Plots

On the Come Up ~Angie Thomas

“Who are you? of the millions and billions of people in the world, you’re the only person who can answer that. Not people online, or at your school. I can’t even answer that. You’re the only one who can say who you are with authority. So who are you?”

On the Come Up is the highly anticipated sophomore album from New York Times best-selling author Angie Thomas. By now you should have already read and watched or at least heard of The Hate U Give and therefore you should know how powerful Angie Thomas’ prose is. It feels fun and personal but then hits home with some real truth about today’s society.

Sixteen-year-old Bri Jackson dreams of being a rapper and On the Come Up is her story. With an uncertain home life and people’s opinions and prejudices on every side believing, Bri faces tough decisions and rough situations.

As a character, I honestly didn’t connect with Bri as much I wanted to. She was definitely well developed but I didn’t feel a strong attachment to her. Her supporting characters though, definitely stole my heart. Curtis was amazing, silly and sweet and he showed real character growth (I won’t spoil it, but he definitely was not the same from beginning to end.) Sonny was funny and balanced Bri and her other friend Malik out. Bri’s brother Trey was also an interesting character, he and Bri have a close relationship which I adore. By far however, my favorite character was Supreme. Bri’s dead father’s ex manager, he wasn’t a main character but he had a hand throughout the narrative. He was mysterious and ambiguous, a real dark horse for sure.

The story touched on a lot of current issues: Trey earned a college degree but struggles to find a job, Bri’s grandparents go to a church filled with members who profess Jesus but would rather gossip about people behind their backs, and Aunt Pooh stays involved with horrible things because it’s where she feels accepted and can take care of her family. Ultimately this story is a narrative of identity. Bri grapples with being a black girl in a white world, being seen as aggressive and a threat for things that are tolerated in others. Is Bri the criminal and hoodlum her school and strangers on Twitter believe she is? Is she a carbon copy of her father like her neighborhood thinks? This book drives us readers to wrestle with these questions as Bri does.

Don’t fear though, this book isn’t just heavy existential questions, it’s got a lot of humor and a plethora of references for hip-hop heads. I especially liked getting to read Bri’s rhymes as they appear in the book, it’s evident that Angie Thomas used to be a rapper and I’m all the way here for it. Another thing I love is how, like T.H.U.G, On the Come Up shows the beauty of a place others are quick to write-off. Both books are set in the Garden, which feels like a reimagining of Chicago’s ghetto, and while outsiders see a dangerous area unfit to live, the residents see hard-working people who are proud of where they come from, a neighborhood that supports their own.

Often, it’s hard to follow a mega success like The Hate U Give, but Angie Thomas delivered a solid story. She’s definitely an author to rely on for some hard-hitting, unapologetic, and fun books.

Stay fly,

~Akilah

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Plots

I’m Still Here -Austin Channing Brown

Per my mom’s suggestion, when I read certain books I keep a pad of sticky notes inside to mark special quotes and passages. Austin Channing Brown’s I’m Still Here held dozens of sticky notes peeking out from both ends: a testament to gorgeous prose holding deep thoughts. The rest of the title is “Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness” and the narrative explores Austin’s experiences as a Black woman in America. I laughed, cried, and got chills. A lot of Austin’s experiences are familiar to me: I felt seen in her accounts of the unsolicited invasions of privacy, uncomfortable off-handed comments, and the solace of the Black church. She reminds us that racism in America will never be completely resolved here on earth but that Jesus is our ultimate hope.

I challenge every single person to read this book. I’ll leave you with a few quotes to drive home how spectacular this book is.

“White supremacy is a tradition that must be named and a religion that must be renounced, when this work has not been done, those who live in whiteness become oppressive whether intentional or not”

“The white co-worker who was walking behind me stares in shock. She has never seen me with my hair in a pineapple fro. She reaches out to touch my hair while telling me how beautiful it is. When I pull back, startled by the sudden act of intimacy, she looks hurt and isn’t sure what to do next. The message: I am different, exotic. Anyone should have the right to my body in exchange for a compliment.”

“Whiteness wants enough Blackness to affirm the goodness of whiteness, the progressiveness of whiteness, the open-heartedness of whiteness. Whiteness likes a trickle of Blackness, but only that which can be controlled.”

“But the truth is, even the monster – the Klan members, the faces in the lynch mob, the murderers who bombed churches – they all had friends and family members. Each one of them was connected to people who would testify that they had good hearts…The monster has always been well-dressed and well loved.”

