OMG, the feelz I get from this book are indescribable. I had such a whirlwind of emotions when reading this book. It was hard for me to get through, and I even had to put the book down a few times and step away.
And it wasn't because I was outraged or put off or anything like that. It was that 16 year old Starr was ME in 1992. The girl straddling two worlds not really fitting in to either one. I so identified with her "Williamson Starr" and her "Garden Heights Starr". `
I also identified the utter sense of helplessness when you see injustice taking shape all around you but you don't think you have the tools to make a difference. But as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
This book was so well-written and was so well done that I want to scream from the roof top about how everyone should read it. No matter what your perspective is.
Starr's story was one that we hear about a lot in the news, but it was so good to see it from the inside. A young man is shot, but all we hear about is that he has a rap sheet, or he's "a real bad dude". But, why does it matter what he did last week, last year, or even yesterday. In that instant he was an unarmed man who was gunned down in the back and the perpetrator who did it got away with it because he happened to have on a uniform.
Because I see that as an injustice does that mean that I don't think that cop lives matter as I see those bumper stickers cropping up on cars around my neighborhood? No, what it means is that I don't think that that a young black man's life is so insignificant that it doesn't rate more than a passing glance when he's laying dead on the street, shot down by people who are supposed to protect.
Look, I get that this is a fictional story, but for so many of us it is not. It is life. It is everyday when we kiss our husbands and our sons goodbye and we pray with everything in us that they don't get pulled over. It is everyday when I have look my loving, open, but naive brilliant son in the face and tell him that it doesn't matter that other kids were doing it. But because his skin color is different than everyone else, he's going to stand out more. And yeah, it sucks to have to have those conversations with your kid but it's better her learns it from me that have to be slapped across the face with it when he's caught aware.
As I sit here trying to type this review with tears streaming down my face, I still have hope. I have hope that books like these will start a dialogue. And one that can start at an earlier age than mine now. That young kids can make this problem better. That we can talk about social justice without the tone deaf response from either side. That we start trying to have empathy instead of stubbornness. I'm hoping one way we can get there.
The conversation that Starr had with her Dad, Maverick, about what Tupac's T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E. meant was a poignant one. It laid it out--what people mean when they talk about institutional racism. Why it's so frustrating to hear people disparage the inner cities. It's amazing to me that the man (with all of his faults, let's face it) that many of us listened to with zealous fervor growing up in the 90's is still so relevant today. Does that mean we've made that little progress in 30 years?
I'm going to end this now because I'm ranting, but this is one of those novels. One of those books that will stay with me for years. That will be on my lips to recommend when I'm trying to get a point across that I just can't do justice with my mere words.
I discussed letting my 13 year old son read this book with my husband, but I was hesitant because of the language and some sexual situations, but I think that the content is worth much more than those. I'm going to have him read this for summer reading and I hope it will open some dialogue between us too. I fear for him, I do. But I also want to light a fire in him so he wants to be on the front lines with me fighting for social justice. Each one of us has a part to play in making things better, and I want his to start now. Just like Starr.