Tag: racism

So this is kind of why I write for young people

(After McKinney and hearing too many people say “Not everything is about race” as if somehow that would make it okay…)

Let’s say it’s not about race. If you take race completely out of the picture I think the evidence is clear–that particular officer brandishing a gun at nearly-naked teens is not fit for his duty; he has now resigned and that’s a good outcome.

Soooo even though I do think the event had something to do with racism, if I were wrong about that part my feeling would be essentially the same. If Dajerria Becton were some blonde white girl pushed to the ground in her bikini, I would still be horrified.

The job of the police officer is difficult, and not everyone is suited for the duty of protecting and serving. Sadly, this man in the video–he’s not behaving as one of those who match strength and compassion with calmness and integrity; for I have known such men and such women. Or if he ever was like them, he lost his way.

I can empathize with this person who is totally losing his shit in public, and wish privacy for his family and healing for whatever’s gone sideways in his heart.

But my sympathies are ultimately with the young, because even if they behave in unacceptable ways (which I don’t think these kids were, but even if I’m wrong) they are new in the world still. And because they shoulder the burden of our hopes–that the world will remain a living world, that our stories will still be told after we are gone–they deserve our kindness and not our fear. Our love and not our violence. Shelter and not rage.

They deserve better.


Lie by Caroline Bock
Sept. 2011, St. Martin’s/Griffin

Recommend for readers looking for an answer for “How does it happen?” will find a portrait of a community that nurtures the conditions for murderous hate crimes. A community that is, in fact, completely ordinary. It isn’t the murder itself that the community struggles with. It’s that the culprit is caught and held accountable; the attack would not have shaken this community if no one had been arrested.

Diverse content: Carmen assigned this book because (I imagine) it deals with a hate crime. Most of the POV characters are white, but one of the victims and his mother do have a number of chapters, and they are El Salvadoran immigrants. SPOILER ALERT the crime is ultimately committed due to homophobia, though there aren’t any out gay characters.

Study this for the use of multiple POVs. There are so many POVs in LIE because we need all of them to clearly see that the whole community is culpable. Every white person ignores the racism until it reaches its conclusion in the arrest of a golden-boy for murder. We generally like to think in terms of the villain as being extraordinary; we like to personify evil into one or a few characters. They are different from us enough that we do not feel implicated in their crimes. Here, it’s the entire web of community that is to blame, that is racist (either actively or apathetically). Bock succeeds in showing that, but it is a grim read. It is painfully realistic.


Two Awesome Totally Different Books

The first part of every course at NILA takes place during the ten days of residency. For this DR, we covered two books at residency: Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina and The Living by Matt de la Peña. So we didn’t do book reviews for these two books since we basically talked about them for hours in person, which is why these notes are brief and informal.

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass

Holy cats! Harrowing. This book won us over with its wit and soul. The title made us (well, those of us who didn’t do our research, like me, I guess) think it was going to be light and funny, but this story is about a girl getting seriously bullied. And it is an awesome book, and there are lots of laughs along the way–but this is a hard-hitting, truth-telling kind of a story. One of those books where you’re not quite the same after you read it. We loved it.  ~Haley I

The Living by Matt de la Peña

This is a non-stop thrill ride. If you haven’t read it yet, that’s cool because there’s a sequel. And you will want to read it right after you finish this one. There was some discussion in class about this book as being very commercial to read for an MFA course. But that’s exactly why I think it was a brilliant choice.

This isn’t a book about what it’s like to have Mexican heritage or be Mexican American or etc. It’s a disaster adventure with both Nature and a shadowy corporate conspiracy as antagonists. Shy, the protagonist, experiences racist BS as one would in the course of daily life. Racist BS matters in the plot, but not in the afterschool-special or problem-novel way. For this reason, I think reading this book, a “plot-driven” book for which you can easily & eagerly imagine the blockbuster summer movie adaptation, was important for the course. (Also, can someone please make the movie of this book?)