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Category Archives: Diversity in YA

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Recent Morris Award 2018 finalist, Dear Martin follows African American senior Justyce as he navigates a recent incident of racial discrimination that has him questioning his identity and writing to Martin Luther King, Jr. about his experiences and how they interact with MLK’s philosophy.

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When Justyce McAllister tries to help his drunk ex-girlfriend by safely driving her home one night, a policeman arrests Justyce, believing he is committing a crime, and Justyce is not allowed to speak in his defense. It’s a rude awakening for potential Ivy League student Justyce to racial discrimination, especially since he’s been attending a prestigious mostly-white prep school on scholarship and highly involved in extracurriculars like debate team. To try and understand his situation, Justyce writes letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to compare Dr. King’s teachings with his recent experiences. Meanwhile, tensions heighten for Justyce as some of his classmates don’t understand racism, and the cop who arrested him is shot, setting off an explosive and heartbreaking chain of events that leads to Justyce’s character being defamed in the media. It’s a fast, honest, compelling look at current topics of racism, privilege, police brutality, and what it can mean to be black in America.

[Read an Excerpt]

This novel blew me away, especially reading so soon after The Hate U Give. One of the wonderful things about it is that it has an easier readability than THUG, and therefore might have greater appeal to teens who might not be reading books currently, a gateway book. I would love to do a book club with this title. There is so much to discuss in its pages about current events and could be an opportunity for teens to talk about their own experiences in light of Martin’s teachings. Underlying themes that occur in Dear Martin are:

  • white privilege – as evidenced frequently by Blake and Jared (the KKK costume and the Equality Brigade) and pointed out by SJ.

“When they get to Manny’s car and Blake pulls on the hood and raises his arm in the Nazi salute, Justyce knows the train he just hopped on is headed downhill in a major way. It occurs to him that the moment he said he was cool with the whole thing, he cut the brake lines and completely surrendered his power to stop it.”

“Whatever, Jared. Bottom line, nobody sees us [white teens] and automatically assumes we’re up to no good. . .We’ll never be seen as criminals before we’re seen as people.” – SJ

  • the viewpoint that some people in the black community have towards other people of color or in not noticing and combating racism

“There are people who don’t see a man with rights when they look at me, and I’m not real sure how to deal with that. Being treated the way I was and then hearing Jared insist there’s not a problem? And then hearing Manny agree with him? It sucks, Martin. It really does.” – Justyce

  • the acceptance or defeatism of some in the black community of the consequences of racism

“Why try to do right if people will always look at me and assume wrong?” – Quan

There’s no escaping the Black Man’s Curse.” – Quan

  • affirmative action and the potential for retaliation
  • police brutality
  • media bias

…and so much more. SJ and her family were great examples of how white people should act and support people of color when they speak out. I loved this book, and could have read more, but I understand Nic was told to cut much of it. This is a great book to challenge your own viewpoints in reading because only then can we see through others’ eyes and learn empathy. If you only read a few books this year, this is a great touchstone book for current society.

Interviews with Nic Stone:

Writer’s Digest

The Winged Pen

Adventures in YA Publishing

Dear martin quote

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

f043712f-4655-4c8a-b60f-fca1e4c6ca9fSixteen-year-old Starr Carter has two selves: one who attends an upscale prep school in suburbia, and the other who lives in a poor neighborhood in gang territory. One night while she’s at a neighborhood party, Starr escapes from gang-related gunfire with Khalil, an old childhood friend. As they are driving home, Khalil is pulled over by the police for a broken tail-light, and a horrified Starr is the only witness to his murder. He was unarmed.

As protests and riots begin and the media frames Khalil as a drug dealer and thug, Starr realizes she is the only one who can speak out for the truth and justice for Khalil’s murder. However, if she speaks, it will change her life and endanger her and her family…

 

This has been THE YA BOOK to read for 2017, so I’ve been waiting a few months to finally be able to get my hands on it.  I was SO not disappointed. This book was so real to me. It’s likely to be one I will never forget and must become a classic for YA, a touchstone for this point in history we’re experiencing. It was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, and shows an example of why this movement has happened. Even if you’re against BLM, I challenge you to read this book, to see a different perspective, and then make up your mind on the movement.

It brings to life real people, true emotions, and gives a raw, heartwrenching glimpse into events that have been happening in places all over the country. It forces you to confront your own views or stereotypes of different ideas, such as Khalil’s being framed as a drug dealer and therefore his murder “negated” by him selling drugs.

Tempted to write him off?

Starr wrestles with the idea, because his own mother is a drug addict, and why would Khalil ever sell something he hated that deprived him of a mother? In short, *SPOILER* it was either do this and save his mother’s life or let her be killed for her debts. Mightn’t you do something desperate to save a parent? A sibling? A child?

