Almost since the day she was born, Sandra had to fend for herself on the streets of Detroit. Then someone she had no business believing in waltzed into her life – a man willing to watch her back and show her how to make easy money. But when Chink gets caught, Sandra commits the ultimate act of love to keep her man out of jail. For a black girl lost, murder was always in the cards…
My first reading Donald Goines’ Black Girl Lost was decades ago, sometime around the time I started high school. I am not ashamed to say high school was many decades ago and the details of Black Girl Lost have faded from my memory. I can’t remember the details the impact that this short story had on me never faded (I ugly cried). I normally avoid revisiting stories that made me cry in the past, I’m an Aquarius and emotions are for humans. But I wanted to see if Black Girl Lost would impact me the same at thirty plus year old as it did when I was a teenager.
While the main character of the story is Sandra, and most of the narrative follows her, Black Girl Lost is the story of Sandra and Chink. Or rather the love affair of Sandra and Chink. Not the type of love affair found between the pages of a romance, rather Black Girl Lost is a tragedy, the Romeo and Juliet sort of tragedy. Black Girl Lost doesn’t have the same innocent reckless of first love that Romeo and Juliet does. In fact, gritty and overwrought with the desperation only a love formed in an environment Sandra and Chink were raised in could manifest. There are no feuding parents keeping the two lovers away, instead Sandra and Chink battle time and circumstance.
Sandra and Chink share similarities with Romeo and Juliet other than the tragic nature of their love. The most notable is “instalove” quality of their affection. It has been years since I read Romeo and Juliet (high school yet again), but my old lady memory recalls that Romeo and Juliet attraction was instantaneous. Sandra and Chink weren’t two good looking teenagers making eye contact from across a courtyard and falling madly in love. Instead, they were two teenagers that first united for entrepreneurial purposes and ending up finding a partner in crime, Bonnie and Clyde type thing. Their relationship started out as a means of survival, a problem Romeo and Juliet never had to face.
People often have to be reminded that Romeo and Juliet where in their early teens, and I had to remind myself that Sandra and Chink also still only teenagers. I don’t think this was intentional on Goines’ part. But his language usage, made it was easy for me as a reader to imagine as Sandra as a woman in her late twenties or early thirties. For example, Sandra constantly called Chink “Daddy”. I understand that language and usage in the 1970s differed from today. It was still hard to fathom a 17-year-old girl calling her boyfriend “Daddy” like a character out of a black exploitation film. There was also the issue with them being independent. Not in the modern young adult fiction type free range of the house and unsupervised because Mom and Dad are wrapped up in their own lives type of way. But in they moved into an apartment together after dropping out of high school without either of their parents caring type of way. The combination of the two made me confused whenever their ages where mentioned in the story. It pulled me out of the story.
Even though I knew how it would end, I still hoped that Sandra would get her happy ending with Chink. The outcome of Black Girl Lost is rooted in a realism that was absent in Romeo and Juliet. While their family was keeping Juliet from Romeo, Sandra and Chink were facing more oppressive circumstances. Their ecosystem that included poverty, oppression, and a lack of opportunity is something that even adults find hard to pull themselves out of. An impossibility for teenagers that only have themselves to depend on. I wished for them to have a happy ending until the last page. When my wish wasn’t granted, this time I didn’t ugly cry but my eyes watered. Maybe because this is my second read or I am evolution as a reader allowed me to notice the foreshadowing. Either way the story no longer moved me to tears, it packed an emotional punch.
The simplicity of Goines’ writing in Black Girl Lost enhance the beauty of story. Free of complex purple pose or detail expositions, Donald Goines writing is as raw as the environment he created for the young protagonist. It works for the story and characters. I can see how Goines writing wouldn’t be suitable for everyone. The whole story overall will not be for everyone (most aren’t).
Black Girl Lost did not keep the five star rating that I gave it as a teenager. There were some minor details about the time period that made me scratch my head (in all fairness they might be true). There were also several minor plot issues I had with the story. Combined with Sandra and Chink not reading as teenagers, means that the story did not pack the same emotional punch. While Black Girl Lost is not longer a five star book, the story of Sandra and Chink will always be one of my favorites.