to divorce. Struggling to comfort her mother and angry with her dad, Lahni feels more and more alone. But when Lahni and her mother attend a local church one Sunday, Lahni hears the amazing gospel choir, and her life takes an unexpected turn.

It so happens that one of Lahni's teachers, Mr. Faringhelli, has nominated her for a talent competition, and she is expected to perform a song in front of the whole school. Lahni decides to join the church choir to help her become a better singer. But what starts out as a way to practice singing becomes a place of belonging and a means for Lahni to discover her own identity. In this moving book, acclaimed author Bil Wright tells the story of one girl's search to find a home where she truly belongs.

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Editorial Reviews

Elizabeth Ward
There are a few thin characterizations…but the voices of Lahni and her miserable parents ring true. And Wright certainly knows how to make you feel the music.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Wright (Sunday You Learn How to Box) grabs hold of hard-hitting issues in a realistic and poignant novel that fully commands the audience's attention. Fourteen-year-old Lahni Schuler attempts to come to terms both with her status as the only black student in a school for privileged girls and with the news that her white adoptive parents are separating. This heavily freighted narrative evolves into an inspiring story as Lahni discovers a talent for singing and hidden inner strength. Instead of further dramatizing the negative aspects of Lahni's situation, Wright focuses on his character's efforts to surmount them-a strategy that enables readers to feel empowered alongside Lahni. The other major characters-the passionate gospel choir director, Marcus Delacroix III, and the charismatic soloist, Carietta Chisolm-may look like "round, brown, salt and pepper shakers with hair, in blue robes with red satin stoles" the first time she sees them at the front of the church where they sing, but they practically jump off the page with their positive energy and purpose, further amplifying the novel's vivacious spirit. In the end, Lahni is still a work in progress-which, as Wright illustrates, is the point. Ages 12-up. (Jan.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature
AGERANGE: Ages 12 to 16.

Lahni Schuler is the adopted daughter of two loving parents. They are white. She is black. And they have always been a family. Then, Lahni's father decides he wants a divorce. Lahni's days are then spent comforting her distraught mother as her anger against her father grows. At school, things are just as complicated. Lahni has been nominated for a singing competition by her teacher Mr. Faringhelli. As part of the competition she will have to sing a song in front of the whole school. It is not something she is looking forward to doing, and Mr. Faringhelli will not take no for an answer. Caught up in these trying times, Lahni and her mother begin attending a local church. It is there that Lahni hears the church's amazing gospel choir. She soon joins. Not only does Lahni get the help she needs for the upcoming competition, she also finds a place where she can discover her own identity. This was an enjoyable read with all the twists and turns that are a part of life. Lahni's struggles are palpable, and the search for her identity is honest. The text comes alive with the vivid undertones of well-crafted scenery and characterization. The secondary and some tertiary characters are carefully rendered, and Lahni's first-person narrative actively pulls the reader into her world. This is a recommended read. Reviewer: Monserrat Urena

