I finally finished reading On the Come Up, and guys, I highly recommend this book. I just couldn’t stop reading it! The only bad part was when I had to put it down. I usually don’t read the epilogue in books, but the cliffhanger at the end of the book was so big I had to read more. In my last post I mentioned that Bri had to address her father’s death and face her grief. This journey is a difficult one and Thomas captures Bri’s conflicting and sharp emotions about the topic beautifully. Bri’s angry at her Dad for making choices that put him in danger and ultimately led to his death. However, she respects his rapping career, using his art to get to know him. Bri uses anger to hide a lot of her pain. She’s angry that her mom did drugs, that her dad died, that things went wrong, and she gets upset over things she can’t control. Her anger, it’s collateral damage and fall-out, are just a cover for her sadness. Bri’s sadness is deep grief for her father’s death that she never got to process. By finally learning to shed her anger and accept her sadness, Bri gets closure. Not only does she learn to accept her father’s death, she also learns to accept life. “We can’t control everything that happens to us, but we can control how we respond to things we can’t control.” – Avis J. Williams. This lesson is a hard one for Bri to learn, but by the end of the book she finds some peace. Bri ends a chapter in her life, she still has more to live, and the book leaves you wanting more.
My last post introduced the book I’m currently reading, On the Come Up , I’ve gotten far but I’m not finished yet. The book continues to get better, the characters become richer and more relatable with flaws as well as features . Bri, the main character, makes it through her first battle in the ring but more is in store for her. As she continues to rap she is reminded of her dad, because for so many years rapping was his world and the ring was his place. Bri seems to be trying to do her own thing, but the author makes it evident that at some point Bri needs to confront the memory of her father and figure out what he meant to her. Bri has a love interest, her best friend, and I can’t wait to see how that turns out. In Thomas’ last book the main character starts with a boyfriend, but in this one Bri starts out single. Yet both of them have to continuously work on their relationships, with themselves, friends, and family. I continue to find differences and similarities between these characters, two young African American women searching for their voice. I’m excited to find out where Bri’s life takes her, the choices she makes, and what direction this book goes in.
Angie Thomas pictured with her two novels
So lately, because of the quarantine, I’ve been stuck at home and the best part is it’s a good time for me to catch up on my reading. Sticking with the book review theme, I just started On the Come Up, another book by Angie Thomas. This book makes some connections with her previous book, but if you haven’t read it, you can still read this one. Unlike other series, Thomas’ books have similar themes, yet aren’t solely connected. I find this refreshing, because I like the freedom that comes with individual books vs. series. Whereas Starr, the main character of The Hate U Give had a strong family to help her express herself, this character had to do it all on her own. The story is that ‘Bri’ Jackson, a rapping star in the making, is following the steps of her dead father. Bri’s mother, grief stricken after her father’s death, turns to drugs. Her mother eventually sobers up, but not without leaving a negative imprint on her daughter’s psyche. The story starts with Bri getting ready to do an important rap battle, and she’s waiting for the call to see if she gets in.
