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Posts Tagged ‘Racism’

Becoming by Michelle Obama. Adapted for young Readers. Pub. Penguin Random House, 2021.

April 3, 2021 Comments off

The most fascinating and readable autobiography I have read for some time. The cover says it has been adapted for young readers but I couldn’t see what Michelle had left out. The woman with the dazzling smile, with the too lovely daughters who stood beside Obama when president of USA, sweeps you off your feet in this extraordinary book.

The book is in four parts the first is Becoming Me and tells of her schooling and College until she met Barack Obama. Born Michelle Robinson in South Chicago in an area that experienced whit flight as the Black population slowly moved in. It was a rough area and Michelle and her brother Craig with their parents lived in an upstairs apartment above a stern woman who taught piano. Michelle learnt piano and went to schools that were mainly coloured students.

She learnt how connections and privilege gave some people an advantage over others which she accepted. She spoke very correct English and was taunted by her fellow students ” how come you speak like a white girl”? She was seen as uppity and betraying her black Culture.

She followed her basketball scholarship brother Craig to Princeton in the 1980’s a place she saw as “extremely white and very Male”. She stuck to what she knew and had few white friends. When she left with her degree she studied law and got a position in a Chicago law firm and met Barack when she was assigned the job of mentoring him.

Part 2 is titled becoming Us in which she gets to know Barack, forms a relationship with him, marriage two daughters Malia and Sacha as well as developing a career involving social and political work plus motherhood. She saw that Barack was a deep thinker, heavy reader and had a version of hope that extended beyond hers. He wouldn’t settle for the World as it was, he wanted it as it should be.

Politically the path of the future was laid with the election of bill Clinton as President when she was involved in encouraging the black voters to vote which ensured Clinton’s win. The road was set for Obama’s run for president.

Michelle and Barack married in style with a Stevie Wonder song You and I We can conquer the world.

As Barack’s political aspirations bore fruit Michelle was left as a working mother bringing up her daughters with

Barack largely absent. She gave him the space to forge his career. She witnessed the dirty right wing lies that mar any election and the racism that a black man running for election brings. Obama had to receive the earliest protection any presidential candidate has ever had.

Becoming More is part 3 and covers Obama’s election, inauguration and move into the White House that makes fascinating and compelling reading but I will let you the reader find this out for yourself.

Michelle Obama is a talented writer. She is clear concise and bloody interesting. You will not read a better autobiography than this.

Game Changer by Neal Shusterman. Pub. Walker Books, 2021.

March 16, 2021 Comments off

Neal Shusterman is one of my favourite authors with his Arc of the Scythe series being his outstanding work. This novel for senior students and Young Adults is a thought provoking novel, cleverly written with an outstanding imagination and wit. It could also be seen as a picture of Trump’s America but not everybody will see this.

Ash is in his High School football team. He is in the defensive unit and his job is to get the opposing quarter back and make his life a misery. He does it very well, but in the first game of the year he clashes heads with an opposing player and has a major shift in reality. It is a game changer.

In the real world Ash lives in he is from a poor family. His best friend is Leo who is in his football team and he is black. He is also friends with the star quarter back Layton a brute of a boy who dominates his girlfriend Kate who Ash quite likes. Ash takes Math lessons from a classmate Paul and his younger brother Hunter is a bit of a pain.

After the clash of heads Ash enters into a parallel reality and in this one he is a very rich boy. All the above mentioned friends are in the new reality but their relationships have changed. Another clash of heads in the next game pushes Ash into another reality in which he himself is still a football player but also a drug dealer. But the biggest change is that America is a segregated country. Black and white do not mix. This disturbs Ash and he goes looking for his black friend Leo.

The next clash of heads changes Ash completely. In the previously realities Ash has reflected often about who he is but in this next reality he is gay and is taunted by a gay friend to come out of the closet which he does in dramatic fashion. This new reality has Ash questioning his identity further and has one of the best lines in the novel. When he tells his parents that he is gay he looked at his mother ” all she could see were her unborn grandchildren dying before her eyes”.

