So Many Beginnings by Bethany C. Morrow (Remixed Classics #2)

North Carolina, 1863. As the American Civil War rages on, the Freedpeople's Colony of Roanoke Island is blossoming, a haven for the recently emancipated. Black people have begun building a community of their own, a refuge from the shadow of the "old life." It is where the March family has finally been able to safely put down roots with four young daughters:

Meg, a teacher who longs to find love and start a family of her own.

Jo, a writer whose words are too powerful to be contained.

Beth, a talented seamstress searching for a higher purpose.

Amy, a dancer eager to explore life outside her family's home.

As the four March sisters come into their own as independent young women, they will face first love, health struggles, heartbreak, and new horizons. But they will face it all together.

TITLE: So Many Beginnings: A Little Women Remix
AUTHOR: Bethany C. Morrow
PUBLISHER: Feiwel & Friends
YEAR: 2021
LENGTH: 304 pages (8 hours 13 minutes)
AGE: Young Adult
GENRE: Historical

Queer Rep Summary: Ace/Aro Main Character(s).

*The Remixed Classics series is a collection of YA retellings/remixes, placing classic Western stories in new contexts. Each book is fully stand-alone and can be read in any order.

SO MANY BEGINNINGS reimagines the story of LITTLE WOMEN with the March family as newly freed Black people in the Freedpeople's Colony of Roanoke Island. It fundamentally transforms the original story with the change in context and characterization. I love the decision to keep the same nicknames for the sisters but different full names. That small change makes it clear early on that this is its own story, that these are different March sisters and from now on I need not belabor further distinctions and divergences.

There's so much love between the March sisters and their parents. Their father is away for most of the story, but he is constantly in their thoughts and in correspondence with them through letters to their mother. 

The story begins with the March family emancipated and living in the Freedpeople's Colony. Much time is devoted to showing their lives there, a mix of precarious circumstances and deliberate choices to fortify what they have and make things better for those around them. Meg is a teacher, and she teaches Amy at home when she's done with her students in the colony's school. Jo (Joanna) composes words and thoughts constantly and is persuaded by her sisters to begin putting them to paper so they can be shared with others. Beth (Bethlehem) is a seamstress, taking apart the clothes which were left behind and using them to create new garments for her family. Amy (Amethyst) is full of energy and constantly dancing. Her mother and sisters try to shield her from adult concerns as much as they can so that she can have a childhood in ways they were never able to. 

The audiobook narrator is a delight, bringing them all to life. The narrative seems to focus a bit more on Beth and Jo than on Meg and Amy in the first portion, then after the time jump most of the story is about Jo and Amy, with some scenes featuring the others. I love how Beth and Jo are handled, which might have tinted my recollection of the balance between the characters. They all have plenty of time in focus and no one feels neglected by the narrative. I'm especially pleased with Jo and Lorie, as Jo describes herself in ways consistent with an aspec character even though that label would have been anachronistic (and therefore doesn't appear). Instead she does the more useful thing of describing the tension she experiences in how other people think she should feel about Lorie. Their bond is unshakeable and doesn't need to fit anyone else's ideas of how they should be with one another, and the narrative supports that instead of trying to bend them to society's expectations. It's a small but important thing which feels emblematic of how the whole story approaches these characters. It's in everything from seeking answers about Beth's illness, to Jo using her words to educate others about the colony rather than letting white journalists control the narrative without even interviewing a single Black resident.

Moderate CW for racism, classism, medical content, chronic illness, slavery, war, death.

Minor CW for emotional abuse, physical abuse, blood, terminal illness, parental death.

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Four young Black women pose in a garden. Two are seated next to each other, with the third standing and draping her hands around the seated girls' shoulders, and the fourth kneels at their feet with her arms resting on one girl's lap. Their expressions are filled with joy and love.


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