by Kendra Allen
An arresting and one-of-a-kind memoir about the alternately exultant and harrowing trip growing up as a Black child desperate to create a clear reality for herself in this country
Written in a distinctive voice and filled with personality, humor, and pathos, Fruit Punch is a memoir unlike any other, from a one-of-a-kind millennial talent. Growing up in Dallas, Texas, in the nineties and early 2000s, Kendra Allen had a complicated, loving, and intense family life filled with desire and community but also undercurrents of violence and turmoil. “We equate suffering to perseverance and misinterpret the weight of shame,” she writes. As she makes her way through a world of obscureness, Kendra finds herself slowly discovering outlets to help navigate growing up and against the expected performance of being a young Black woman in the South—a complex interplay of race, class, and gender that proves to be ever-shifting ground.
Fruit Punch touches on everything from questions of beauty and how we form concepts of ourselves—as a small rebellion, young Kendra scratched a hole into every pair of stockings she was forced to wear—to what it means to grow up in her great uncle’s Southern Baptist church—with rules including “No uncrossed ankles” and “No questions.” Inflected by a powerful sense of place and touched by poetry, Fruit Punch is a stunning achievement—a memoir born of love and endurance, fight or flight, and what it means to be a witness, from a blisteringly honest and observant voice.