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Black Woman Redefined: Dispelling Myths and Discovering Fulfillment in the Age of Michelle Obama

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Stereotypes aren't funny when they follow you everywhere. This is the rallying cry that author Sophia A. Nelson wants all of America to grapple with when it comes to the way we view and treat black women. Black Woman Redefined was inspired in part by what Nelson calls "open season on accomplished black women,” which reached a tipping point in 2007 when Don Imus referred to b Stereotypes aren't funny when they follow you everywhere. This is the rallying cry that author Sophia A. Nelson wants all of America to grapple with when it comes to the way we view and treat black women. Black Woman Redefined was inspired in part by what Nelson calls "open season on accomplished black women,” which reached a tipping point in 2007 when Don Imus referred to black female Rutger’s University basketball co-eds as "nappy-headed hos.” Since then, we’ve seen First Lady Michelle Obama caricatured on the infamous New Yorker cover, when she was called "angry” and "unpatriotic”; the 2009 groundbreaking Yale University Study on professional black women titled, "Marriage Eludes High-Achieving Black Women”; ABC’s "Why Can’t a Successful Black Woman Find a Man?” and the Internet video that went viral, "Black Marriage Negotiations,” featuring a successful black woman interviewing a nice black man to be her mate in a robotic, controlling, emasculating, Bible-thumping demeanor. More recently, we were subjected to the 2011 Super Bowl commercial that started a national firestorm featuring an "angry black woman” throwing a soda can at her mate, after first kicking, slapping, and emasculating him. Nelson says black women are tired of such depictions that portray them as manless, childless, angry, and unfulfilled. Nelson sets out to change this cultural perception, taking readers on a no-holds-barred journey into the hearts and minds of accomplished black women to reveal truths, tribulations, and insights like never before. She says it is time for a REDEFINITION among black women in America.


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Stereotypes aren't funny when they follow you everywhere. This is the rallying cry that author Sophia A. Nelson wants all of America to grapple with when it comes to the way we view and treat black women. Black Woman Redefined was inspired in part by what Nelson calls "open season on accomplished black women,” which reached a tipping point in 2007 when Don Imus referred to b Stereotypes aren't funny when they follow you everywhere. This is the rallying cry that author Sophia A. Nelson wants all of America to grapple with when it comes to the way we view and treat black women. Black Woman Redefined was inspired in part by what Nelson calls "open season on accomplished black women,” which reached a tipping point in 2007 when Don Imus referred to black female Rutger’s University basketball co-eds as "nappy-headed hos.” Since then, we’ve seen First Lady Michelle Obama caricatured on the infamous New Yorker cover, when she was called "angry” and "unpatriotic”; the 2009 groundbreaking Yale University Study on professional black women titled, "Marriage Eludes High-Achieving Black Women”; ABC’s "Why Can’t a Successful Black Woman Find a Man?” and the Internet video that went viral, "Black Marriage Negotiations,” featuring a successful black woman interviewing a nice black man to be her mate in a robotic, controlling, emasculating, Bible-thumping demeanor. More recently, we were subjected to the 2011 Super Bowl commercial that started a national firestorm featuring an "angry black woman” throwing a soda can at her mate, after first kicking, slapping, and emasculating him. Nelson says black women are tired of such depictions that portray them as manless, childless, angry, and unfulfilled. Nelson sets out to change this cultural perception, taking readers on a no-holds-barred journey into the hearts and minds of accomplished black women to reveal truths, tribulations, and insights like never before. She says it is time for a REDEFINITION among black women in America.

