Join BookBrowse today and get access to free books, our twice monthly digital magazine, and more.

Reviews of Three Girls from Bronzeville by Dawn Turner

Three Girls from Bronzeville

A Uniquely American Memoir of Race, Fate, and Sisterhood

by Dawn Turner

Three Girls from Bronzeville by Dawn Turner X
Three Girls from Bronzeville by Dawn Turner
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2021, 336 pages

    Paperback:
    Jun 2022, 336 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Valerie Morales
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

A "beautiful, tragic, and inspiring" (Publishers Weekly, starred review) memoir about three Black girls from the storied Bronzeville section of Chicago that offers a penetrating exploration of race, opportunity, friendship, sisterhood, and the powerful forces at work that allow some to flourish…and others to falter.

They were three Black girls. Dawn, tall and studious; her sister, Kim, younger by three years and headstrong as they come; and her best friend, Debra, already prom-queen pretty by third grade. They bonded—fervently and intensely in that unique way of little girls—as they roamed the concrete landscape of Bronzeville, a historic neighborhood on Chicago's South Side, the destination of hundreds of thousands of Black folks who fled the ravages of the Jim Crow South.

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: hiding under the dining room table and eavesdropping on grown folks' business; collecting secret treasures; and daydreaming about their futures—Dawn and Debra, doctors, Kim a teacher. For a brief, wondrous moment the girls are all giggles and dreams and promises of "friends forever." And then fate intervenes, first slowly and then dramatically, sending them careening in wildly different directions. There's heartbreak, loss, displacement, and even murder. Dawn struggles to make sense of the shocking turns that consume her sister and her best friend, all the while asking herself a simple but profound question: Why?

In the vein of The Other Wes Moore and The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, Three Girls from Bronzeville is a piercing memoir that chronicles Dawn's attempt to find answers. It's at once a celebration of sisterhood and friendship, a testimony to the unique struggles of Black women, and a tour-de-force about the complex interplay of race, class, and opportunity, and how those forces shape our lives and our capacity for resilience and redemption.

Chapter One
Our Ledge

I often think about my sister and my best friend. Not every minute. Not even every day. I mostly think of them when I am experiencing something I would have wanted to share. Some moment that would allow us to tug on a line, thin as a filament, that begins "Remember when…" and draws a seemingly ever-present past nearer.

When I imagine us, we come into focus at our beginning—three young girls walking through our neighborhood under a prickly summer sun. I am nine years old, tall and lanky with long, ropy braids. Debra, my best friend, is shorter than me and, at eight and a half, is already prom-queen pretty. And then there's my sister, Kim, three years my junior. She's stealthily trailing us, even though I've bribed her with our mother's secret stash of lemon drops to stay away.

Mom is watching us from our eleventh-floor apartment window. She has told us to go outside and play.

"You two are the nosiest children God ever gave breath to," she always says. "...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!
  • award image

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Dawn is the story's anchor. While her resilience is the stuff of legends — the poor girl who tramples class barriers to write for the Chicago Tribune — her success isn't contagious. Debra and Kim have a tumultuous and predictable struggle, beginning in adolescence. And yet Turner's memoir isn't just about destiny and friendship. Her ability to masterfully dissect racialized Chicago, her parents' marriage and her father's flaws give the story its strength. In our society, we are repeatedly told that children of the working class have damaged psyches. Turner wants us to know there is more to it than that...continued

Full Review (849 words)

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

(Reviewed by Valerie Morales).

Media Reviews

New York Times
Turner, a former columnist for the Chicago Tribune and the author of two novels, 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...Turner's suspension between two worlds provides an ideal vantage for the book.

Washington Post
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...She is a keen observer with a journalist's curiosity and the wisdom to know that the panorama becomes clearer the narrower the focus...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.

Booklist (starred review)
Astounding.

Library Journal (starred review)
[A]bsorbing...Turner shares Debra's and Kim's stories with aplomb, celebrating the bright moments of their lives while honestly depicting their suffering. She has a stellar ability to present the personalities of her loved ones, especially the women in her life. This memoir is a compelling testament to the power of women's relationships.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[A]n immersive and often heartbreaking portrait of life in the historic Bronzeville section of Chicago...By turns beautiful, tragic, and inspiring, this is a powerful testament to the bonds of sisterhood and the importance of understanding the conditions that shape a person's life choices.

Kirkus Reviews
A sensitive tale of tragedy and redemption against formidable odds.

