This book has been in pro­cess since I was in fourth grade, when I wrote
short stories and used images from Essence magazine to tell a famil-
iar  story of what it feels like to be a Black girl in the United States.
Shapeshifters would have never come to be, however, if it ­weren’t for the
overwhelming generosity and fearless honesty of Janice and the other
­ women at the Fresh Start shelter. I owe this work to all of the young ­young
women in Detroit, and particularly the ­women and girls in the Brown ­
family, who agreed to share their lives with me. I am also grateful to
the staff and administration of the Fresh Start shelter. They worked tire-
lessly with the best intentions to make a space where none had existed
for Black girls in Detroit. We loved, soared, failed, and tried our best
The first version of the manuscript took shape while I was a gradu­ate
student in the Anthropology Department at the University of Michigan.
The Rackham Merit Fellowship and support from the Culture and Cogni-
tion joint program in anthropology and psy­cho­logy allowed me to com-
plete extended years of fieldwork in Detroit. I thank Larry Hirshfeld for
believing in me and this research in my first year of gradu­ at e study. My
dissertation chair, Andrew Shryock, encouraged me to trust the truth of
the stories as they ­were revealed and was never anything less than enthu-
siastic about the importance of the work. As members of my dissertation
committee, Kelly Askew, Ruth Behar, and Alford Young offered critical
insights and ­ were central to helping reshape my gradu­ at e research into
Ac­know­ le dg­ments
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