Posts Tagged ‘Racism’

Front Desk by Kelly Yang

July 21, 2018 Comments off

front deskFront Desk by Kelly Yang. Pub. Walker Books, 2018.

Migrating from one country to another to better your standard of living is as common as life itself. For 10 year old Mia Tang and her mother and father it becomes a hardship that tests their resilience to the core.

They came to America, California to be exact, with $250 and the hope of freedom. What they got was exploitation, racism and bigotry but still they got through. This book takes the American dream to pieces.

They answer a promising advert to be managers of a motel in Anaheim for the king of exploiters, Mr Yao. He promises them the earth, but knows they have no choice and treats them like slaves. As you read you hate Mr Yao to the core.

My Yao has a son of Mia’s age and they go to the same school. A respectful but often confrontational relationship builds up between the two Chinese children.

Mia has the job of looking after the front desk of the motel while her parents slave away at maintaining and running the 30 room business often encountering the rough side of American culture. It is sad, soul destroying and uplifting. It often makes you angry but Mia and her parents stick to it.

“Why is everything in America about money? questions Mia and “None of us knew it was going to be like this” rues her father.

Mia’s optimism is never daunted and she makes friends with a Mexican girl Lupe and with the regular tenants of the motel. I thought if Mia can get through this then so can I and I did not regret it. Nor will you.

This is one of the most readable novels I have read this year and it is for everybody from Intermediate age through to young adult

Along Came a Different by Tom McLaughlin.

May 15, 2018 Comments off

differentAlong Came a Different by Tom McLaughlin. Pub.Bloomsbury, 2018.

This outstanding picture book discusses racism, prejudice and difference in the most simplest of ways – using colours and shapes.

The Reds are first on the scene with their red hats, songs and apples. Then came the yellows with their bananas and they didn’t like the Reds because their hats were too pointy and music too loud. They divided the territory up, then the Blues turned up with their bow ties and twangy guitars.

Nobody liked each other and things got sillier and sillier. So they drew up rules. Being friends was banned.

Something has got to give and then something really different shows up. See what they do.

Superb illustrations using colours of course with large written text some of it in dark black for emphasis.

Excellent read aloud and superb message. Why can’t we all be friends?

Dawn Raid by Pauline (Vaeluaga) Smith.

March 13, 2018 Comments off

dawn raidDawn Raid by Pauline (Vaeluaga) Smith. Pub. Scholastic, 2018

This most impressive novel is part of the My New Zealand Story series and concerns the Dawn Raids on Pacific Islanders during 1976 on the orders of the Muldoon Government. never has new Zealand got closer to being a police state than during these years of the seventies.

Thirteen year old Sofia Christina Savea keeps a diary from June till November 1976 and documents family life of the time plus the slow politicising of the Pacific Island community brought about by the racist acts of the police in chasing up overstayers in New Zealand.

The best part of the novel is Sofia’s home life, her life at school and her quest to earn money on a milk round to pay for some impressive go go, leather, knee high boots. The role of her mother father and siblings is superb.

Sofia has a talent at public speaking and has entered a competition. She is struggling for a topic until on a visit to Auckland for a family reunion they are dobbed in by a neighbour and the police dawn raid their property at 4.00am in the morning.

Lots of great writing and memories in this novel, in fact one of the best in this series.

Love Hate & other filters by Samira Ahmed

January 26, 2018 Comments off

love & hateLove Hate & other filters by Samira Ahmed. Pub. Hot Key books, 2018.

Some powerful novels for young adults come out of Trump’s America these days, most related to the social upheaval that his been inflicted on America because of racial, religious, political and terror related events. This is one of them and it is very good.

Maya is 18 years old, she is a Muslim Indian whose parents are successful dentists in small town America. They are unashamedly staunch traditionalists who came to America with some taboos packed tightly into the corners of their immigrant baggage. They want the best for their daughter and to control her life in the traditional Indian way.

Maya is an American girl and with American aspirations who wants to make movies. She has a video camera with her all the time and films family events. She is very quick witted and literate in a Jane Austen sort of way and she is attracted to the star football player of her high school, Phil, and he is attracted to her. Their rom com relationship is one of the highlights of the novel as is Maya’s relationship with her traditionalist mother.

When Maya tells her mother she does not want an arranged relationship with Kareem, who is delightful by the way and understanding, and wants to go to film school in New York, the family is in turmoil. The mother fears she will wear mini skirts and eat pork.

It gets worse. Between chapters there is another plot going on. A suicide bomber is plotting , preparing and ultimately commits the  terrorist act killing hundreds including children. People take it out on Maya and her family, they are assumed guilty by association as everybody considers the bomber was Muslim.

Read this novel it is fascinating. I was hooked from the first chapter which describes a traditional Indian wedding with it’s Bollywood overtones. The wit and depth of feeling is compelling. One of the best.


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

April 15, 2017 Comments off

hate u giveThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Pub. Walker Books, 2017.