Author Blurb Alex Kotlowitz, author of An American Summer
Dawn Turner's Three Girls from Bronzeville is a beautiful ode to friendship and family, and an openhearted story of the unique journeys of Black women. Turner's story, told with unwavering candor, is by turns heartbreaking and stirring. This poignant memoir wouldn't let me go.

Author Blurb Bridgett M. Davis, author of The World According To Fannie Davis
Deep love and deep loss thrum throughout Dawn Turner's poignant and stunning memoir, a tale of sisterhood and friendship between three girls across time and place. Heartbreak but also redemption fuel this complex and nuanced story, upending everything we think we know about Black women who lose their way. The seamless blend of personal tale and astute reportage is remarkable, given that the book is also a suspenseful page-turner. I read breathlessly and choked up often, thinking, There but for the grace of God go I.

Author Blurb Jeff Hobbs, author of The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace
Three Girls from Bronzeville is such a beautiful and shattering book, and a rare read in which the delicate craft of the writing itself matches the depth of the themes it explores: coming of age, the invisible burdens of abandonment and poverty and racism, the impossible loyalties of friendship, triumph and regret, and—above all—love. This story is told with grace, humility, and courage. It will remain with me always.

Reader Reviews

Tony C.

Solid Non-Fiction
"The Secret Keeper of Jaipur" by Alka Joshi starts when a much-hyped theater watches its balcony collapse, and we then move backward to experience the back story. Luckily, the author provides a cast of characters like a glossary since those...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

The Science of Forgiveness

Could you forgive the person who murdered your beloved son?

Weeks after Debra Trice was convicted of the first-degree murder of Raymond Jones she received a letter. It was from Margaret Jones, Raymond's mother. Mrs. Jones wrote, "[Y]ou have my forgiveness. So, when you feel you cannot make it, look up and talk to God, Jehovah is his name. Don't think of not living. He will not give you more than you can bear." She ended the letter with, "Please don't do anything to hurt your mother and sister's heart. They love you very much. Show them you are strong, not for yourself, but for them."

Debra is the sassy, pretty girl in Dawn Turner's memoir Three Girls from Bronzeville: A Uniquely American Memoir of Race, Fate, and Sisterhood. She ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Read-Alikes

Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Three Girls from Bronzeville, try these:

  • Pulling the Chariot of the Sun jacket

    Pulling the Chariot of the Sun

    by Shane McCrae

    Published 2024

    About this book

    An unforgettable memoir by an award-winning poet about being kidnapped from his Black father and raised by his white supremacist grandparents.

  • Orphan Bachelors jacket

    Orphan Bachelors

    by Fae Myenne Ng

    Published 2024

    About this book

    From the bestselling and award-winning author of novels Bone and Steer Toward Rock, Fae Myenne Ng's Orphan Bachelors is an extraordinary memoir of her beloved San Francisco's Chinatown and of a family building a life in a country bent on their exclusion

We have 6 read-alikes for Three Girls from Bronzeville, but non-members are limited to two results. To see the complete list of this book's read-alikes, you need to be a member.
Search read-alikes
How we choose read-alikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Join our inner reading circle, go ad-free and get way more!

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Last Bloodcarver
    The Last Bloodcarver
    by Vanessa Le
    The city-state of Theumas is a gleaming metropolis of advanced technology and innovation where the ...
  • Book Jacket: Say Hello to My Little Friend
    Say Hello to My Little Friend
    by Jennine CapĂł Crucet
    Twenty-year-old Ismael Reyes is making a living in Miami as an impersonator of the rapper/singer ...
  • Book Jacket: The Painter's Daughters
    The Painter's Daughters
    by Emily Howes
    Peggy and Molly Gainsborough are sisters and best friends, living an idyllic life in 18th-century ...
  • Book Jacket: Beverly Hills Spy
    Beverly Hills Spy
    by Ronald Drabkin
    When it comes to espionage, not only is truth stranger than fiction, sometimes it can be downright ...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
Half a Cup of Sand and Sky
by Nadine Bjursten
A poignant portrayal of a woman's quest for love and belonging amid political turmoil.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Stone Home
    by Crystal Hana Kim

    A moving family drama and coming-of-age story revealing a dark corner of South Korean history.

  • Book Jacket

    The House on Biscayne Bay
    by Chanel Cleeton

    As death stalks a gothic mansion in Miami, the lives of two women intertwine as the past and present collide.

Who Said...

There is no worse robber than a bad book.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

S B the B

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.