Notes from a Young Black Chef (Adapted for Young Adults) by Kwame Onwuachi with Joshua David Stein [in School Library Journal]
Narrator Malik Rashad isn’t quite Kwame Onwuachi, who ideally narrated his original 2019 memoir – but here, that’s not necessarily a liability for younger audiences who might need a smidge more animation. Rashad affectingly channels Onwuachi, the self-described “black kid from the Bronx … bold, ambitious, maybe a little arrogant.”
Rashad is gentle when recalling Onwuachi’s supportive mother; initially dismissive then actively inquisitive as Onwuachi discovers his ancestral heritage in Nigeria with his paternal grandfather and extended family; aching as he recounts Onwuachi’s repetitive disappointments because of his abusive father; truculent as Onwuachi fights for respect as an accomplished chef.
What should have been an auspicious debut for talented Rashad, however, is ruined by lazy production glitches, his hard work especially overshadowed by countless clumsy insertions of phrases and sentences.
Verdict: Alas, for aural purists, the annoyances are likely enough to resort to the page.
From the introduction: All the titles here are nonfiction; most feature difficult subjects including history, climate change, systemic racism. Some might ask, why expose younger readers to challenging, unpleasant, haunting truths? One of the featured writers, Hilary Beard, provides the consummate answer back in her introduction to The Burning:
“…the fact that something is upsetting to us doesn’t mean that we should not engage it. Facing the truth empowers us to understand our self, our neighbors, and our world more accurately; to make appropriate choices and decisions; to heal the past and present and build a more promising future. Together.”
Readers: Young Adult