PIECING ME TOGETHER by Renée Watson, Bloomsbury USA Childrens, Feb. 14, 2017, hardcover, $17.99 (young adult)
I am a white woman living in the suburbs of Salt Lake City. And though I have a number of black friends and a few black family members, I really have no idea what it is like to be a black woman in America. That’s why I find books like Renée Watson’s Piecing Me Together so compelling.
At the center of Piecing Me Together is Jade, a black teen who thinks leaving her poor neighborhood is the only way she’s going to be successful. Jade grabs every opportunity that comes her way — a scholarship to a mostly-white private school and Saturday morning test prep opportunities.
Sometimes those “opportunities” and those who offer them come across as condescending rather than beneficial. When Jade receives an invitation to join Women to Women, a mentorship program for “at-risk” girls, aka black girls, she’s reluctant to join. But she can’t pass up the scholarship that comes with it. The problem is, Maxine, Jade’s mentor, may be black, but she doesn’t understand Jade. Going to the symphony and museums and meeting new people are great, but Jade likes her friends and her neighborhood despite perceived problems. What’s wrong, she wonders, with being herself.
Piecing Me Together is very much a story of race and how it is perceived.
As much as we want to say that race doesn’t influence our experiences, it does. When you grow up learning not only what to say and how to act around the police, but also to make sure you get the whole thing on camera, that’s going shape the lens through which you view the law enforcement community. The same goes for other things I might take for granted. I’ve never been followed or asked to leave a store. I always “looked” like most of the kids I went to school with.
Even though Jade’s story isn’t one I could personally relate to as far as race goes, Piecing Me Together touches on universal elements of friendship, self-discovery. body image and financial hardship. Author Renée Watson’s prose is as bold as it is inviting. Her insights on race, class and gender are poignantly told through raw emotion. Piecing Me Together is especially timely in our current political climate. I highly recommend it to teens and adults alike.
© 2017, Cracking the Cover. All rights reserved.