Category Archives: African American Protagonist

On the Come Up

On the Come UpI will admit that hip hop and rap are a little bit outside of my wheelhouse, but I love the education I’m getting with this book!  Bri, the tough and talented protagonist is everything I want my students to be. She cares deeply for her family, is talented beyond her own knowing, and follows her dreams with the reckless abandon we only seem to find in our youth. I just want to buy her that pair of Timberlands!

“Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.

On the Come Up is Angie Thomas’s homage to hip-hop, the art that sparked her passion for storytelling and continues to inspire her to this day. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; of the struggle to become who you are and not who everyone expects you to be; and of the desperate realities of poor and working-class black families” (Good Reads).

The 57 Bus:A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime that Changes Their Lives

The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their LivesSo, I’m usually more of a young adult fiction fan, but this non-fiction piece grabbed me and just wouldn’t let me go!  I’ve never read a story of such a hateful and senseless crime. But even stranger is the fact that I came away not hating the perpetrator. There is some very subtle empathetic writing happening here. I will warn you that the crime itself as well as Sasha’s recovery is difficult to digest, but Richard’s character arc makes it worthwhile.  This story will ask you to dig deep and discover just how much forgiveness do we have as human beings.

The book also provides an enlightening education on the LGBTQ acronym, specifically regarding gender roles that I found refreshingly straightforward.

“One teenager in a skirt.
One teenager with a lighter.
One moment that changes both of their lives forever.

If it weren’t for the 57 bus, Sasha and Richard never would have met. Both were high school students from Oakland, California, one of the most diverse cities in the country, but they inhabited different worlds. Sasha, a white teen, lived in the middle-class foothills and attended a small private school. Richard, a black teen, lived in the crime-plagued flatlands and attended a large public one. Each day, their paths overlapped for a mere eight minutes. But one afternoon on the bus ride home from school, a single reckless act left Sasha severely burned, and Richard charged with two hate crimes and facing life imprisonment. The case garnered international attention, thrusting both teenagers into the spotlight,” (Good Reads).

All American Boys

All American Boys

Told in two perspectives, this is a book that I could not put down. When one boy was finished, I wanted to hear from the second right away. After watching his older brother brutally beat his classmate, Quinn must decide (under pressure from both sides) if he will be a bystander or an ally. This is a stark look at how far we have come since the Civil Rights Movement and of how far we have yet to go.

 

Rashad is absent again today.

That’s the sidewalk graffiti that started it all…

Well, no, actually, a lady tripping over Rashad at the store, making him drop a bag of chips, was what started it all. Because it didn’t matter what Rashad said next—that it was an accident, that he wasn’t stealing—the cop just kept pounding him. Over and over, pummeling him into the pavement. So then Rashad, an ROTC kid with mad art skills, was absent again…and again…stuck in a hospital room. Why? Because it looked like he was stealing. And he was a black kid in baggy clothes. So he must have been stealing.

And that’s how it started,”  (Good Reads).

The Hate U Give

 

The Hate U GiveOh, boy. What can I say, but get ready for tremendous emotion in this one. I read it at the same time as All American Boys. They have similar story lines (teens being wrongfully accused and mistreated by police officers), but there was just something about the female protagonist in this one that has stayed with me ever since.  Starr is tough, smart, and sensitive (even if she doesn’t want to be). Needing to code switch in order to fit in at her private school while still maintaining an authentic presence in her neightborhood, Starr is an unforgettable character.

 

“Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed ” (Good Reads).