Will Ash get back to his first reality? Are there other realities? Read this very clever novel and find out. The ending is outrageous.

The Length of a String by Elissa Brent Weissman.

June 13, 2020 Comments off

length stringThe Length of a String by Elissa Brent Weissman. Pub. Puffin Books, 2020.

This novel for middle and senior school students is one of the most moving, emotional and compelling novels I have ever read.

Anna is 12 years old when the Germans invaded Luxembourg in 1941 and started identifying all the Jews with the yellow star and stripping them of any human dignity. In August 1941 it was still possible for Jewish people to escape Luxembourg to Portugal and get a ship to America but it was dangerous and expensive.

Anna leaves her twin sister Belle, plus the the rest of the family, at the insistence of her parents and goes to live with Hannah and Max in Brooklyn New York. Anna keeps a diary of her feelings addressed to her twin sister Belle and writes letters to her family. She gets no reply but remains positive about life and seeing them again.

In today’s World, Imani is 12 years old and facing her Bat Mitzvah. She is a black girl who has been adopted by Nordic parents in New York and has been brought up Jewish along with her also adopted brother Jaime. Imani wants to know who her parents were but finds it difficult to bring this fact up with her adoptive parents who have been loving and caring all her life.

When Anna dies she leaves her books to her grandchildren and Imani finds the diary Anna wrote in 1941 and reads it as part of her presentation for her Bat Mitzvah. What she and her friend Madeleine read brings out all the emotion and reality of the Holocaust.

Beautifully written with Anna’s diary entries and Imani’s life in the modern World. It will have you in tears.  It is also current as Imani tries to find her own identity as a black girl living in today’s world.

If you miss this you will kick yourself. Wow! What an ending.

Frankly in Love by David Yoon.

November 19, 2019 Comments off

franklyFrankly in Love by David Yoon. Pub. Penguin Random House, 2019.

I first received this novel for review two months ago and somehow I have sat on it till now. I shouldn’t have. It is absolutely superb. It is about first love, it is about racism and it is about cultural difference in American culture, written in a way that will totally enthrall you.

Frank Li is 18 years old he is by his own words a Korean-American and proud of it. He speaks no Korean and has grown up as an American kid except that he is Asian. His parents are dyed in the wool Koreans who came to America in the 90’s. Their English is halting and they earn a living from a liquor store come grocery in California which they own. They have done very well but stick to their Korean friends and are totally racist in their views especially towards other Asian groups. Its about the human ties that matter.

Previously their only daughter and Frank Li’s sister Hannah, has been disowned by the family because she developed a relationship with a Black American while at college and has since married him. Frank Li is distressed about this as he loved his sister and his parents want him to marry a Korean daughter of one of their friends. Her name is Joy and she has a secret Chinese boyfriend without her parents knowledge. Joy is a joy to read about.

When Frank Li starts a relationship with European American girl, Brit Means that develops into love and hot love at that, Joy and Frank Li start a pretend relationship to hide their real relationships from their parents.

This is a dangerous game and soon it is going to go pear shaped. Find out how and why by reading this very readable novel for yourself. It is compelling reading, superbly told.

In a nut shell the parents have to let go of their racist views and the kids have to learn to be brave in a melting pot that is the American dream. An added bonus is that the multi cultural kids in this book are highly intelligent and the wit and interaction they have both in person and via technology is totally engrossing

Senior secondary and young adult but younger teen readers will thrive on it too. In my top 5 books of the year so far and I pick it will stay there.

Dreamweavers Bk1. Awa and the Dreamrealm by Isa Pearl Ritchie.

November 10, 2019 Comments off

awaDreamweavers Bk1. Awa and the Dreamrealm by Isa Pearl Ritchie. Pub.Te Ra Aroha Press, 2019.

After reading this fantasy with a realism twist for primary and intermediate school readers, I played the Gary Wright song Dreamweaver. Do this yourself and see why.

Awa is of oriental descent, she is sensitive, her parents have just split up, she has moved to a small Wellington flat with her mother and she has started at another school.