55 review for Black Woman Redefined: Dispelling Myths and Discovering Fulfillment in the Age of Michelle Obama

  1. 5 out of 5

    Teri

    Only one word can describe this book. Problematic. In Black Woman Redefined, Sophia Nelson tells black women how they can set the record straight and redefine the way the world sees & portrays them and how these changes in portrayal can help us succeed. She uses First Lady Michelle Obama as her example & prototype of how all black women should be. She’s the woman who in Nelson and many other black women’s minds (including my own) has it all. Career, family, home, love, happy life. The question Only one word can describe this book. Problematic. In Black Woman Redefined, Sophia Nelson tells black women how they can set the record straight and redefine the way the world sees & portrays them and how these changes in portrayal can help us succeed. She uses First Lady Michelle Obama as her example & prototype of how all black women should be. She’s the woman who in Nelson and many other black women’s minds (including my own) has it all. Career, family, home, love, happy life. The question is: how do we get there? While I do agree that black people, especially women, deserve a media makeover and deserve all of life’s merits and spoils, I question Sophia Nelson’s definition of what it means to “have it all” is. Being that some of our “definitions” weren’t the same, I essentially questioned/ had my doubts about this entire book. Let’s think about what some women define as “having it all”. Like I mentioned before: Career, family, home, love, overall happy life. Nelson says that women of all ages would like some level of this. I can agree with this but, what level? First, we must look at what we already have. According to Nelson, black women seem to be excelling in career and material success. Other than that, Nelson basically shouts a great big “Do better!” everywhere else. Now while I knew it wouldn’t all be positive, I didn’t read this book for a pity party. Sadly enough, a lot of Nelson’s solutions to black women’s problems root in some sort of self blame or include respectability politics. Meanwhile, she doesn’t take much account for other people’s ignorance and black women just have to “work through it”. Instead of people just learning better and doing better, we have to clean up their minds for them too, no matter how wrong they may be. I am 23 years old and probably have only a small degree of everything that I would love to have in life. Right now, similar to many women my age, I’m trying to get my career out of park. Honestly, I would like a lot of the things, material/physical/secular and emotional/spiritual that Nelson mentions. However I think that things like being married/having kids may not be for everyone no matter how badly we may want it. It just might not be in the cards. As a woman who feels as if she is starting from the bottom, I’ve been trying to get all the advice I can get. Unfortunately, this book seemed to be too little too late for me since I’ve already decided what my version of “having it all” may include and to what extent. Most of Nelson’s advice seems to focus on finding a man, fixing yourself so that you can find a man, or keeping a man. Why does fulfillment equal a man? Men don't get fed this doctrine so why should we keep following it in hopes of attracting one. Can I just be financially stable, travel, count my blessings, and get a dog? Nelson does not seem to have much advice for women starting their career that shouldn’t already be commonplace other than building stronger networks with white people and not being an overall Mean Girl. To say this book is supposed to be cross-generational, she does an excellent job at making the gap bigger. If there’s anything I’ve learned about wanting to make a difference or teach people, it’s that you can’t insult the people you’re trying to teach. Nelson does this early on by doing one thing, both directly and indirectly: blaming hip-hop for our problems. (Sure, because the 20-somethings you want reading this book that you may want to reach are only listening to gospel music and old school jams.) Now while I do agree that there are some toxic messages within music, I do believe it’s a mistake to continue demonizing a genre that’s considered to be a voice of the young black community. One thing I’ve learned to put stock into is the marketplace of ideas; there are a lot of ideas floating around about the messages portrayed in hip-hop and how they are perceived. I believe that the best and sometimes the correct ideas usually float to the top. Whether an artist is “talking shit” or whatever their state of mind, we all have our own series of ideas about hip-hop and sometimes one of those ideas needs to be that the messages are not always permanent ideas. Like it or not, they have a place in history whether they be pivotal or insignificant in the conscious or subconscious. Blaming hip-hop or even the Real Housewives of (Name City of your choice) is exactly why you shouldn’t let the media raise or teach your kids. Maybe Nelson should have suggested that parents show their kids the context of some of this music and possibly show them that it’s not a full version of reality if it’s reality at all. On a more indirect note, I feel as if Nelson blames hip-hop in the preface/introduction of the book. In one paragraph she talks about black women being in denial about our problems, particularly young single women. In so many words she says, “If you think you’re young, single, and happy, think again because one day you’ll be older and wish you had a man… and if you still don’t think so, you’re probably the type of woman who thinks being called a bitch is a compliment.” WOW. Considering the idea of “bitch as a compliment” comes from hip-hop, or is at least highlighted by it, I’d say this is a big fat, insulting generalization. There are also other generational factors that she ignores in the areas of relationships/motherhood/love. My generation has been raised by single mothers or may be single mothers themselves in some cases but I think that somewhere in our lives, we’ve seen that the idea of marriage and relationships isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. We’ve seen whatever aggravations our mothers, aunts, and grandmothers have been through and simply said, “Nah, I’ll pass.” We know that is takes work and we haven’t quite figured out what kind of balance we want so we marry later if at all, have kids later if at all. Throughout the book I found it so odd that she has so much to say about marriage being a woman’s manifested destiny when Nelson herself is not married. She seems to be trying to save younger generations of black women some grief but her solution to this problem is excessive planning. At that point, despite her excessive, cavalier, and very annoying use of the word “sister”, Nelson does not sound like a “sister”. Her tone/voice either reads as if she's making a speech on a podium or she sounds as if she's trying to forcibly relate to someone. She sounds like a mother hen who isn’t really listening to what her daughter may want. In all of this future planning Nelson wants us to do, there seems to be such little room for romantic (or erotic) fun and spontaneity. Nelson seems to be very direct about her thoughts on the black family dynamic, the rest of the book is more about nothing. Not religious? Atheist? Agnostic? Not Christian in general? I wouldn’t recommend this book for you. LGBTQ? You’ve just adapted to the lack of men and I wouldn’t recommend this book for you either. Her research doesn’t seem to go very deep and I wish I could know what geographical areas she got her survey participants from so that there could be a further discussion about values in different areas. I also found that she had a very small pool for a national survey which only furthered my doubts. It’s not that I don’t think that anyone would find this book useful. It’s just not for me.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Latiffany

