Posts Tagged ‘Racism’

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.


A medal for Leroy by Michael Morpurgo

October 8, 2012 Comments off

A Medal for Leroy by Michael Morpurgo. Pub.HarperCollins, 2012.

“If you tell a lie often enough, and for long enough, particularly if you live it, in the endyou forget it’s a story altogether”. In a nutshell this is what this book is all about and it is a scenario that Michael Morpurgo tells so well.

Michael is a dark skinned boy born to a French mother and British pilot who is killed in the Battle of Britain. He has two old aunts living near Folkstone who he visits with his mother several times a year. They have a dog called Jasper who he adores but nobody ever talks about his father or any of his father’s relations.

The death of his aunt Snowdrop precipitates a major flood of information that will change Michaels life forever. A story of bravery of racism and love during wartime. The ending will melt your heart.

Brilliantly told in the easy manner that Michael Morpurgo is famous for. Who said children don’t like history?

Will appeal to primary and intermediate students but junior high should take a look too. This is outstanding writing and a superb story.

The Absolute True Diary of a part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie

August 20, 2010 Leave a comment

The Absolute true diary of a part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Pub. Manchester Book Group, 2007.

I have only just caught up with this title and it is a ripper! I road tested this novel  with several High Schools, talking to year 9/10 students of all reading levels and they loved it.

What is refreshing about this novel is that it exposes racism towards the American Indian nation by the white population, through humour. Nobody would write a novel like this in New Zealand, it would be too unPC.

I applaud the approach because as you are laughing, the truth and inhumanity of the situation just comes and kicks you in the guts. I love it when that happens.

Brought up on an Indian reservation, Junior was born with “water on the brain” that resulted in him having seizures, a stutter and a lisp. He also had 42 teeth, 10 of which were extracted in one day as the dentist only visited the Reservation once a year.

He grew up tough and he grew up mean, but his intelligence and wit saw him through. The kids on the reservation called him a “retard” and he was beat up all the time. His best friend Rowdy protected him but wanted him to stay where he was on the reservation. He also beat Junior up.

Read the rules of Fisticuffs on pages 61 &62 are an eye opener.

Junior had aspirations and after an incident with a white teacher, he is persuaded to enroll at a “white school” 22 miles from the reservation. This sets the book alight as the attitude of the white kids at Reardan School is that “Indians didn’t deserve shit”

If you want to know how Junior gets on, read the book yourself. The basketball games are incredible and Junior’s quest for acceptance will make your soul sing.

Simply one of the best books I have ever read.

Will appeal to readers from Intermediate school level through to adults. Read it!!!