"If all the heroes in our stories are white, what does that make us?"
Set in Los Angeles in the 90s, The Black Kids tells the story of Ashley, an affluent teen spending the last days of high school hanging out in her friends' pools, with little more to worry about than who's taking who to prom. Then the police officers in Rodney King's trial are acquitted and the city explodes with hurt and anger. As the city quickly spirals out of control, so does Ashley's cozy, sheltered life. From her sister, whose activism is becoming more and more dangerous, to her friends, who don't all seem to see her the way they used to, to the other black kids at school, who wonder what took her so long, Ashley must come to terms with the fact that she is, in fact, one of the black kids and that means a lot more than she realized.
Set during the riots that broke out in Los Angeles around the time of the Rodney King beating, this book will resonate with today's teens as they grapple with the complexities of race relations in their world. Although I found some parts a bit contrived, the story of the rich black kid who has grown up in suburbia surrounded by white kids is definitely a mirror in which many people will see themselves and is a good counterpoint to all the books about black kids that are set in poor areas (don't get me wrong, those stories need to be told too. It's just nice to see a book that brings a different perspective). The way that Ashley starts to recognize the micro-aggressions she has been shrugging off in the name of friendship is really well done, slowly pushing her to realize how she has been ignoring these types of comments and actions for years. I also really appreciated how her growing relationships lead her to understanding privilege as a very multi-layered construct, one that she has simultaneously benefited from and been disadvantaged by.
The style will appeal to teen readers looking for an easy read but the content provides lots of fuel for deep, meaningful discussions.
Recommended for Gr 8+.
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