Smelling Herself: A Novel
Smelling Herself: A Novel
Smelling Herself: A Novel
Terris McMahan Grimes
Smelling Herself is told through the voice of Bernadine, a precocious eleven-year-old wordsmith. Being an African American girl living in West Oakland projects in 1964 is a vulnerable and scary affair. Bernadine is convinced that the solution to her predicament is to grow up. But she soon discovers that growing up is more complicated than she expected. Bernadine’s precarious sense of well-being begins to unravel when Jessie Mae, a girl not much older than she, moves into the apartment above hers and Bernadine discovers the girl is being abused. Bernadine makes it her mission to save Jessie Mae as though she’s saving herself and every other child who lives with constant threats, though the harder she tries the more her loved ones are put in danger.Smelling Herself is imbued with Bernadine’s humor, intelligence, and kindred love, as Terris McMahan Grimes unflinchingly investigates—through the eyes of a quick-witted child—what it means to navigate dangerous times without fully understanding the world she lives in. It’s the story of childhood’s brazen hopes and hindrances.

Book Details


  • Juvenile Fiction
  • Literary Collection

Age Level: 

  • 12 and up
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