KLIATT - KLIATT Review
Growing up is difficult, but it's even harder when you are 15-year-old Lahni Schuler and you feel like an outsider at home and at school. Lahni is the only black student at The Darby School for Girls in Connecticut, and she is the only black person at home, too. Her adoptive parents are loving, but culturally Lahni feels deprived. When her parents decide to get a divorce, both Lahni and her mother find solace at the Church of the Good Shepherd where Lahni joins the choir and connects with black people for the first time. The choir director, Marcus Delacroix, and the soloist, Carietta Chisolm, become Lahni's closest friends. Some readers might consider Marcus and Carietta stereotypes. Both of them are fat and love to eat, but Marcus wears flamboyant outfits, flashy jewelry, and women's shoes to suggest his sexuality. One of the subplots involves a white teen who emulates the persona (i.e., rap music, baggy clothes, nickname Onyx 1, and so on) of an urban black teen and nearly stalks Lahni. This seems to be a forced device the author uses to further reinforce Lahni's own confusion about her identity. The conclusion is predictable too. Lahni has been nominated to compete for an art award. Accompanied by Marcus, she sings the winning solo, and it is suggested that her peers will begin to accept her. Despite a few flaws, the depiction of the love expressed in Lahni's adoptive family as well as the tension vividly portrayed when her father moves from New Clarion to New York with his lover is realistic and moving. Wright's use of language is mesmerizing. Age Range: Ages 12 to 18. REVIEWER: KaaVonia Hinton, Ph.D. (Vol. 42, No. 1)
VOYA
Quiet, nanve Lahni is having a tough year. Being the only African American in an exclusive all-girls' school in a suburb of New York City has always been a trial. The fact that her adoptive parents are white only adds to her challenge. When bad boy trouble and a potential divorce are added, the situation becomes almost more than she can handle. Her mother is struggling as well. She eventually drags Lahni with her to an interracial church where everything begins to fall into place for both of them. Lahni meets African American adults for the first time and finds out that it is okay to "use her own voice" both singing in the choir and dealing with her friends and family. Without sugarcoating anything, Wright easily juggles the many issues found in the book with wit, compassion, and humor. The writing is clear, succinct, and never condescending. The main characters are shown as multifaceted people with strengths and weaknesses effectively adding to the authenticity of the book. Recommend this one to middle and high school girls who enjoy books about social situations and fitting in. Reviewer: Angie Hammond
Teri Walton
Lahni is adopted. She is black, and her parents are white. They are great parents who have always had a great relationship with her and with each other. She is the only black girl in her private school. None of this has ever been a problem, but now Lahni's life is full of problems. Her parents are divorcing, and it is turning her world upside down. For the first time, kids at school are making an issue of her race, especially one weird guy. All of this leaves Lahni wondering who she really is. When her music teacher enters her in a school talent competition, she has a chance to find out—and make new friends while she does. Today, there is a real need for books with interracial themes and situations. Bil Wright offers one that addresses the issue from a different angle and is a fun read. Reviewer: Teri Walton
School Library Journal

Gr 6-9
In her eighth-grade year at a private girls' school in Connecticut, African-American Lahni Schuler transitions from feeling like an outsider to achieving self-confidence and self-acceptance. Her adoptive, white parents are separating, and an intimidating white boy is harassing her. Selected to compete for a school music award, Lahni is reluctant to perform or to tell her distracted parents about the competition. When her mother takes her to an interdenominational church, Lahni is captivated by the soulful exuberance of the gospel singing of Carietta Chisholm. She joins the choir and responds to the vocal inspiration of the flamboyant, talented director and organist, Marcus Delacroix III. As Lahni finds her own musical voice, she also begins to accept her parents' divorce, and she confronts her stalker in an outburst of ethnic pride. Lahni is an appealing heroine. Her repartee with insensitive peers, her distress over parental discord, her candid self-assessments, and her attraction to African-American singing ring true. Her white friend, Katie, and a racially mixed cast of supportive adults help Lahni to express her true self. Readers will enjoy the distinctive characters, lively dialogue, and palette of adolescent and racial insecurities in this contemporary, upbeat story.
—Gerry LarsonCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

From the Publisher
* "Wright grabs hold of hard-hitting issues in a realistic and poignant novel that fully commands the audience's attention." —Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Readers will enjoy the distinctive characters, lively dialogue, and palette of adolescent and racial insecurities in this contemporary, upbeat story."—School Library Journal

"Without sugarcoating anything, Wright easily juggles the many issues found in the book with wit, compassion and humor. The writing is clear, succinct, and never condescending. The main characters are shown as multifaceted people with strengths and weaknesses effectively adding to the authenticity of the book."—VOYA

"Lahni's clear, first-person narrative is so authentic, expressing Lahni's identity conflicts even as tension mounts to an exciting climax."—Booklist

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416940036
  • Publisher: Simon Pulse
  • Publication date: 4/7/2009
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 632,650
  • Age range: 12 - 14 Years
  • Product dimensions: 6.98 (w) x 4.26 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Meet the Author

Bil Wright is an award-winning novelist and playwright. His novels include Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy (Lambda Literary Award and American Library Association Stonewall Book Award), the highly acclaimed When the Black Girl Sings (Junior Library Guild selection), and the critically acclaimed Sunday You Learn How to Box. His plays include Bloodsummer Rituals, based on the life of poet Audre Lorde (Jerome Fellowship), and Leave Me a Message (San Diego Human Rights Festival premiere). He is the Librettist for This One Girl’s Story (GLAAD nominee) and the winner of a LAMI (La Mama Playwriting Award). An associate professor of English at CUNY, Bil Wright lives in New York City. Visit him at BilWright.com.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 23 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 23 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2011

    great read so uplifting

    the fear we all have as we grow up .trying to fit in and discovering who and what we are! THEN WE OPEN OUR MOUTHS AND SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL COMES OUT FROM DEEP WITHIN US SOMETHING WE DID NOT KNOW WAS THERE!! what joy great story

