Review: Kneel

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Rating: ★★★★½

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher (Inkyard Press) for promotional purposes. 

I want to preface this review by stating that I’ve been a huge Colin Kaepernick since the beginning (the 49ers are my team) and I have always supported his peaceful protest of kneeling during the national anthem. I was very excited to read this book inspired by Kaepernick’s protest. I was not disappointed! 

The storyline felt very real. It depicted the racism and injustice black people face every day in a very nuanced way. It did a fantastic job highlighting the internal struggle of deciding whether or not to speak out. Taking a stand, or in this case, kneeling, has both positive and negative consequences, and this book dove right into the complexity of it all. It really made you think. 

The characters were also well done. They felt multi-dimensional and helped move the story along. For example, Russell’s parents showcased the dichotomy between wanting what’s best for your kid and letting your kid choose what they want to do. Russell’s dad in particular, was not happy about Russell’s kneeling because he knew it would mess up Russell’s chances of getting a football scholarship. On the other hand, Russell wanted to follow his heart and stick up for his friend. This felt so realistic because it’s understandable that a parent would want their kid to stay silent in order to have a better future. 

My only critique of the book is that I would have liked the end to have been developed a bit more. A lot happened in the last 50 pages and I wanted to see it debriefed more. 

Overall, this is an important and timely read. It shows exactly why Black Lives Matter and why the movement is calling for change. I highly recommend this book! 

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Review: Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky (Tristan Strong #1)

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Rating: ★★★★

I received a copy of this book for free as part of an Instagram tour (Storygram Tours specifically) I did to promote the book. 

So first off I just want to say that it is incredibly refreshing to read a book about mythology that isn’t Greek. I know very little about African/African American mythology so it was fun to learn about it through reading this book. 

Since this is the first book in a new series, it is a little slow. That is understandable since there is a lot of world building and set-up that needs to be done. The one thing it could have done better was developed some of the supporting characters more. Like I wanted to know more about Ayanna. I can tell there is more to her. However, I am sure this will be revealed in the coming books. 

I really liked that there was a map included. Maps are always so helpful in reading fantasy books and makes it easy to follow the heroes on their journey. 

I also liked how the author would slip in some important messages throughout the book. At one point John Henry is talking about the Jim Crow laws and states, “A lot of times those little facts get smudged cutoff the history books. If you gon’ tell a story, you better be sure you’re telling the right one” (pg 108). At another point the main character muses, “it was my job to carry the stories of the land to its people. All the stories. If we ignored the past, how would we learn from it” (pg 426). Both of these quotes are so important because they show the importance of learning history, both the good and the bad.

Overall, I thought this was a Strong start to a new Own Voices series. I am intrigued to see what happens next. 

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Review: Somebody Give This Heart a Pen

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Rating: ★★★★★

I received an ARC of this book for free from the publisher (Candlewick Press) in exchange for an honest review. 

This book of poetry was written by a performance poet and it shows! 

I’ve never read a collection by a performance poet before, so it took a little getting used to at first. But once I got the hang of it, I loved it! Just reading the poems on paper doesn’t do it justice.  I actually ended up watching some of her performances on YouTube, including a few of the poems from this book. She really is a talent! 

I had a lot of favorites, especially from the Break section. My favorites were:

  • Excerpt from a Letter to My Little Black Girl (pg 12)
  • the leaders won’t (pg 23)
  • Fearmongering (pg 25)
  • Risky Nostalgia (pg 41)
  • How We Got Here, Part 20 (pg 49)
  • Whipped on You (pg 54)
  • Trust Issues (pg 58)
  • Slow Sky, Move On By (pg 63) 
  • Scary Everyone (pg 64)
  • Fidgeting (pg 66)
  • Let Hurt (pg 68)
  • from God (pg 81) 
  • When to Write (pg 98)

I loved how authentic her poems felt. I could feel her emotions and experiences very vividly. I liked that some of the poems touched upon being black in the UK. In “the leaders won’t,” she name checks Black British people (Damilola, Stephen Lawrences, and Mark Duggan specifically) who were all killed in racially motivated attacks. #BlackLivesMatter everywhere. Being an American I had not heard of these deaths before so I’m so glad she said their names. 

Overall, this was a phenomenal collection and I look forward to seeing what else Sophia Thakur puts out. 

Below are some of the poems from the book performed by Sophia Thakur herself!

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