As I’ve previously mentioned, I’ve been reading In The Neighborhood of True by Susan Kaplan Carlton. I have written about the book as I was reading it and finally here’s my review. I found the book to be as enticing and intricately worded as its title. The book explores the complicated world of Ruth Robb, a Jewish teen from New York City transported to the heart of the South. The reason for such a drastic change is the sudden death of her father. If all this isn’t enough, the book takes place during 1958 in South Carolina. Ruth finds herself keeping her Judaism a secret from everybody in one part of her life, like those at her Christian school and in the Debutante Society. She is still a part of Jewish Congregation in her town of Charleston and leading another life there. Her desperate struggle to cover all the bases leading two separate lives is perfectly captured by Carlton. Carlton also tells Ruth’s coming of age and develops her character through just the right lense. Carlton pushes forward with ideas I am drawn to even as a teen living today. Ruth wants to be accepted in the Debutante circle, and finds first love there. She still attends services at her Temple, and finds community there. Carlton writes about the poise and glory of the Southern Ball and Debutante world, and the sometimes true and ugly meaning behind those words. The urge behind people to simply shut off, to push away anything that doesn’t act or look exactly like them. The book is like a ball on a hill, it starts off slow and steady, but by the end it’s racing and crashing to the finish. The way the book moves reflects the movement of the main character. Reading this book I felt a deep connection to the main character, as she experiences the devastation of the bombing of the Hebrew Benevolent Congregation Temple first hand, and I too live in a chaotic world. In 2019 in the United States there have been 3 terrifying attacks on Jewish institutions. I can’t imagine being a young Jewish woman in the United States during 1958 in the midst of a highly antisemitic atmosphere, I can’t imagine the fear. Despite the horrific feelings around it, Carlton sees through the smoke and the rubble, she makes sure that the stories are heard, and that the fear is seen. If we don’t look fear in the eye, we can’t face it.
Kutztown Scout Troop 101
Perkins with FDR and Cabinet
I was approached by someone from a local Scout Troop to present on a famous woman in history, they know this is one of the areas I explore in my blog. It was a very fun presentation, and the kids were great. I decided to talk about Francis Perkins, because we never really learned about her when I was a kid. She was a dedicated and tireless public servant . She was the first ever female cabinet member, she made dozens of strides for workers and labor conditions. In her time she accomplished a 40 hour work week, a federal minimum wage, unemployment compensation, injured workers compensation, abolition of child labor, social security and so much more. I can’t even fit in all of her accomplishments in this post, so I encourage you to research her even further. Also keep in mind that she accomplished all of these things within only 12 years of service as Secretary of Labor. Franklin Roosevelt broke gender stereotypes to push for her appointment, and she proved to be a wise choice for him and the country. I wanted to get the Scouts involved, so I had them do an activity where they wrote letters to State Representative Gary Day and State Senator Judy Schwank. In their letters the Scouts mentioned learning about Frances Perkins, and then they wrote about the things they’re passionate about and changes they would like to see, the kids really had a lot to say. They’re young but they know what change they want to see in the world the way Frances Perkins did, and they’re not afraid to speak out about it. It’s inspiring to see.
I’m finishing up In The Neighborhood of True by Susan Kaplan Carlton, definitely my favorite book right now. I’m really drawn to the main character, because in many ways she’s flawed, yet she’s also an amazing person. I’m really excited to do another book review, and this book is similar to the last book, a book about social justice and staying true to yourself. Both books have the similar theme of finding your voice and standing up for the right thing. However, there are some main differences between The Hate U Give and In the Neighborhood of True. This new book is set in the 1950’s, rather than modern day, so it can be hard to put yourself into the mindset of another time period. This book also focuses on experiences of a young Jewish girl who moves into a very antisemitic Southern town, versus the experiences of a young African American girl in the Hate U Give dealing with issues of racism as she moves between the Black Community where she lives and her mostly white school. Both of these books address very real issues of hatred, in different ways, that have been and still are part of young people’s lives. I hope you are looking forward to my final review of In the Neighborhood of True as much as I have enjoyed reading this powerful book.
In my last post I did a review of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and I said that I was going to review her next book On the Come Up, and I still plan to. However, I have been moved by the recent antisemitic attacks that have been in the news to address this issue by doing a review of another book first. This book is called In the Neighborhood of True, by Susan Kaplan Carlton, and it is loosely based on the 1958 bombing of a Temple in Atlanta, Georgia. The book is told in the perspective of a jewish teenage girl named Ruth, who moves from New York to Atlanta after her father dies. I want to review this book not only because I am Jewish and this issue is personal, but also to reflect on current and past anti-semitic events and how they affect everyone. Anti-semitism is a global and national crisis. In October of 2019 when I went to the Hannah Arendt Center Seminar on Antisemitism and Racism; people discussed the origin of antisemitism, the Palestine conflict, and zionism, and how to address them now. In The Neighborhood of True is a beautifully written book that depicts the dark history of antisemitism in America and is still unfortunately relevant today.
https://jwa.org/media/temple-bombing-atlanta-georgia – 1958 picture of the Temple bombed in Atlanta, Georgia
https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/12/what-monsey-attack-says-about-jewish-community/604228/ – 2019 Picture of supporters of the Jewish community in Monsey, NY that suffered a brutal antisemitic attack.