At night she has dreams that seem real and one evening she sees a light that turns out to be a Dreamcharmer named Veila. Veila teaches Awa to enter the Dreamrealm where unbeknown to her she has an important role to play as a Dreamweaver.

At school Awa is bullied by Felicity but meets a friend Ella who is also bullied by Felicity. The divorce of the parents, the bullying and the racism, provide the realism twist to the dream world fantasy that Awa enters but somehow there is a connection.

This first part of a trilogy has Awa learn to understand the power the powers she has and the enemies she faces in the Dreamrealm in the personna of The Politician and Judgement. I feel the best is yet to come.

Easy to read, short chapters and much to appeal to pre-teens. The fantasy is drawn from the Greek legend Narcissus and from Maori mythology especially the nature of dreams.

Cross Fire. A Noughts & Crosses Novel by Malorie Blackman

August 15, 2019 Comments off

cross fireCross Fire. A Noughts & Crosses Novel by Malorie Blackman. Pub. Penguin/Random House, 2019.                    RELEASED 20 AUGUST

If there is a better novel this year for High School students and Young Adults then I would love to read it. The 4th novel in the Noughts & Crosses series from the legendary Malorie Blackman is superb and the good news is, it is not over yet, there will be another.

Albion is a country divided by severe racial problems. The dark skinned Crosses are the elite and home people, the Noughts are a fair skinned people from the north and throughout this series have slowly progressed to a state of near equality but only on the surface. Both sides have fanatics.

The first novel in the series featured Sephy a Cross and Callum a Nought who was the son of a servant in Sephy’s home. They got on very well and caused havoc in their racially torn world.

Now  a Nought,  Tobias Durbridge, has climbed the ranks with the help of a rich gangster Dan Jeavons, and become Prime Minister. Cross fanatics cannot stomach it and plot to bring him down.

Caught in the cross fire are teenagers Troy who is a Cross and the son of Sephy, and Libby, a Nought who is the daughter of Tobias. Central to the fortunes of all is Callie a cross breed and a lawyer of some repute but considered a Cross.

With the election of Tobias as PM fanatics from both sides get busy. Tobias is falsely charged with murder and Libby and Troy are kidnapped to pressure both sides.

The action and intrigue is thrilling. Malorie Blackman brings you up to date with the family histories so you needn’t worry about having to have read the earlier novels although you would be mad not to.

Outstanding writing from a writer at the top of her game. A modern story with fake news, cell phones and forbidden love. excellent cover.

On The Come Up by Angie Thomas.

December 18, 2018 Comments off

come upOn The Come Up by Angie Thomas. Pub. Walker Books, 2018.

Bri is a teenager whose father was a rapper killed in a gun fight in the Garden, a suburb commonly known as “the hood”. The area is dominated by two gangs – the GDs and the Crowns and the culture is Rap and gangsta hip hop.

Bri’s mother Jay an ex junkie now looks after her and her brother Trey in below a poverty line standard of living. They go to food banks and welfare shelters for their essentials. Bri has a dream to be a rapper and she has some talent at composing lyrics that reflect the life she leads and some lyrics of which she clearly has no understanding. But she is going to find out.

A struggle with two security guards at school that is filmed on various cell phones, makes her visible in school. Then she wins a  rap-off at the Ring, a local club that gives young artists an outlet for their works. Bri puts together a song about her struggle with the security guards called On The Come Up and it becomes an overnight sensation on the Net. But will it bring her fame and wealth that she so desperately seeks. Read it and find out.

Some tough themes here on life for Afro American kids whom white society judges harshly and unfairly. If one black kid messes up all are messed up. It doesn’t take much to give white society a reason to put them down.

Bri is to learn that it is one thing to wanna do something but quite another to think that it is possible. Bri is a likable girl who is struggling with the past of her mother and father as she blossoms into a woman. Her quest to be a rap star is a rocky road, she is talented but the odds are against her.

The most profound statement is this –  White kids in the suburbs like rap because listening to it scares the shit out of their parents. Something to think about.

Written clearly from experience it gives a family and community view of life as a Black in the city. This novel follows on months after her first novel The Hate You Give also reviewed on this blog. Powerful stuff.

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.