I received this book for free from Libro.fm in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed
Narrator: Kiersey Clemons
Length: 8 hours 55 minutes
Published by Simon and Schuster on August 4, 2020
Genres: Young Adult Fiction
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Ashley Bennett is a black girl who has grown up with privilege and wealth living in 1992 Los Angeles. She goes to a majority white school where she has a group of white friends, and lives with her family in a white neighborhood. She’s a senior at the end of her senior year who is concerned about college, the prom and graduation. But in the backdrop, almost like a secondary character, the spark that began as the Rodney King beating will blow up into the L.A. Riots is casting a shadow on the last few weeks of her high school career.
I know The Black Kids is a coming of age story, but I just want to take a moment and highlight two things:
- I really felt it was a coming to consciousness of self story, which may actually be the same thing, but bear with me for a sec.
- It makes me really sad when the catalyst that compels a black child into adulthood is a racist experience.
Ashley is a flawed main character, as a reader I am okay with it and understand that. At times, I did not like Ashley because of her casual treatment of a situation (no spoilers folks- go read the book! 😉) that could have caused major harm for another character. But I felt like her journey was interesting. As a Black teenager, she is aware of the parameters and limits that she must abide within regardless of who she is hanging out with at the time. But her self-awareness is limited. When she is the target of mistreatment, she is pushed to develop another level of awareness or consciousness of what it means to be Black when some of her privilege is stripped away.
Her perspective of herself develops during her journey
- How does she see herself?
- How do her white friends see her?
- How do the Black kids see her?
- How does she see herself once she finds out how both of the previously mentioned groups see her?
The author uses Ashley’s family, to engage Ashley in processing how race and privilege affects her life. Her sister Jo is an activist and her cousin Morgan lives in the city of Los Angeles and is actively affected by the unrest of the riots. This book deals with both race and class. The development of the relationship between LaShawn and Ashley is also packed full of meaning and is a huge part of Ashley’s growth.
🎧 Audio Narration Highlights:
I thought the actress that narrated the book had a voice that matched my idea of the character. It really felt like I was listening to a teenage girl tell her story. She also did a good job of differentiating the main character from the other characters. I appreciated the shifts she made for the other characters that helped me tell the characters apart more clearly. This is important to me when I am listening to an audiobook and it makes the book come alive.
There are moments in the book when the n-word is used by a character. My reaction was similar to a record-scratch, hold up what did you just say, rewind that because I know ol’ girl didn’t just say that with a hard r on the end. I probably was more shocked and upset than the character sounded in the audio.
Two Things that hooked me into reading this book:
- The gorgeous cover!
- The prologue. It is what hooked me into reading it in the first place.
The Lisa Turtle discussion…
Would I Read it Again? Well, the audiobook was good, so I checked out an ebook from the library to re-read parts that I wanted to go back over. As I did, I dug into more of the layers the author set up in the book. So, yes I would read it again as a close read to discuss and analyze because she has some good stuff in there.
Would I Recommend? Yes. I would teach this book if I had the chance. My focus would be on characterization and possibly structure. There are a lot of connections a teacher can make to teenage life via discussing change and growth in your own character. This is a good classroom library book too.
Thank you to Libro.fm for providing this free audiobook as part of their Audiobook Listening Copy (ALC) program for educators. All opinions are my own.