Kirkus Reviews QR Code
IT WAS ALL A DREAM by Reniqua Allen


A New Generation Confronts the Broken Promise to Black America

by Reniqua Allen

Pub Date: Jan. 8th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-56858-586-4
Publisher: Nation Books

Black millennials offer candid views of the challenges they face.

In her first book, journalist and broadcast producer Allen, an Eisner Fellow at the Nation Institute, investigates how the enduring myth of the American dream relates to young blacks between the ages of 18 and 30: “folks,” she writes, “who looked like me.” The American dream—“the idea that anyone can succeed and enjoy a prosperous life through hard work”—applies, the author asserts, only “to a limited number of people.” For oppressed and marginalized blacks, the dream has been largely unattainable. Has that changed, Allen asks, for a new generation? What does upward mobility look like for them? How do they express their own dreams? Drawing on interviews with 75 millennials as well as studies, surveys, and articles, the author recounts stories of defeat and dashed hopes from blacks who feel that the American dream “wasn’t and isn’t for them.” Among their frustrations is education: Many believe that a college degree is essential to their future success, accumulating huge debt to pay for schooling. More than 80 percent of Blacks who complete bachelor’s degrees have debt upon graduating, compared with 64 percent of whites. Moreover, a college education does not ensure employment: “The unemployment rate for Black college graduates is the same as for White high school graduates.” For those who manage to pursue a professional career, the workplace often feels unwelcoming. As one woman told her, “Black millennials do not have stability and security” in their jobs; they are often paid less than whites, are not offered career guidance and mentorship, and “often walk a tightrope between the hood and the elite.” Home ownership eludes many blacks, as well, with redlining and predatory lenders victimizing prospective buyers. Frustrated with their efforts to hold on to middle-class status, some blacks are redefining what success means to them, rejecting ‘the White-picket fence version of the dream” in favor of “what the dream means at its core: freedom.”

Sad, revealing testimony to the continuing effects of racism and inequality.