    I have mixed feelings about this book. I was turned off from the onset by the letter to Michelle Obama. I love the First Lady and think her public image is remarkable. I think she is a role model for women around the world, but Nelson puts a lot of weight on Mrs. Obama's shoulders in her letter. She presents Mrs. Obama as the perfect woman and the truth is no one is perfect and unless you are in her inner circle you don't know Michelle Obama on a personal level or know what she is really like. I I have mixed feelings about this book. I was turned off from the onset by the letter to Michelle Obama. I love the First Lady and think her public image is remarkable. I think she is a role model for women around the world, but Nelson puts a lot of weight on Mrs. Obama's shoulders in her letter. She presents Mrs. Obama as the perfect woman and the truth is no one is perfect and unless you are in her inner circle you don't know Michelle Obama on a personal level or know what she is really like. It seems that this book is written for the high achieving corporate type woman, which I am not (achieving-yes, corporate-no). A lot of it is a cautionary tale that I am already aware of: Don't get so wrapped up in your career and making money that you lose sight of what is actually important to you. Nelson's research is also great. She does not state anything without having the numbers to back it up. If you like quoting numbers and statistics you will enjoy the research aspect of the book. There were a few tidbits throughout the book that I enjoyed. Particularly the chapter on how Black women treat each other. We definitely need to make some changes in that area. I did find a few things disturbing as well. The advice on relationships was a bit of overkill. It always amazes me when self-help gurus encourage women to find a man by being their most authentic self, but in order to be your most authentic self, you need to read the gurus book and make some life changes first. Sure. There was also a quote from someone in the book that stated that fibroids are unbirth dreams- I am paraphrasing. I am really surprised that Nelson added that quote without any medical evidence to back it up. That’s not how science works. Perhaps the stress of unbirth dreams can cause fibroids, but I’d still like to read some research that supports either theory. Finally, the feature essays at the end of were a nice ending, but after reading ten or so, they started to feel redundant. I was glad when the book ended and couldn't wait to take it back to the library.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    I’m only giving 3 stars because the book did do the job for me, I read the perspective of a woman not from my background, but I can’t say I enjoyed it. It’s quite problematic. I’m tried to keep an open mind because my whole purpose is to read books by non-men of different life experiences than me but I can’t help but feel a lot of black women would feel alienated by this book. Sophia has asserted that some women must lose weight to find a man, black lesbians only exist due to lack of available m I’m only giving 3 stars because the book did do the job for me, I read the perspective of a woman not from my background, but I can’t say I enjoyed it. It’s quite problematic. I’m tried to keep an open mind because my whole purpose is to read books by non-men of different life experiences than me but I can’t help but feel a lot of black women would feel alienated by this book. Sophia has asserted that some women must lose weight to find a man, black lesbians only exist due to lack of available men (she only devotes half of one page to same sex relationships, essentially dismissing them as the “wrong choice”, as if it’s a choice at all!) Women must be Christian and the right kind of Christian and must have the right means to go to college and join a sorority. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of good in here too. Examining generational trauma, uplifting the image of black women from what is typically portrayed in the media, and that’s what’s kept - but there’s a lot that could be better, too. I’d really like to see her do a third edition now that Trump has been elected. I saw Sophia speak in March and she was very clear how anti-Trump she is and how she finds it difficult to understand how any woman could support Trump. In her book she calls Kellyanne Conway a close friend and praises her throughout. I’m curious what has changed over the past 6 years for Sophia that could possibly have shifted her views on some of these subjects

