The Remarkable Value of Diverse Characters in Books | Mentoring in the Middle

The Remarkable Value of Diverse Characters in Books

Hey friends, 
This is going to seem ridiculously contradictory.  A white woman recommends three diverse books without having read a single one of them.

Because I can't get my hands on them.  They just keep getting passed around.

When my principal offered my colleagues and me a modest amount of money to update our libraries, I ran to get these books based on everything I'd read about them.

Genesis Begins Again

Genesis keeps a list of all the things that are wrong with her, and the list is long.  Her family gets put out of their house, her father drinks and gambles.  She gets called "darkie," "eggplant," and "charcoal," even by her own family.

Genesis knows that her dark skin is the root cause of all these problems.  When she and her mom have to move in with her grandma because there's nowhere else to go, Genesis finds a music teacher in her new school who thinks she has a promising voice.  Who feeds her Etta James and Billie Holliday albums.

She befriends a boy who thinks she shouldn't put up with the bullying.  And slowly but surely, Genesis begins to own who she is.

This book won the Newbery Honor, the Coretta Scott King Award for new talent, and several awards for best middle-grade novels of 2019.

I can't wait to get my hands on it!  

For Black Girls Like Me

"I am a girl but most days I feel like a question mark.  People throw their looks at me.  Then back at my mama sister and papa.  Who are all as white as oleander.  Then they look back at me.  Black as a midnight orchard.  And I see their puzzled faces trying to see where I fit.  People ask me where I'm from but I know they really mean
     who do you belong to?"

In a nutshell, this is Makeda's story, as she struggles to figure out who she is.  Especially when her
family moves from Maryland where her best friend, Lena - also African American and adopted into a white family lives - to New Mexico where her father has taken a position as cellist with the New Mexico Symphony.  

Coming into her new school in the middle of the year,
"Ugh, why do you talk so white?"
"This is just how I talk..." 
"Are you sure you're not mixed?  You talk too proper to be black."
"Well, my family is mixed..."
"So you're like Obama? An Oreo?"
 "Kinda. Wait.  What's an Oreo?"
"You know.  When you're all black on the outside but really white on the inside."
Miriama Lockington calls this book her love letter to trans-racial adoptees.  She wrote it because she couldn't find any stories like hers in books when she was searching to figure out who she was.

Another one I can't wait to get my hands on!

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky   

I have been so impressed with the Rick Riordan Presents books I have read that I know this one has to be good.  I wrote a review of another book in this line: Aru Shah and the End of Time recently, which had me laughing out loud.

Tristan Strong was in a bus accident that killed his best friend, Eddie.  Eddie kept a journal filled with stories and that's all Tristan has of their friendship.  And now, against his will, he's being shipped off to his grandparents' house in Alabama for a month, where he can get away from the daily grief he feels.

Jumping right into the action, Tristan discovers a creature trying to steal Eddie's journal his first night in Alabama.  A chase ensues, a tug-of-war, and before he knows it, he's punched a tree, ripping an opening into MidPass - a world where John Henry and Brer Rabbit are exhausted from battling.  It's Tristan's job to persuade Anansi to let him go back.  But we all know that Anansi can't be trusted...

Many reviewers of this book have talked about having a hard time waiting for the sequel.  Sounds like a good book to me!

I was a bit surprised by how quickly my students grabbed books.  Regardless of their race or culture, they want to experience the richness of diverse characters in books.  I agree!  As soon as I can get my hands on them, I'll be reading them, too.

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