(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Griffin’s purpose in darkening his skin was to discover what it was like to be an African American in the South. He called his experiment a “scientific research study,” and clearly his intention was to write journalistically objective articles for Sepia detailing his experiences. During his experiment, however, Griffin lost his detachment, and the book is a series of journal entries, some of them very emotionally charged. As a reporter for Sepia, he gave his audience traditional reportage; as the author of Black Like Me, he gave his audience a series of personal narratives intended to persuade his readers that segregation must be eliminated in the South.

While Black Like Me is not specifically directed at young adult readers, it has been and continues to be extremely appropriate for them for several reasons. First, the style is straightforward, unpretentious, and honest. Griffin uses fragments and simple sentences, short paragraphs, and an easy-to-follow chronological order. He keeps the entries short except for a few long, emotional narratives; these are very effective, and their length in the context of so many short entries reinforces their importance. Griffin uses enough dialogue to provide narrative variety and employs a range of informants—successful and poor African Americans, white liberals, and extreme racists—letting them speak for themselves. The book is also fast-paced: In the first eleven pages,...

(The entire section is 553 words.)