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nicole Lane

    I'm done. I tried for 2 years to read this and I can no longer waste my time. I'm done. I tried for 2 years to read this and I can no longer waste my time.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Racquel

    The book started off on an awkward foot for me. The letter to Michelle Obama seemed over the top, and the repeated use of the word "sister" rubbed me the wrong way. But once I got into chapter 3, sh*t got real and I was sucked in. Her chapters on mentoring in the workplace, getting into the nitty gritty of why many black women are so emotionally unfulfilled and the barriers that we put in our own paths were awesome! This was surprisingly good and definitely something I'd share with my fellow car The book started off on an awkward foot for me. The letter to Michelle Obama seemed over the top, and the repeated use of the word "sister" rubbed me the wrong way. But once I got into chapter 3, sh*t got real and I was sucked in. Her chapters on mentoring in the workplace, getting into the nitty gritty of why many black women are so emotionally unfulfilled and the barriers that we put in our own paths were awesome! This was surprisingly good and definitely something I'd share with my fellow career-oriented black professional women.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    "I have to say I am mid-way through this book as it concentrates mainly on affluent black women only. I thought there were some good insight to some of the things Black women have and are enduring, but felt the book to be a bit out of touch with the average Black woman. I would recommend this book, but only to the few who earn over six figures." "I have to say I am mid-way through this book as it concentrates mainly on affluent black women only. I thought there were some good insight to some of the things Black women have and are enduring, but felt the book to be a bit out of touch with the average Black woman. I would recommend this book, but only to the few who earn over six figures."

  7. 5 out of 5

    Rayanne

    Too pessimistic

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lydia

    This is one of the most comprehensive books written (with loads of support) by a black woman critiquing the state of today's African-American woman. Using Michelle Obama as the inspiration, lawyer-turned public speaker Sophia Nelson attempts to address society's perception of the professional black woman. She addresses the challenges the professional black in workplace, her private life (or lack thereof), health issues and the all important relationship with black males (or lack thereof). It is This is one of the most comprehensive books written (with loads of support) by a black woman critiquing the state of today's African-American woman. Using Michelle Obama as the inspiration, lawyer-turned public speaker Sophia Nelson attempts to address society's perception of the professional black woman. She addresses the challenges the professional black in workplace, her private life (or lack thereof), health issues and the all important relationship with black males (or lack thereof). It is not easy being a black female where society's image of a desirable female places you at the bottom. Although she addresses the issues confronting the professional, i.e. high earning black female, many of these issues, if not all, hit black females beginning at minimum wage. Society's preoccupation with highly educated black female not finding a mate seems like an anthropology study. We don't smile (I've heard that many times and I'm not a high earner); not approachable, yada, yada, yada. Yes, we live in the cult of personality and the visual. According the author a lot is placed on black females if she desires to "have it all, the American Dream." Life is a big compromise and black women have been compromised since we left the African continent (and probably before). This is an interesting read on the state of the professional African American woman. Yes, we do have to thank Michelle Obama for making the educated, professional black woman visible. Lord knows that she was vilified even before her husband took the oath of office. Black women still must cope with the visual --- We can thank the "Basketball Wives" and "The Real Housewives of Atlanta." I guess it's up to us to determine our own redefining moments.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Danita

