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Book Review: 'Piecing me together', an important take on racism

News Desk

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Tue, April 24, 2018  /  10:04 am
Book Review: 'Piecing me together', an important take on racism

This book isn’t a fast-paced book with an action-based plot or hard-core romance. (Shutterstock/File)

Racism is a very delicate topic of discussion. It’s something that is glossed over—nobody wants to be accused of being racist as it is looked down upon. 

Racism is actually bigger than what people make it out to be. We’re so wrapped up in a mindset that we’re not racist that we fail to notice that at some point or another, we are passively racist. 

Piecing me together by Renee Watson takes the point of view of Jade, a girl of color. She’s an artist and really smart, earning a scholarship to a prestigious high school. She’s ambitious—wanting to one day move out of the neighborhood she lives in. Coming from a poor family, she grows up learning that whenever someone gives her an opportunity, she has to take it. It’s for her future and for the best. 

This book isn’t fast-paced book or a hard-core romance. Instead, it’s a more “slice of life” book, talking about Jade’s life, living in a world where people pity her, coddle her, or outright snide her. She wants to have a voice, but she can’t use it. 

There are many instances of passive racism in Jade’s life. The author draws a line between how people treat Jade and how people treat Samantha, Jade’s Caucasian friend who is poor too. While Jade is showered with opportunities and scholarships, Sam gets nothing. People pity Jade, and to make themselves feel better, they decide to over favor the smart black girls instead of the equally smart Caucasian girl. The two girls have nearly similar backgrounds but have been given different opportunities. 

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Jade then meets her mentor Maxine, who is different from her, she isn’t afraid to speak up. Jade finds it especially difficult to relate with Maxine because she feels Maxine is everything that she’s not.

Maxine is a character who grows on the reader. While there are some flaws in her character, she’s just like every human out there: she’s not perfect. Jade eventually realizes that too. Together, the two of them begin to teach each other different values. 

This book is incredibly touching and real. Racism is an incredibly hard topic to write about and the way Watson has written this book is beautiful. The chapters are short and almost lyrical, contributing to the “slice of life” feeling. The raw emotions in this book are very realistic. 

“I write realistic fiction because I want young people and the adults in their lives to have a way to talk about what's happening, but have some space so you can talk about the characters in the book, and not necessarily your own story yet, if you're not ready to have that conversation,” she said in an interview with NPR Books. Watson has also said that she had included several of her own experiences in the book on what she saw and witnessed. (ely/kes)