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 1, 2010

    very inspiring and touching! A MUST-READ!!! :)

    This was an AWESOME book. I believe this is a must read for girls especially. It teaches you that you need to believe in yourself & that no matter the color of your skin, or who or what your parents are. This book is amazing and helps you notice that you can be who want to be or do what you can if you just and trust in yourself. Believe you can do anything your mind sets you to and that with the help of God, you can do anything. You should buy this book whenever you can because i HIGHLY recomend it! This story made me notice no matter who I am, I can make myself do anything. This book lifts your spirit up and makes you notice things, you may have not even notice in life. READ THIS BOOK!!!! :)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 30, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A PLACE TO BELONG

    WHAT A WONDERFUL STORY FOR YOUNG TEENS. THE TITLE OF THIS BOOK CAUGHT MY EYE WHEN I WAS IN THE LIBRARY, SO I DECIDED TO GIVE IT A READ. WHAT A BREATH OF FRESH AIR. I HAD A GREAT TIME READING ABOUT LAHNI SCHULER, A YOUNG GIRL TRYING TO COPE WITH BEING THE ONLY BLACK GIRL IN HER SCHOOL. BUT, IF THAT ISN'T HARD ENOUGH, SHE IS ALSO ADOPTED BY TWO LOVING WHITE PARENTS TRYING TO RAISE HER WHILE DECIDING TO GET A DIVORCE. LAHNI HAS A BEAUTIFUL VOICE WHICH IS A GIFT FROM GOD, AND SHE USES THAT AS AN ESCAPE AND A COPING DEVICE, FOR ALL THE CRAZINESS THAT IS GOING ON AROUND HER. A WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL READ. ENJOY........

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2009

    Great Book

    This book is very inspiring and it teaches young girls that no matter what your race or your situation you can find yourself by expressing it through music or anything that shows your true self.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 19, 2008

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    Reviewed by Randstostipher "tallnlankyrn" Nguyen for TeensReadToo.com

    Lahni Schuler sometimes just doesn't understand her life. <BR/><BR/>She doesn't understand why a Caucasian couple would adopt an African American baby. She doesn't understand why they would enroll that girl in a private school where she is the only African American. She doesn't understand why some of the girls at the school are so snotty and so ignorant, especially towards her. And she definitely doesn't understand why her parents are continuously arguing, when just weeks ago they would all watch movies together as a happy family. <BR/><BR/>What she does know is that she doesn't fit in, that her comfort zone involves keeping to herself, sometimes not even telling her best friend, Katie, everything, and that she has to be strong, especially for her mother, and that somewhere inside she has this amazing voice. <BR/><BR/>Mr. Faringhelli knows this, too, and wants Lahni to sing in a competition. Of course, Lahni isn't so sure about this, since it is out of her comfort zone, and she just doesn't think she could do it. Then the perfect timing comes into place when she decides to sing for her church's choir; what better way to practice singing, especially in front of a live audience. She not only surprises herself with this bold move, but also her mother. It's finally a place for Lahni to improve, to fit in, to forget all of her worries that continue to trouble her. It is the perfect escape. <BR/><BR/>Even though she does have the choir to comfort her, she knows that she will still have to deal with the girls at her school, and with her father leaving all of the time on little trips during the week, acting clueless and not wanting to talk about the situation at all. And she still has to deal with the singing competition. Just as long as she knows she has her friends and the ones she loves by her side, she can accomplish anything. <BR/><BR/>WHEN THE BLACK GIRL SINGS is an inspirational story that will amaze all readers. The story of a girl who never fit in until she finally embraced her talent and turned it into something beautiful, shows how anyone, regardless of race, or gender, or size, can easily accomplish anything, just as long as they know they can. This is one well-written novel that will be enjoyed by generations to come.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2012

    Awesome

    AWESOME very very

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