Monday, January 22, 2018

Doing the Right Thing

I’ve two recommendations for today’s post that promote understanding for what it’s like to be Black in the United States today.

The first one is by Jason Reynolds’, Long Way Down. This story takes place in an elevator as it descends seven floors in an apartment building and Will, the protagonist, is on his way to avenge the death of his older brother Shawn.  He’s struggling with THE RULES that govern the lives of black men and boys in his big city neighbourhood: No Crying – No Snitching – Get Revenge. As the elevator goes down seven floors, seven ghosts who knew Will and his family and experienced gun violence too, visit Will and offer subtle guidance that will help him make up his mind about his next set of actions.

Jason Reynolds is a fantastic writer. This story, told in narrative verse, took me to a place that I had no way of knowing about and gave me a glimpse into the mind of a young man like Will. Reading about gun violence and gang-related murder in the news does not provide much insight as to how this kind of thing continues to be perpetuated.  It’s the strength of a novel like this that allows me to feel the pain and the hopelessness that must consume young black men when they feel that have no choice but to live by THE RULES.

The next book, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas has been getting lots of well-deserved attention in review journals and blogs. It was a National Book Award Finalist. Again, this story puts the news reports that we hear nightly, into a perspective that is totally relatable and gives new resonance for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Starr is a sixteen year-old high school student who lives in a poor, black neighbourhood but goes to a predominately white school in another part of town. She’s working out how to mesh the two people she must be to live in two vastly different universes. When a friend, a young, black man, Khalil is shot by a white police office while with Starr one night, everything changes.

By telling people, school mates, police, journalists and neighbours about what happened that night puts Starr in a precarious situation. Those fighting for the rights of black people see this as an opportunity to create awareness and demand justice. Those in positions of power are cautious about the information Starr provides as it will jeopardize the police officer. Starr fears that if her classmates know she is the witness that will jeopardize her place in the school.The desire to do the right thing is strong and eventually overcomes Starr's fears.

Again, this was a compelling story that opened a world that I will never experience firsthand. There is considerable profanity (tons of f-bombs) used by almost all the characters but this made it feel very authentic. The ending is also very realistic, sadly.

I highly recommend both of these books for grades 9 and up and for adults. Amazing reads!


Template Design | Elque 2007