Why You'll Like It: Black Lives Matter. Great Book Club Book. Multi-Faceted Viewpoints.
Kekla Magoon paints a backdrop that acknowledges "regular 'ole urban street life"---AND YET, keeps unpacking layers. This book may make you uncomfortable. And while I'm not here to unpack white privilege, I am here to be a voice that it is still a prevalent concept in this world we live in. I could go on about other stories when I taught at the high school level, in an area that was "up for grabs"---and I went because I wanted to give back to the community that helped shape me.
This book is necessary in reminding me how compartmentalized my life always was. I loved reading Steve & Will's perspective because my brother always struggled between two worlds of seeing the lives of where his neighborhood friends were headed against the backdrop of private Christian school. It was hell. I was always flying solo because I wasn't 'street' enough at home or church (read How To Be Black), while I was definitely reminded of my color and neighborhood at school. The elephant in the room is still very much there, in having a needed discourse on race relations in America. It's hard to express how I can work so hard to be good at my field, and still get told (by my colleagues) I made it for my race quota---or how much easier it is as an educated person of color to find a job. Anyway, before my rage sets in----let's get back to this book at hand.
I could go on and on...relatives, friends, acquaintances. I lived in the line that divided the urban and the elite. My parents moved into their current home in the 1970s when the neighborhood was well on its way up; they've stayed there during the height of the drug/gang violence of the 90s. Now it's just a deteriorating neighborhood that is showing slow signs of being re-gentrified.
What does that have to do with this book? EVERYTHING. ABSOLUTELY-EVERY-FUCKING THING I FIGHT SO HARD FOR. An open understanding into MULTIPLE POVS of characters that try to reason with events that happen around them. I met Kekla Magoon (SHE ROCKS)---I thanked her because there is some little girl that lives between multiple worlds and this book may help her in understanding herself. Every single guy listed: Tyrell, Tariq, Noodle, Brick, the Rev. [insert your pick of an older generation campaigning black leader here], Steve, Will---their fathers or mentioned lack thereof. THEY ARE REAL TO ME. What's even better is I have so many people I know that can relate, empathize and appreciate (of ALL creeds, colors, etc) all the pages inside. That's how amazing her writing is----it was as if I opened this book, and walked down a block...and there I was.
The girls: Jennica, Kimberly, Tina, Tariq's mother & grandmother, even the elderly Hispanic "watcher"---- their rationalizations, observations, choices, and points of views are so relevant, poignant and most of all a much needed discussion within homes, schools, libraries with ALL youth today. This book is for all us all who are "alive"-----for anyone with a willing spirit in seeking to learn others on the mufti-faceted views of giving people who are living this "street life" a voice. This book gives an interesting view of how media plays into our lives and our communities. We are all connected and just as you are the reader----or the fictional "directly" involved witness shows how many layers can come from trying to figure out (in honest truth) How It Went Down. The hardest aftermath is whether characters are painted "good" "bad" or a "grey"---they are connected to someone...and truly, the heart of the novel, is especially for children----how they can make sense of the world and this lost connection.
I'm going to quote Tina---
I am a big girl
I can stay at home alone.
"No," Mommy says. "I want you close to me."
"Too many people now, when we go outside.
"I know," Mommy says, "But's just for a little while."
"Let's give away all the other people, I say, "and get Tariq back."
It's a good idea, but it makes Mommy cry.
Another one from Tina---
People: too close
People: touching me
Under the pew: safe place to hide
People: talking to Jesus, asking Him why
Fingers: in my ears
I don't want to say it
Big board of photographs: still, so still
If we are going to actually get into the actual story elements. I LOVE how this book has such an ease of fluidity to read, how relevant it is for today's youth, and most of all it is still packed with so much needed themes and issues for discussion. My feelings for this book compounded in recent events I went through on censorship, on child poverty (which is a story best saved for another time), but I won't be discouraged or stop fighting for or believing in kids who can see that they can create a different environment, one where they can hold their head up from where they came from, and reach towards WHEREVER they want to go. I especially want for kids to recognize and affirm with their friends as Kimberly confirms to Jennica,
I'm not Michael Caine. I'm tired of waiting, I and others are working whether by funding, advocacy, or promoting that we can further diversify our worlds. I'm rooting that one day we can span some amazing "How It Went Down"---in casting diverse roles, having diverse author panels, or even as Kekla Magoon shows offering a THOUGHT PROVOKING read on sensitive subject. I'll leave you with this last set of .gifs.