“I love being a Black woman because we are demanding. We demand the right to live as fully human We demand access – the right to vote, to education, to employment, to housing, to equal treatment under the law. And we do it creatively: sit-ins and die-ins, signs and songs, writing and filmmaking. We demand because our ancestors did. We demand because we believe in our own dignity.”

Stay fly,

~Akilah

Plots

The Hate U Give ~Angie Thomas

“The truth casts a shadow over the kitchen -people like us in situations like this become hashtags, but they rarely get justice. I think we all wait for that one time though, that one time when it ends right.” ~The Hate U Give

I’ve been waiting for so long to read this book. It’s one of the most hyped books of 2017 and shocker its a hyped YA contemporary that I actually wanted to read. The premise sounded interesting, I’m always searching for more “YA of color”, and Jason Reynolds, one of my favorite authors, acclaimed it, so it was a perfect fit. 

The Hate U Give is about sixteen-year-old Starr Carter who witnesses her best friend Khalil get murdered by police. I’m ecstatic that a book about hard topics like police brutality and race relations by a debut woman of color author is getting buzz. I hope that this will lead to more  authors of color getting the recognition they deserve, especially in YA. Also, as there’s a movie in the future (with the great Amandla Stenberg I might add) I hope that the movie will do it justice and expand the platform even further.

I love the cover, first of all. My book cover aesthetic is very clean and minimal and I love the white, black, red, and brown color scheme. I appreciate that it isn’t a photo, as I’m not a fan of photos on book covers, but that it features a WOC on the front (representation matters).

Starr is a wonderful character, multi-faceted and imperfect. Her obsession with Jordan’s and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air make her quite endearing. On a side-note I loved the descriptions of shoes in the book and hearing which J’s are Starr’s favorite.

Family is also a major part of this book, Starr’s parents and siblings are developed in a satisfying way and add to the book. Seven, Starr’s older brother is the epitome of cool and her younger brother Sekani adds bits of humor to the family. I also love how strong  her parent’s relationship is, even after a messy past. Starr’s Uncle Carlos is a police officer, which adds an interesting dynamic to this issue of police brutality, making her perception of police complex.

As far as friendships, Angie Thomas uses Starr’s relationships with her friends to deal with deeper issues, which is perfect. Also I admire her friend Maya, I would definitely hang out with her in real life. The only person close to Starr I did not like is her boyfriend Chris. I understand what Angie Thomas was trying to do with exploring interracial relationships (Chris is white) but I didn’t like his character. Their relationship seemed unnessecary and I wish I could just cut out his scenes.

I would love less Chris and more Khalil. I knew going in that Khalil was going to die, yet I still let myself love him so much. Why do I do myself like this?? I cried, physical tears when he was shot (and at other times during the book) because he was just so kind, funny, and he loved Starr. They grew up together and I would love to see a prequel of their childhood. Also, his love for his momma and grandma is so sweet, Angie Thomas did a fantastic job of revealing his character even after his death. Starr’s character development also continues throughout the whole book. It was amazing to see her growth over the course of the story.

My only other complaint aside from Chris is the language in this book. It’s like a PG-13 movie, but I find language even more bothersome in books. Therefore I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone under 13, it also can be a little intense at times so be aware.

This book was bomb, and I’m glad it’s getting so much acclaim and I hope the movie delivers like the book did.

Stay fly

~Akilah

What did you think of The Hate U Give?

If you liked T.H.U.G. you might like…

  • When I Was the Greatest ~Jason Reynolds
  • Piecing Me Together ~Renee Watson
  • Scorpions ~Walter Dean Myers
  • Maizon At Blue Hill ~Jacqueline Woodson
Plots

The Prize of Education// Up From Slavery Booker T. Washington

“From any point of view, I had rather be what I am, a member of the Negro race, than be able to claim membership with the most favoured of any other race.” -Booker T. Washington

Up From Slavery, the autobiography of Booker T. Washington, engrained itself in the list of classics, and in the list of books that have impacted me. From slave boy to college founder, Booker T. Washington’s life is already remarkable, but it is even more so reading it in his own words.

