Fantasy allows writers and readers alike to explore modern issues in a fictional setting, shedding a different light on traumas and imbuing powers to little girls. Violence at the hands of men is unfortunately not unknown to girls. According to World Health Organization, WHO, one in three women face physical or sexual violence. It’s unnerving to consider the statistics for women and girls of color. B. Lynn Carter tackles this and the incredible courage it takes to muster one’s power in her book, Jus Breathe. We see how generational trauma impacts us as Dawn escapes the violent home of her stepfather for a toxic love affair with Danny. Along with this internal fight, Dawn fights internally with “Midnight Duckling,” an entity with sway over her ability to breathe, in this epic of adversity and triumph.
The story opens with the first of Dawn’s trials: the departure of her father. Before this, their house is a discordant but persistent undercurrent of music, with Dawn likening her Momma and Papa as a duet. But after an accusation of parentage, Dawn’s father leaves. During a panic attack, Dawn’s mother holds her and soothes her, whispering, “jus breathe.” Throughout the book, Dawn is learning to breathe through the heartache. Her mother foreshadows: “It gon take yo mine ta deal wit dis. You need to be da master of yo own mine…Jus breathe.”
The “It” that stole Dawn’s breath is the Duckling, which reappears in Dawn’s moments of distress. In this way, the “Duckling” can symbolize the insecurities sown by past traumas and disappointments. Even Dawn’s superpower, “leaving time,” is akin to trauma response. And once she finds a person who won’t leave in Danny, it feels impossible to leave because care and nurturance are not guaranteed outside of Danny. In Dawn sits a fear of the unknown. So, killing the Duckling is not only allowing her the freedom of breath, but of autonomy.
There is a layer in Jus Breathe, which feels like a blend of Jazz by Toni Morrison and Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson. All explore the stories of Black folks, specifically Black girls and women, as they are in reality. Dawn feels real because she is real; she embodies the tenacity asked of girls, especially Black girls. With this offering, Carter ensures a happy ending for at least one Black girl. With resilience, strength, and the power of her breath, Dawn returns to music and takes a lesson from Aretha Franklin: she was always worthy of love and respect.
|Author||B. Lynn Carter|
|Page Count||408 pages|
|Amazon||Buy this Book|