12-year-old Jordan Banks is the new kid at Riverdale Academy Day School. Instead of starting his seventh grade year at the art school of his dreams, his parents enrolled him in one of the most prestigious private schools in his state. On his first day of school, however, Jordan immediately recognized that there weren’t many students in his grade that looked like him, and the handful that did, share nothing in common with him. Unable to connect with his predominantly all-white fellow classmates, Jordan navigates being subjected to microaggressions, by expressing his frustration through his art: his graphic novel.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
I can’t say I am a big fan of graphic novels, but lately I’ve, been exposing myself to other genres, which has helped me to have a deeper and richer appreciation for the categories I am familiar with. Yet, I can’t remember when I came across a graphic novel that explored the day-to-day experiences of young black children in America. Jerry Craft gifted his readers, New Kid, where he explains in a simplistic way that oftentimes, racism is the result of a lack of knowledge which then corrupts one’s perspective of the people around them. Jordan is only 12 years old, yet he’s constantly being subjected to microaggressions by both students and staff at his private school. Instead of retaliating, Jordan draws out his frustration in his journal. Although his drawings are laugh-out-loud hilarious, Craft enters a space where he advocates the importance of understanding what makes us different and embracing it.
Embracing our differences wasn’t the only message shared in this amusing comic book. Craft also highlights the severity of jumping to conclusions. Now, I know what you’re thinking. The action of “not jumping to conclusions” is something we all know how to do. But what if it involves a racist incident? Jordan witnessed one of the few black students in his grade quickly jump to a negative conclusion about a gift he received, and witnessed how this student’s anger went unchecked. Craft could have easily left this entire portion out of his book but the fact that he didn’t was awe-inspiring. Here’s what I mean, Craft once again stresses the point that we should never allow what we think or assume to be used as the truth no matter how ugly the situation may appear. When doing so, we exert unnecessary anger for something we aren’t fully sure is true. This lesson is extremely vital today, given the fragile relationship between law enforcement and African Americans.
All in all, this book was captivating and honest. It confronts some uncomfortable situations that most Americans, young or old, find themselves in; but most importantly, it helps begin conversations with youth on how to address such situations. This book is for everyone!
In this book, Rhodes tackles the all too real pain of racial injustice, colorism, and prejudice faced by people of color in schooling systems, along with the common act of whitewashing in history. 12-years-old Donte Ellison is falsely accused by the captain of the fencing team, “King” Alan, of disrupting class by throwing a pencil at a fellow student. He is later arrested and suspended for his conduct. Though Donte is angry at the fact that no one would believe he’s innocent, instead of sulking about his situation, he seeks the help of a former fencing olympian, so as to confront his bully and the blatant racism that exists in his nearly all-white prep middle school in their own turf: fencing.
Although this book was written for a much younger audience, I am completely shocked at Rhodes’ ability to confront a very painful topic with such simplicity and grace. In addition to confronting issues like racial injustice, colorism, economic privilege, and prejudice, Rhodes mentions the fatal shooting of twelve years old Tamir Rice to also highlight police brutality against the black community, along with systemic racism and the school-to-prison pipeline. Such topics are often considered inappropriate for young children, yet Rhodes held nothing back. She uses Donte Ellison’s experiences as an example to show young readers the power in fighting for what you believe and surrounding yourself with people who will fight with you.
“Sitting, I stare at the black specks on the white linoleum. A metaphor? That’s what they’re teaching me in English. Metaphor. Except I won’t believe I’m just a black speck. I’m bigger, more than that. Though sometimes I feel like I’m swimming in whiteness. “
The other reason why I enjoyed this book immensely was the fact that Rhodes mentioned my favorite book: The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss. Rhodes took the opportunity to educate her young readers about General Alex Dumas and his heroic sacrifice. Like Dumas, she uses and gives voice to the many black athletes that are almost forgotten from the pages of our history.
In the end, this heartbreaking story is a must-read for anyone who would like a simpler understanding regarding the issues that have haunted the black community for centuries.
I know it’s been some time since I last posted anything, and I am truly sorry for my disappearance. Towards the end of last year, work was both chaotic and stressful which led me into a massive reading slump. However, right when things started to calm down, the world stopped due to the Coronavirus. Like everyone else, I was a bit nervous and scared about this pandemic. Standing in long lines at grocery stores, being holed up at home, and receiving devastating updates from news outlets all had me craving for some kind of diversion from the unfolding crisis. And like a true bibliophile, I turned to books as my refuge during these trying times. To my amazement, I’ve read a total of five books last month! Now, I know that’s not an impressive number, but if you’re a slow reader like myself, you’ll agree that this is a colossal achievement. With that being said, here are the books that have kept me sane during this time, along with a brief review:
The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory — This book was not for me. I didn’t enjoy it one bit. The plot was OK but the execution was very cliche. The characters were annoying and the romance felt cheesy and rushed. I normally don’t DNF a book — a bookish terminology which means Did Not Finish — and because I bought this book with my own money, I owed it to myself to finish reading it no matter how boring the story was.
We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter — This book should have been featured above as the second novel to the right but I grabbed the wrong publication for this photo. Oops. Anyway, this book was fantastic! Absolutely moving! I normally avoid any holocaust novels because I just can’t stomach the horrific truth. However, I accidentally purchased this book without reading the synopsis, thinking it was a romance novel. However, I am so glad that I obtained this amazing book! The author was inspired to write this incredible true story of a Jewish family that got separated at the start of World War II. Finding out more about what the Jewish community really went through in order to survive shocked me to my core. This book made me cry, laugh, and cry even more.
12-years-old Prosperity –Prosper–, Redding is not like the rest of his famous and ambitious family members. He’s often bullied, doesn’t do well in school, and his relationship with his twin sister, Prue, is drifting even further apart. However, although his family is extremely wealthy and powerful, there’s a dark, hidden secret that is credited to the family’s fame. One of his ancestors made a deal with a demon many years ago for fame and glory in exchange for their souls. Like most contracts, the deal was broken. Now, the demon is hellbent on taking the family down. And Prosper is his first victim.