It is Spring break in America and while all of 16 year old Starr’s friends are talking about going to Taipei, the Bahamas and Harry Potter World she watches a cop kill her childhood friend and has his blood spill all over her.

Yes this is a tough book but it is essential that stories like this are told and the dangers of racism are seen for what they are. The story clearly grew out of events in USA that have led to the Black Lives Matter movement and it is difficult to see a more powerful novel about this topic come out anywhere in the World this year. It will stun you.

Khalil is also 16 years old he runs with the gangs because he has to. His mother is a Meth freak. He sees no other alternative, she needs help. Starr was his childhood friend and he takes her to a party where shots are fired, some boy is killed and on the car ride away from the party they are pulled over by the cop who kills Khalil.

Starr’s father has experienced the gang life, served jail time and now runs a store and taken his family away from that life. Starr goes to an essentially white school where if the white boys talk street slang they are cool but if the black girl does she is “hood”.

Starr also has a white boyfriend.

This powerful novel looks at the killing and asks questions about justice and racism. It also looks at the families of those living in the “hood” and their options in life. It is easier for them to find crack than it is to find a good school.

The way this story is spun by the different sides seems typical of Trump’s America where false news dominates and spin is more important than truth. As an Australian mate of mine said “this is a flamin’ good story”.

Senior fiction and Young Adult. It is simply written with the dialogue between characters superb. The phrase “stank Eye” really tickled me. If you don’t know it I bet you feel the same. The title comes from a rap by Tupac Shakur, put the first letter of each word of the title together and you get THUG. You will kick yourself if you miss this one.

Nano Tech by Denis Wright.

April 7, 2015 Comments off

nano techNano Tech by Denis Wright. Pub. Makaro Press, 2015.

A novel for high school students that is clearly meant to shock. And it does.

Professot Meinhoff is an American Biologist who invents a virus that is meant to cure diseases that are ethnically selective. He understands that such  viruses could also be used for evil as they are capable of being used to wipe races out without touching others. Mankind is littered with evil men who have tried to do this.

Meinhoff creates a virus that works on the melanin in skin pigmentation which if put in the water supply of American cities could wipe out black Afro Americans without touching the white population. Fortunately Meinhoff is a genius and can hold all the formulae and gene structures in his head without putting them to paper or keeping computer files.

A white supremacist gang capture Meinhoff while he is lecturing in New Zealand but things go wrong and a group of intellectually gifted year 13  high school students are kidnapped at the same time along with their vivacious teacher Bernie. The gang is hell bent on getting Meinhoff’s secrets out of him by fair means or foul and there are going to be casualties.

Each student has their own quirks and problems but none more so than Joe who speaks very little, has spacey moments and hasn’t been right since an accident when he was 10 years old. He narrates the novel and it is his story that is the second part of the shock syndrome of this novel along with the Stockhlom Syndrome effects on the teacher Bernie.

I will let you the reader decide how effective this novel is. Sexual abuse is not an easy topic to discuss in a YA novel.

Nona & Me by Clare Atkins.

October 27, 2014 Comments off

nona & MeNona & Me by Clare Atkins.  Pub.Black Inc. Books, 2014.

After I finished this novel of relationships between Aborigines and Europeans in the Northern Territory, I said to myself “I am really glad a read this book”. It taught me things I never really knew about and it is uplifting.

Rosie is a15 year old European girl who is brought up in Aboriginal communities by her mother. They live in a community town called Yirrkala and are adopted by the aboriginal community. Rosie is particularly close to Nona who she regards as a yapa or sister. The feeling is mutual. Their story of growing up is told from 1995 – 2001 in every consecutive chapter of this novel looking back.

The novel is set in 2007-2008 at a time when the Howard Government  introduced a policy known as Intervention which looked into what they conceived as a serious problem of abuse in Aboriginal Communities.

Intervention is not the main issue of this novel but it did have the effect of polarising racial points of view particularly where Aboriginal communities were alongside mining communities, the source of all Australia,s economic boom.

Rosie and Nona separated when Rosie went to the school in the mining community and Nona went to live with family elsewhere but Rosie and her mother remained living in the Aboriginal community with Nona’s family.

When Nona returns and wants to go to the mining school with her yapa Rosie, things have changed. Rosie has friends who are racist in their actions which are not shown until Nona shows up. Rosie becomes the girlfriend of Nick a wealthy mine worker. Relationships are strained. Nona feels that Rosie has denied family and she moves away. Meanwhile the relationship with Nick starts going wrong for Rosie.

It is outstanding writing without getting maudling and emotional or slagging off one side against the other. It is told like it is as a clash between a community culture and a culture of the nuclear family and economic unit that is European. Will we ever understand each other?

Reminded me a Phillip Gwynne’s novels Deadly, Unna! and Nukkin Ya. Lots of good relationship stuff for high school students and young adults.