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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.
Kendra Allen was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. She is the author of The Collection Plate and When You Learn the Alphabet, and writes the music column “Make Love in My Car” for Southwest Review. In her spare time, she loves laughing and leaving. You can keep up with her work at KendraCanYou.com.
"Allen’s rendering of the material is visceral and unique, and her insights are powerful. . . . A piercing coming-of-age narrative from an original voice." — Kirkus Reviews
“Fruit Punch is a deeply visceral, vividly written tale of how to both survive and honor a complicated family. Kendra Allen has given us a loving memoir full of deep truths, dramatic moments, and undeniably gorgeous prose—how lucky we are to have her talents in the world.” — Jami Attenberg, author of I Came All This Way to Meet You and The Middlesteins
"A stunning and original memoir about Black girlhood and coming of age. Allen is both storyteller and poet, observing the world with curiosity and humor. Fruit Punch is simultaneously brilliant cultural commentary and an intimate portrayal of family and community, and it will stay with me for a long, long time." — Jaquira Díaz, author of Ordinary Girls
“Ntozake Shange implored, ‘Somebody, anybody, sing a black girl's song,’ and in Fruit Punch, Kendra Allen sings fiercely for all of us who have been shattered and disregarded, and yet somehow press on. Stunning, poetic, and absolutely devastating, this book broke and healed my heart.” — Deesha Philyaw, author of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies
"Wholly original and unsparing...Allen’s prowess comes through in her blunt rendering of the powerlessness she struggled against as a Black woman navigating race and sexuality in the South...Indeed, the narrative rarely lets up in its frank or discomfiting depictions, but it yields a refreshingly authentic look at what it means to create oneself in a contradictory world." — Publishers Weekly
“Allen bestows a fresh literary voice on this memoir filled with humor, honesty, and thought-provoking truth…readers will enjoy Allen's intimate writing and the wit she weaves in between epiphanies. With admirable and inspiring vulnerability, Allen brings readers along in her journey to understand her very makeup. Life doesn't grant happy endings, she reminds us; but rather a revolving door of growth and self-reflection.” — Booklist
“[P]owerful…[Allen's] writing is filled with insight and humor, and provides a nuanced representation of often-marginalized voices.” — Washington Post
“As she reflects on her complicated yet loving relationship with her family, Allen beautifully weaves in issues of race, class, and gender.” — The Root
"A strong, unflinching memoir." — Book Riot
"Sensitive and lyrical...Writing in masterfully composed vignettes as vivid and fleeting as real memories, Allen excavates the anger, powerlessness and wonder she experienced as a young Black girl learning to navigate the world...A hauntingly precise meditation...Truly dazzling...A startling, unique and deeply poetic work from a writer on the rise." — BookPage, starred review
"What I love about Allen’s writing is the way it seems to mirror the inside of someone’s brain — equal parts poetry, memory, logic, and the fuzzy spaces in between...the stories of her experience as a Black child and woman are worth what they ask of the reader." — Chapter16.org
“There are no tropes or platitudes here; Allen exhibits the same assertiveness and transparency that she showed in her previous books…Complete with ’90s-baby cultural references to Morgan Freeman and Mary J. Blige, the book is a reading experience all its own, holding the reader at an emotional distance, even as it stings. Its fire may be unrelenting, but readers should push themselves to take the heat.” — New York Times