Young Black Americans have been trying to realize the promise of the American Dream for centuries and coping with the reality of its limitations for just as long. Now, a new generation is pursuing success, happiness, and freedom — on their own terms.
In It Was All a Dream, Reniqua Allen tells the stories of Black millennials searching for a better future in spite of racist policies that have closed off traditional versions of success. Many watched their parents and grandparents play by the rules, only to sink deeper and deeper into debt. They witnessed their elders fight to escape cycles of oppression for more promising prospects, largely to no avail. Today, in this post-Obama era, they face a critical turning point.
Interweaving her own experience with those of young Black Americans in cities and towns from New York to Los Angeles and Bluefield, West Virginia to Chicago, Allen shares surprising stories of hope and ingenuity. Instead of accepting downward mobility, Black millennials are flipping the script and rejecting White America’s standards. Whether it means moving away from cities and heading South, hustling in the entertainment industry, challenging ideas about gender and sexuality, or building activist networks, they are determined to forge their own path.
Compassionate and deeply reported, It Was All a Dream is a celebration of a generation’s doggedness against all odds, as they fight for a country in which their dreams can become a reality.
The Great Recession crippled an entire generation, and black millennials were among the hardest hit. Allen interviewed dozens of her peers for an honest and occasionally heartbreaking look at young black twenty — and thirtysomethings trying to succeed in a nation that has often inhibited them from achieving their dreams.
'I was nervous about meeting his family for the first time, but as a woman of color with middle-class roots, I also worried how I would fit in with folks who were not just white but upper-class with Harvard Ph.D.s.'
"In her revelatory new book, It Was All A Dream, Reniqua Allen amplifies voices that America needs desperately to hear. She explores the lives of Black millennials who strive for success - or sometimes basic survival - with insight, empathy and candor. Pinned between the unfinished business of the civil rights movement and the economic, political and racial rifts of the post-Obama era, their stories are both heartbreaking and hopeful, the pent-up demand of a new generation demanding what has always been its right: liberation."—Jessica Bruder, author of Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century
"Reniqua Allen strikes a fine balance between
the personal histories of ambitious Black millennials and the systems in place
that threaten their mobility. With acute detail to their location, background,
and motive, Allen's sharp journalistic skills are center stage, crafting reportage,
cultural commentary, and personal anecdotes into a thought-provoking book that
will add to our discussions about race, capitalism, education, and
self-actualization."—Morgan Jerkins, author of This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America
"Reniqua Allen's must-read book takes us beyond
the statistics and stereotypes, telling the stories of young Black Americans
who are creating, working, fighting, loving, and surviving. Allen's vital and
empathetic reportage shares their voices-and we would be wise to listen."—Heather McGhee, Former President and Distinguished Senior Fellow, Demos
"All comfortable notions about the American Dream are shoved aside as Reniqua Allen lays out the harsh and often disturbing challenges facing today's young African-Americans. A powerful, compelling, and important book."—Bob Herbert, author, filmmaker, and former op-ed columnist for the New York Times