Education was an important theme in this book. Education was Booker’s childhood dream, driving force, and ultimate destination. One thing that resonated with me was how deeply Booker, his family, and community hungered for education. For them, Hampton Institute was paradise and education was the prize. When Booker returned from Hampton, the elders in his community longed to know about his experience, “they had spent the best days of their lives in slavery, and hardly expected to live to see the time when they would see a member of their race leave home to attend a boarding school.” 

But Booker didn’t believe in traditional education only, he wanted to equip black people in “book-learning” but also in trade and life skills. This was important especially in Reconstruction because newly freed slaves needed both kinds of this intelligence to thrive.

The imagery in this book was wonderfully vivid, from the descriptions of the European countryside during Booker’s vacation to descriptions of poor people with only one fork per family but an expensive piano no one can play.

Booker T. Washington’s heart for black people-his people, and his work at Tuskegee was woven expertly through this narrative. I whole-heartedly recommend this book as a window into the life of an amazing orator, educator, and college founder.

Stay fly,

~Akilah

Plots

Humor, Culture, and Race// Open Mic by Mitali Perkins Review

Using humor as the common denominator, a multicultural cast of YA authors steps up to the mic to share stories touching on race. Listen in as ten YA authors — some familiar, some new — use their own brand of humor to share their stories about growing up between cultures. Henry Choi Lee discovers that pretending to be a tai chi master or a sought-after wiz at math wins him friends for a while — until it comically backfires. A biracial girl is amused when her dad clears seats for his family on a crowded subway in under a minute flat, simply by sitting quietly in between two uptight white women. Edited by acclaimed author and speaker Mitali Perkins, this collection of fiction and nonfiction uses a mix of styles as diverse as their authors, from laugh-out-loud funny to wry, ironic, or poingnant, in prose, poetry, and comic form

The Good:

I love reading short story collections, they offer a chance to find new authors, listen to different voices on the same subject and experience new adventures. This collection: Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices, is an excellent manifestation of those things.

My favorite stories: Confessions of a Black Geek and Like Me, resonated with me as I could identify with the characters. On the flip side however, I also enjoyed the stories where I could experience the point of view of characters in other cultures.
The Bad:

Nothing was bad, but my least favorite story was Lexicon, I couldn’t quite understand what it was about.

The Beautiful:

The cover for one, so simplistic with the color scheme of a sunrise. And the freedom with which all these authors approached the touchy subject of race and race relations. It’s always wonderful when important conversations can begin in a format like this.

Stay fly

~Akilah

Plots

The Struggle is Real: Representation of the Middle Passage in Literature

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Every race, culture, and member of humanity has a struggle. And their struggles are what make stories, stories that are written on paper, stories that are published, that we pick up at our libraries and bookstores. These stories are the ones that we read, that expose us to new ideas, comfort us, and give us a window into someone else’s experience.

But why is it that one group of people’s story gets repeated over and over but another’s are only whispered on certain days? Why is it that there is a plethora of stories about the horrors of the Holocaust, but comparably fewer about the Middle Passage?

The Middle Passage is the journey slaves took from their homeland of Africa to the unknown soil of America. They were packed together tightly in the bowels of the ship, like they were nothing more than common cargo. Buckets of freezing water were tossed onto their bruised bodies. They were forced to dance to joyless beats for “exercise”. Young girls were ritually raped by sailors. And all these horrors were only the beginning of the life of hardship that was waiting for them in the Americas.

There are many answers to the question of why there are so few middle passage books, especially in MG and YA historical fiction. But one answer lies within the fact of who tells the story.

We all want to feel comfortable. Most books that are popular and receive the most exposure are written by white Americans. It’s much more comfortable for Americans to sympathize with the Jews, some of them are Jewish themselves and had ancestors with first hand knowledge. The Holocaust happened far away. And was the fault of the Nazis.

In contrast these authors great-great-great-grandparents could have been slave owners, deck hands and ship captains. It hits so much closer to home.

Also, writing about the Middle Passage would require more research, since  there are probably not any witnesses like there are for the Holocaust.

Because these stories are difficult to hear and to write is all the more reason to hear and write them. I do not discount the Holocaust and I believe it should be remembered. Nor do I think the Middle Passage is the only story of a struggle that needs to be told. But it is an important part of the history of America and of the world. And it must be remembered and told.

I have read a few excellent books about The Middle Passage that I will feature in an up coming post.

Until next time

Stay fly friends

~Akilah

Have you read any good books about the Middle Passage or other unknown struggles?