    Terrific, thorough, thought-provoking. In so many ways I feel affirmed, but I also feel like certain aspects of my "bidness" have been called out in a way that only sisters can do--with verve and candor, but equal doses of love. Very interesting perspectives were revealed from black women and men as well as from those at various ends of the color spectrum. It's always great when stereotypes are refuted; it's equally solid when we can see they're still in play because we know we've still got pl Terrific, thorough, thought-provoking. In so many ways I feel affirmed, but I also feel like certain aspects of my "bidness" have been called out in a way that only sisters can do--with verve and candor, but equal doses of love. Very interesting perspectives were revealed from black women and men as well as from those at various ends of the color spectrum. It's always great when stereotypes are refuted; it's equally solid when we can see they're still in play because we know we've still got plenty of good work to do. The personal essays from well-known and lesser-known folk at the end of the book makes for a truly delightful addition. It felt like a victory lap, acknowledging all of the admiration and challenges at the end of an intensely introspective read. With this book, Ms. Nelson holds the mirror firmly at the cultural walls before us imploring each one of us to answer that yes, I am the flyest of them all.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Beverlee

    The most challenging read in a long time and not always in a good way is my final impression of Black Woman Redefined: Dispelling Myths and Discovering Fulfillment in the Age of Michelle Obama. A couple of things to understand: *this book is tailored to upper middle class and wealthy African American women who are Christian and believe in traditional gender roles/expectations. *this book is for cisgender/heterosexual African American women. *this book is for African American women who are seekin The most challenging read in a long time and not always in a good way is my final impression of Black Woman Redefined: Dispelling Myths and Discovering Fulfillment in the Age of Michelle Obama. A couple of things to understand: *this book is tailored to upper middle class and wealthy African American women who are Christian and believe in traditional gender roles/expectations. *this book is for cisgender/heterosexual African American women. *this book is for African American women who are seeking healing from past trauma, something that transcends all socioeconomic levels. What didn't work: This could be me being overly sensitive, but I felt the book has a slightly condescending tone, especially with the repeated use of calling the reader "sister". I understand this is a term of endearment, but it got annoying to see it in print over and over again. The book opens with Nelson fangirling over First Lady Michelle Obama and it's just over the top. I admire Michelle Obama too, but I don't feel any less a success because I don't have an Ivy League degree(s), not married to an equally successful man, or a mother to two children. I don't think it's fair to assume that a woman automatically wants to be a wife (to a man) and mother. Nelson totally disregards the fact that some Black women choose not to have children, not to be married, and are happy. I think the use of the prefix "re"(defining) was a way of framing femininity as the traditional definition being correct versus looking at how femininity has a different look for Black women compared to white women. If one feels that Black women need to be redefined, to me that says that Black women don't fit an accepted description of womanhood, which is false. Womanhood should not be so narrow to only include women who fit traditional gender roles that are based on religious belief and/or mainstream society. If your goal is to change the narrative of how Black women are judged in society, I think the first step is acknowledging that differences are necessarily weaknesses. I don't think there's a need to separate when the struggles that Black women face are more similar than different. What worked-I think the career advice is useful regardless of occupation. Being a mentor is a definite need that all people can benefit from and in all honesty is not something that should be limited to the workplace. I liked that Nelson included some of her history growing up with a father that struggled with alcoholism and a mother that stayed in the marriage. It gave me some insight on why Nelson may favor the nuclear family structure and use several sources to reinforce why this is the best. The spirituality aspect of the book was a plus for me, as it is necessary to forgive people who do wrong and forgive yourself when you make mistake. In a chapter addressing mental health, several resources are given to assist a reader-I think it's great that mental health is framed as an important part of wellness. I skimmed through the essays at the end, they seem to be good addition to reinforce the point that Black women should create a life that reflects their wishes. There are several quotes dispersed throughout the book, my favorite comes from Maya Angelou "surviving is important, but thriving is elegant" (219).

