Thursday, May 25, 2017

Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson

Jade lives in the poor section of Portland but goes to a private school where she is one of only handful of black students.  She is studying Spanish with the hope of being one of the students chosen to study abroad during her junior year.  Instead, she is offered an invitation to a mentorship program called Women to Women where she is paired with an older black woman who attended her school.  Although Maxine is supposed to be mentoring Jade, there are some things Maxine needs to work out in her own life.

This is one of those books with depths that are included so quietly and calmly you don't realize how much meat is in there until you have time to reflect.  Things I loved about it:
  • One of the most racist (definitely classist) characters in the book is Maxine which was a surprise.
  • Other books that feature a main character torn between two worlds have the mandatory scenes where the friends from the different sides of the tracks clash with each other.  Jade's friends got along the entire time.
  • Jade's best friend from the neighborhood didn't try to make her feel bad for leaving the neighborhood.
  • Jade is struggling with feeling beautiful in any number of ways including her color and weight.  And her struggle is never fully resolved.  Like all of us, she has good and bad days.
  • She is not saved or made to feel beautiful thanks to a boyfriend who loves a "thick" girl.
  • Jade's mom!
  • White privilege is woven into the story but the words "white privilege" are never uttered.
  • As someone whose actual field is communication, I LOVE that Jade begins to claim some power by talking to people and telling them directly what she thinks.  Imagine that!!
  • The references to artists and their works without a didactic description of who they are.  It's up to me as the reader to either already have the knowledge of who they are or go find out.
  • Jade's friend from school has realistic layers.  She is not racist (mostly) but she is unable to see how some situations are different for her and Jade.
  • Jade lives in the poor part of Portland but there's no obligatory gangs, addicts, drug dealers...
  • The way that the symphony lady talks down to all the Women to Women members in such a natural way that she doesn't even know how offensive she's being.  
  • And so much more that I'm not remembering already even though I just finished the book. Really masterful writing that captures what it is to be a teen trying to put yourself together.

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