Hey, mersquad coven!
I’d love to present to you my first blog tour with my very own company, Hear Our Voices! Our first two tours started on July 28th, and we only have so much more to go from here. Thank you to everyone that has been so supportive of this journey, the many #ownvoices hosts that are lined up for all of our upcoming tours, and to our allies that have been helping to spread the word. You all are amazing, and I am so excited to see all of these tours come to life.
Be sure to click on the above banner – made in house by the super talented and amazing Natalia – to see the full line up of posts, so you can follow along with all of our reviews and creative content.
The Black Kids
by Christina Hammonds Reed
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 1st, 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Contemporary
Los Angeles, 1992
Ashley Bennett and her friends are living the charmed life. It’s the end of senior year and they’re spending more time at the beach than in the classroom. They can already feel the sunny days and endless possibilities of summer.
Everything changes one afternoon in April, when four LAPD officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley’s not just one of the girls. She’s one of the black kids.
As violent protests engulf LA and the city burns, Ashley tries to continue on as if life were normal. Even as her self-destructive sister gets dangerously involved in the riots. Even as the model black family façade her wealthy and prominent parents have built starts to crumble. Even as her best friends help spread a rumor that could completely derail the future of her classmate and fellow black kid, LaShawn Johnson.
With her world splintering around her, Ashley, along with the rest of LA, is left to question who is the us? And who is the them?
Christina Hammonds Reed holds an MFA in Film and Television Production from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. Her short fiction has previously appeared in the Santa Monica Review. She lives in Hermosa Beach, CA.
Police brutality, Depictions/Mentions of suicide, Racism, Uses of the n-word, Domestic abuse
Disclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to Hear Our Voices Book Tours, Netgalley, and Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers for this free copy. All quotes in this review are taken from the Advanced Reader Copy and may change in final publication.
I’m telling you… this book was super uncomfortable in the best way? I feel like that’s super weird to say honestly, but when you read this, you will understand what I mean. This book was really, really good at showing just how shitty the L.A. Riots were, and how Black and brown people were treated back then – and it was such a parallel of what’s going on in the world right now. I mean… it’s not like any of these things ever stopped, so it’s just really a continuation.
Anyway, I feel like I’m still trying to get my thoughts around this book because there was so much of it that I hated – because I think you were supposed to hate it – so of course my emotions while I was reading this was conflicting with how I actually felt about the book. Which, I guess if we think about it, those are some of the best kinds of books out there.
I’ll start with one that I know a lot of people may agree with here, and it just so happens to have been Christina’s intention so I don’t feel bad about this, but I. HATED. ASHLEY. I legit hated her so much for the majority of the novel. I think the only time I started to slowly defrost and I guess feel some type of okay way for her was legitimately at the very ending. I was glad that there was a little bit that redeemed her in my eyes, but not by much. You could tell that her privilege just completely clouded a lot of her viewpoint of the world around her. Even though she would say that she wasn’t sheltered because she is Black – which granted, yes that is somewhat true – she was sheltered in so many other ways. I really felt like she thought she was better than the other Black kids at her school, or even just in the poor neighborhoods around her because she had the privilege of having a mom and dad with great ass paying jobs. Ashley and her sister Jo did not have to want for anything, and honestly I don’t know if they realized that that was special in and of itself.
And on another note: ASHLEY’S FRIENDS WERE JERKS. Well, mostly Kimberly? Yeah she was on a whole different level. Like, I think the moment that Ashley sees her for what she is and sees that she was never really safe from Kimberly’s attacks like she thought she was finally opened her eyes to the crap that she would do. The racist crap that she would do. And honestly, I know that Kimberly had a powerful influence on everyone, and I get the dynamic of friends following in their leader’s footsteps and stuff. I get that, but I just wish that the other girls stood against her when she would do some really bad stuff. Said some really bad stuff. Oh well. It’s high school, we are still trying to learn about ourselves, it happens. I wasn’t any better, so I can’t say I would have done anything different if I was in their shoes.
This was a powerful book that taught you more about the L.A. Riots and what started it than any other US History class in the public education system. Seriously, I don’t know how many people have mentioned that they didn’t know about the L.A. Riots, Rodney King, or even Latasha Harlins. You can bet barely anyone has heard about Latasha Harlins because she was just a 15 year old Black girl who was shot in the head over a can of orange juice. Just like all the other Black girls and women killed in society, her name wasn’t mentioned. Her story was silent. And that needs to stop. It just does. This book even talks about the destruction of Black Wall Street, which I know a TON of people didn’t even know was a thing because that’s not taught in schools either. And while I wouldn’t say that you should just read this book and consider yourself educated on these events, you should take what you learned in this book to further educate yourself on these things, and see what has been hidden from you.
There’s actually a lot of quotes that I wanted to bring up in my review and in my reflection, but the more I go back and see these quotes, the angrier I get. This book was just so frustrating and emotional and jarring that I can’t even really explain why certain quotes have me so upset. But if you read it, maybe you’ll see for yourself.
But I wanted to talk about these two important people mentioned in the story, and how even though I may have heard about Rodney King when I was growing up, I don’t think I ever understood just how pivotal his beating was, just how fed up Black people were after this happened. I didn’t understand as a little girl. I just remember hearing that he got hurt, really badly. And me being the little girl I was, I didn’t understand why people were so mean and hurt someone else. But I didn’t understand that it was way deeper than just people being mean.
I was born in 1992. In fact, I wasn’t even born yet when the LA Riots started. The acquittal was made on April 29, 1992, a little more than a month before I would be born. So of course I wouldn’t have known what was happened as it was happening, and that’s not on me. But I can tell you that as I grew up, I remember my parents talking about it. Because I was a baby, and they thought about the kind of world that they were bringing their baby into. How the darker my skin would get, the more discrimination I would face because I was unlucky enough to be born a Black girl. Yes, I was not just Black. I AM not just Black, but one look at me on the surface and that it was people assume. What else would they think? One look at my father, and of course that’s what they would think. My dad is darker than Rodney King; there’s no mistaking he’s Black. He’s a tall, big Black man that the world considered a danger to society, and he was just existing. Was I doomed from birth because of who my mother decided to love? Who my mother decided to have a child with? Would my father’s skin color condemn me to a life of microaggressions and violence and racial hate?
Reading this book taught me about another victim: Latasha Harlins. She was a 15 year old girl who was shot in the back of the head by a Korean store owner who thought she was stealing a $2 bottle of orange juice. The woman who killed her was not punished. She was murdered on March 16, 1991. She was murdered before I was even thought of. She was a young Black girl that was just trying to get something to drink, and her life was snuffed out with no remorse. Just like that, she was erased from this world. Almost erased from history because her story is not told. It just isn’t. It’s not told in the same capacity as Julius Caesar, or Alexander the Great, or George Washington. Someone might argue that, well why would she have that kind of recognition? She didn’t do anything “great”.
She didn’t have the chance to do anything great. And that’s the point.
So don’t tell me that her story shouldn’t be told because she wasn’t a President, or she wasn’t a conqueror, or whatever crap you think makes someone worth remembering. She was a little girl that had a full life ahead of her, and because people have always vilified Black people for their skin color, she didn’t get to have that.
I don’t have a book hangover per se, but I definitely feel emotionally worn out after reading this book. It just makes me rethink a lot of things going on today, what happened in the past, and what I want to do to change the world. And I hope that it brings some sort of emotional response for you too. Go check out the other reviews and posts throughout this tour. It’s definitely a great tour happening with so many great people sharing their thoughts on this novel.