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This Side of Home by Renée Watson, Review
February 6th, 2015 by Liza Wiemer

This Side of Home22392935-1

by Renée Watson

Published by Bloomsbury

Pub date: February 3, 2015

More about the author: Website | Tumblr | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Buy the book here: IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

From Goodreads:

Identical twins Nikki and Maya have been on the same page for everything—friends, school, boys and starting off their adult lives at a historically African-American college. But as their neighborhood goes from rough-and-tumble to up-and-coming, suddenly filled with pretty coffee shops and boutiques, Nikki is thrilled while Maya feels like their home is slipping away. Suddenly, the sisters who had always shared everything must confront their dissenting feelings on the importance of their ethnic and cultural identities and, in the process, learn to separate themselves from the long shadow of their identity as twins.

In her inspired YA debut, Renée Watson explores the experience of young African-American women navigating the traditions and expectations of their culture.

My Review:

This Side of HomeThis Side of Home by Renée Watson

An eye-opening view of a predominantly African American community going through transformation. Race relations and honest portrayal and perspective in an beautifully written story of two sisters as they navigate through their last year of high school. A must for all classrooms and libraries, as long as teachers and librarians make an effort to book-talk, promote, and discuss it with their students.

Cover: Fit the novel well with the neighborhood and the girl. I love the smile on her face, which after reading the novel I would interpret as something more than just a smile, but a wonderful sense of pride.

I haven’t read any novel that addresses race relations in quite this way. This book is needed in every classroom, every library. It needs to be book-talked, encouraging young adults to read it, and then discuss it.

I hope that Renee’s book gets a lot of attention. I love that seventeen-year-old Mia says that Black History is OUR history, meaning it belongs to everyone and that everyone should learn it. It should be honored, respected, taught, and shared. As we approach Black History month, there is a tremendous amount to learn, and it’s rich and deep and fascinating and eye-opening. It encompasses so much. I love that that Mia’s parents (and Nikki’s) are community advocates. It just shows that we can ALL be advocates. That it’s important not to stand back and let others be our voice. It’s important to join in.

Reading this book once again shows the divide. I found my heart aching. I found that I was frustrated over the unfairness of cultural division. I found myself cheering for these characters as they succeeded in achieving their dreams. Many things that they endured, I could relate to. On the other hand, try as I may, everyone’s experience is unique and to learn about some of Portland’s Black history, the horrific discrimination, the very real disparity between neighborhoods and educational opportunities, community services, and media attention is, frustrating. Frustrating because we live in a world where this happens ever second of the day and few people do anything about it.

There was a lot to absorb in this novel. Mia brings out an extremely valid point: Why can’t the media report on the fantastic things going on at our school? The media doesn’t hesitate to point out all the bad, but there also doesn’t seem to be room for good. (In this novel, I question the handling of this by the principal. He had the opportunity to show the world the successful graduates, but seems to cancel the media, since they don’t show up.)

What I love about this novel is that it’s an opportunity for dialogue. We need diverse books. The more that become available and students are encouraged to read within classrooms, the more we bridge a space for communication and understanding.

This book hits on some tough issues. Black and White relationships, poverty, violence. It’s a critical step. But let it have meaning and purpose. Share it, discuss it. I’ll be recommending this to everyone!

Thank you to Bloomsbury for providing the ARC.

View all my reviews


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