Angie Thomas wrote The Hate U Give, a beautiful portrait of modern life in America. Thomas shows 16 year old Starr Carter, an African American girl and her torn life. From the rough Garden Heights neighborhood where she lives, to the completely different world of a mostly White private school she goes to in Williamson. Starr feels pulled between the two places, and feels forced to be two different people. However, when she witnesses her friend Kahlil get shot by a racist cop, Starr’s two world’s collide. She can’t help but be her full self and speak her true mind as she goes through grief. Starr becomes the key witness in the trial, and finds her voice with the experience of losing Kahlil. Thomas does an amazing job in showing the vulnerability of the character and pain Starr feels with the loss of Kahlil. This book grabs your attention and forces you to see the pain of the younger generation, the sadness mixed with frustration that can become rage. The support of her parents is a beautiful, very relatable and real picture of family. Yet, it shows that sometimes even having support kids still feel lost. This lost feeling is captured so well by the author in Starr’s disoriented and misguided actions. I could see it clearly, feel it with the character. Thomas has gotten the Michael L. Printz Award for this book, a well deserved award, and after reading the book myself I fell in love. I look forward to reading her next novel, On The Come Up , and sharing my thoughts on it.
The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt was written by Ken Krimstein in 2018. Krimstein creates a beautiful portrait of Arendt’s life, and you can tell the amount of research and work he put into the graphic novel. He doesn’t skip over the hard spots, including Arendt’s controversial piece Eichmann in Jerusalem. Krimstein eloquently communicates the disconnection and lost friends over this hugely disputed piece. Yet he also shows the amazing devotion and support from her loving husband Heinrich Blucher. You really get an insight as to what Arendt’s life was like, especially her childhood. One fun little part of the book is the story of Arendt getting kicked out of her school for protesting because the teachers were “too dumb”. Krimstein uses the three escapes as a way to tell her story from beginning to end. He describes the three escapes in her life, and through these events he tells her story flawlessly. Arendt did so much, and wrote so much work, it’s amazing how much Krimstein captures. Arendt wrote six impactful non-fiction books on deep philosophical issues, and numerous essays, that changed how people saw the world. Her life was incredible and her ideas revolutionary and still relevant. Krimstein captures the essence of Hannah in this unique and beautiful graphic novel.
So I know that in my last post I talked about going to the Conference on Racism and Antisemitism at the Hannah Arendt Center, but I didn’t really elaborate on it. I learned so much and heard a lot of interesting people speak, and I want to share with you in more detail. There were a lot of recurring themes, the presentation given by author and historian Ibram X. Kendi titled “How to be an Antiracist” was particularly interesting. One issue that Ibram Kendi raised and people talked about was the idea that in situations that involve racism instead of perpetrators and intent as the focus, we should focus on victims and outcomes. This way we can help the victims of the situation and make sure it doesn’t happen again. This connects to another concept brought up by Ibram Kendi, which was that the police officers that say on the news that they feared for their life and that is why they shot a Black person, are faulty due to ignorance. Because the fear they refer to is based on racist stereotypes of someone who is Black as being automatically more dangerous because of their color. These were just some of the thought provoking ideas people raised and talked about. I learned about many powerful and new ways to approach situations.Ibram X. Kendi’s book is called “How to be an Antiracist” and he also has an article in the New York Times entitled “An Antiracist Reading List”. I would really recommend everyone go to this conference if you can, it’s held every Fall at Bard University, and it’s truly amazing.