  11. 4 out of 5

    Monique

    Black Women Redefined by Sophia A. Nelson - 5 stars It's about time that accomplished and professional black woman are given a positive voice rather than one of disdain, anger and resentment. Nelson uses America's First Lady, Michelle Obama, as the example of how we should envision successful black women today. We should celebrate our accomplishments, our education, our meaningful relationships with spouses, sista-friends, co-workers, and family while taking care of ourselves. It's time to make o Black Women Redefined by Sophia A. Nelson - 5 stars It's about time that accomplished and professional black woman are given a positive voice rather than one of disdain, anger and resentment. Nelson uses America's First Lady, Michelle Obama, as the example of how we should envision successful black women today. We should celebrate our accomplishments, our education, our meaningful relationships with spouses, sista-friends, co-workers, and family while taking care of ourselves. It's time to make ourselves the focal point of our lives so we can bask in the light of our success. Nelson delves deep into how perceptions can become reality. She carefully navigates the myths of our past and discovers how we can leap above them. Through analyzing how we work and love we can move redefine our relationships and dreams. She speaks frankly about religion, forgiveness, past traumatic events and how we can learn to move forward. By learning from our elders we can appreciate the past, step boldly into our future and redefine what we want out of life. Nelson offers critical self-reflection questions to assist you in redefining your life and discovering fulfillment in "the age of Michelle Obama". Finally she ends this groundbreaking research based work with essays of wisdom from some of the countries intellectual greats - Alexis Herman (tribute to Dorothy Height); Soledad O'Brien; Dr. Julianne Malveaux; and Nikki Giovanni - while sprinkling the book with quotes from a wide cross section of great leaders. This was a thought-provoking book to read and will spark hours of self introspection. I plan to advise those I mentor to read this book. The insight learned from the research alone is well worth the money and time spent. Definitely, a must read for any leader, women's studies advocate or reader of the new literature revolution.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Carla wynn

    It was very informative, well researched and written. I felt empowered after I finished this book. I was surprised that she was so honest and upfront about issues that we as AA women tend to keep in the closet.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    Good book with excellent research. It reads almost like a text book or a coffee table book that you'll want to refer to many times over. Good book with excellent research. It reads almost like a text book or a coffee table book that you'll want to refer to many times over.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nyla Moore

    Great advice for the young professional and black women looking to develop a professional outlook on life but too much research and number included that take away from the advice given.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Chanel

    Very inspiring and excellent!!!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Marilyn Diamond

    This is an excellent novel about African American Women starting with FLOTUS Michelle Obama

  17. 5 out of 5

    Diane Collins

    I have mixed reviews for this book some points were valid others did not not give me a positive perspective on the average Black woman!

  18. 4 out of 5

    laura riggins

  19. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Bithiah

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lea

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joe Greene

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany

  23. 4 out of 5

    Denise Williams

  24. 5 out of 5

    Johari Barnes

  25. 5 out of 5

    Carla Harmon

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kenyan Smithbey-wright

  27. 5 out of 5

    Gina

  28. 4 out of 5

    Celine Parker

  29. 5 out of 5

    Quantane Higginbotham

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nandi Crawford

  31. 5 out of 5

    Nita

  32. 4 out of 5

    Yolo

  33. 4 out of 5

    Che

  34. 5 out of 5

    Lashawn Warren

  35. 5 out of 5

    Cassandra Hawkins

  36. 5 out of 5

    toya

  37. 5 out of 5

    Kishanna Laurie

  38. 4 out of 5

    L

  39. 5 out of 5

    Akela Renae

  40. 5 out of 5

    Continualknowledge

  41. 5 out of 5

    Reginald Jones

  42. 5 out of 5

    Bludissertation

  43. 4 out of 5

    Adrienna

  44. 5 out of 5

    Sophie

  45. 4 out of 5

    Kellea

  46. 5 out of 5

    Claudia

  47. 4 out of 5

    Misshaq

  48. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

  49. 4 out of 5

    Endora harris

  50. 5 out of 5

    Brenda

  51. 5 out of 5

    TIFFANY ANDERSON

  52. 5 out of 5

    B.

  53. 4 out of 5

    Nikhil P. Freeman

  54. 5 out of 5

    Wcplanfi

  55. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Smith

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