Readers, be aware that this book pulls no punches. There’s violence, language, drug references…it’s for a more mature audience than middle schoolers. However, this book is full of so much empathy that I was crying and laughing in various points. There were some awesome quotes that I have to share, some are just ones I loved or laughed at (see quotes below slideshow), but others speak to a deeper meaning.

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Note: Some image quotes I created myself on my phone. That is small, so forgive me for not adding quotation marks or the book title. 🙂

* * *

“Problem is it would’ve taken Black Jesus to convince my parents to let me come [to a Garden party]. Now Black Jesus will have to save me if they find out I’m here.”

* * *

“But after Khalil I’m more like a Taylor Swift song. (No shade, I fucks with Tay-Tay, but she doesn’t serve like nineties R&B on the angry-girlfriend scale.)”

* * *

“‘She hasn’t acted like a mom to him! Now all of a sudden, he’s her baby? It’s bullshit!’

Momma smacks the counter, and I jump. ‘Shut up!’ she screams. She turns around, tears streaking her face. ‘That wasn’t some li’l friend of hers. That was her son, you hear me? Her son!’ Her voice cracks. ‘She carried that boy, birthed that boy. And you have no right to judge her.'”

* * *

“Daddy claims the Hogwarts houses are really gangs. They have their own colors, their own hideouts, and they are always riding for each other, like gangs. Harry, Ron, and Hermione never snitch on one another, just like gangbangers. Death Eaters even have matching tattoos. And look at Voldemort. They’re scared to say his name. Really, that ‘He Who Must Not Be Named’ stuff is like giving him a street name. That’s some gangbanging shit right there.”

* * *

“Maverick, I don’t give a flying monkey’s ass what your problem is, just be there for your daughter. Please?”

* * *

“A lump forms in my throat as the truth hits me. Hard. ‘That’s why people are speaking out, huh? Because it won’t change if we don’t say something.’

‘Exactly. We can’t be silent.’

‘So can’t be silent.’

. . .

This is bigger than me and Khalil though. This is about Us, with a capital U; everybody who looks like us, feels like us, and is experiencing this pain with us despite not knowing me or Khalil. My silence isn’t helping Us.”

* * *

“Others are fighting too, even in the Garden, where sometimes it feels like there’s not a lot worth fighting for. People are realizing and shouting and marching and demanding. They’re not forgetting. I think that’s the most important part.

Khalil, I’ll never forget.

I’ll never give up.

I’ll never be quiet.

I promise.”

* * *

Acknowledgements by Angie Thomas: “And to every kid in Georgetown and in all ‘the Gardens’ of the world: your voices matter, your dreams matter, your lives matter. Be roses that grow in the concrete.”

 

 

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Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh

Today, I’m reviewing Flame in the Mist over at Tynga’s Reviews! Check it out!
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Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

23305614Finding Audrey

Fourteen-year-old Audrey has had a traumatic past few months. She’s left school due to a bullying incident, one that left her hospitalized and living with an anxiety disorder. She wears dark glasses, can’t leave the house except to visit her therapist, and reacts badly to everyone else except her family. In trying to get better, Audrey begins a film project where she has to view her family in their ordinary life and in so doing starts to tell her own story. Her brother Frank is a gamer, her mum is obsessed with the Daily Mail and convinced something is wrong with Frank and his computer games, her father is sweet but dragged along with her mother’s hysteria and her little brother Felix is a typical preschooler–one minute loving and delighted with the world and the next minute a demanding little dictator. When Audrey’s therapist Dr. Sarah tells Audrey she needs to make more effort in contact with others, Audrey begins to talk to Linus, her brother’s best friend, and she finds him to be a real friend who understands some of her “lizard brain” symptoms, the description she uses for her ‘flight’ response and anti-social reactions. Through her relationship with Linus and at Dr. Sarah’s direction, Audrey begins to really gain momentum in her recovery and understand how to cope with her extreme anxiety, making this an inspiring and relatable story for any tween or teen.

I listened to this book on audio and it was hilarious. Spectacular audio acting job. Audrey’s mum sounds just like a more hysterical Molly Weasley. The characters are well-drawn and real-to-life, though the romance between Linus and Audrey is a bit too predictable. This book will appeal to both teens and tweens and depicts dealing with a mental disorder with frankness and careful consideration. The one downside is we never discover the real scenario where Audrey was bullied or see her in her new future. Otherwise, readers will find this refreshing, real, and delightful.

 

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Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliott (Court of Fives, 2)

This week I’m over at Tynga’s Reviews with Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliott! Click the image to follow or click here! To catch up, here is my review for Court of Fives.

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