It is 1983 and Vanessa (Nessy) Martin settles into the ritual of watching the pageant with her loving grandfather Pop Pop and TJ, her gay cousin. The announcer shouts, “And your new Miss America is…Vanessa Williams!” And Nessy just about loses her mind. Though Williams is lighter-skinned than she, the 13-year-old reasons that the pageant winner's victory "means that one day girls like me—the blackest of black—could be seen as pretty too."
Despite thinking of herself as “too black” and “too fat” to win a contest, Nessy dreams of following in the footsteps of her own beauty contestant mother who left when she was a baby. “That was when everything changed…Pop Pop turned to booze, Daddy’s spirit up and died, and we moved to the projects.” It looks like her dream might have a chance though when her school announces a first ever pageant!
Encouraged by a wise teacher and her fashion forward cousin, Vanessa agrees to enter bolstered by her confidence in her status as an honor student and her magnificent voice. The preparation for the pageant is not easy and includes a journey to find her mother with surprising results. Finding out who are her true friends and staying true to who she is, pave Nessy’s progress to maturity. Funny, honest and strong, Nessy’s voice will resonate with those who realize the true meaning of beauty.
Tessa's Picks, 6th-8th grade, 6th Summer reading,Contemporary fiction, Character driven, Family life, People of color,