Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson is not a book for light reading. Grown is a mystery that engages a narrative that is difficult to put down, while simultaneously being difficult to read because of the seriousness of the content. Discussing important topics such as addiction, domestic abuse, sexual assault, the grooming of minors, gaslighting and manipulation, Tiffany D. Jackson’s novel brings to the forefront a much more familiar story: that of R. Kelly’s victims. If these are sensitive topics for you, then please be wary as Tiffany D. Jackson does delve into them fairly explicitly, and it may be triggering for some readers.
Enchanted Jones is struggling to fit into her new suburban high school as one of its few Black students. Balancing her own family’s financial struggles with swim practice and dreams of becoming an aspiring singer, Enchanted Jones has a lot on her plate. Which is why it seems like a dream come true when the renowned R&B singer Korey Fields takes an interest in helping Enchanted launch her career. Not only would a career directed by such a famous artist help Enchanted achieve her dreams, but the financial success would be a great help to her family.
The reader is immediately placed into the fast-paced mystery of the novel from the very first chapter, in which the protagonist Enchanted Jones wakes up at the murder scene of the famous singer Korey Fields with no memory of the past night’s events. Alternating between “now” and “then” timelines, Jackson pulls readers along as she stitches together the story in between.
The signs are starkly clear to the reader throughout, especially the older reader—the number of red flags prove the predatory nature of the relationship. We become scared for Enchanted as the signs escalate, and something becomes increasingly obvious as the book comes together: it is all deliberate. Enchanted Jones is seventeen, and Korey Fields is twenty eight. Grown men know what they are doing and should be responsible for their actions. Enchanted is a typical teenager who wants to chase after her dreams and grow up, but the grown-up in the situation is Korey Fields, and he knows better. And the story becomes all too familiar, all too real, as it continues to escalate. Following the consequences of the events that happen in the book is heartbreaking, especially in seeing Enchanted’s self-image as a young Black woman fall apart.
Inspired most recently by the stories of R. Kelly’s victims but more generally by the stories of power abuse and predatory behavior toward minors, Tiffany D. Jackson dives into the resulting attitudes toward the victims. Especially in portraying the way women of color’s testimonies are treated and uncovering the abuse of power that underlies the entire apparatus.
Grown is a critical read that works to raise awareness of a crucial issue. The importance of this book speaks to our failure as a society to protect young women, especially young Black women, in that we are now left warning them of the signs rather than guaranteeing that their testimonies will be believed. Tiffany D. Jackson’s Grown is a must-read, but proceed with caution: the heavy content and trigger warnings are not to be taken lightly.
If you or someone you know needs support, here are some resources that may be of assistance:
National Domestic Violence Hotline
National Sexual Violence Resource Center
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network)
RAINN operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800.656.HOPE
More information: online.rainn.org y en español: rainn.org/es