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There's been a lot going on over here this past week, both at work and at home. I'm looking forward to when I can read a lot in a sitting. Life I've been pretty distressed by all the gun violence news this week. Not that it has ever not been so distressing, but coming out of the pandemic and pretty much hearing about some shooting or the other almost every day, has just shown that nothing has changed in this world. Adam Toledo and Indianapolis this week. And apparently, there is still no way this can be controlled. Ugh, so frustrated.  When I wasn't worrying about the news (or trying not to), I've been busy picking paint colors. The husband and I have been talking about painting our house, or just the upstairs, or just the downstairs, or the basement, or.. for the better part of the past four years. We finally decided to go ahead with it - that is, paint the entire house. It's a massive undertaking, especially considering the painter is going to be here tomorrow

New Kid / Class Act by Jerry Craft | Thoughts

I first heard about Jerry Craft's New Kid and Class Act over on Helen's blog. Both books have always had a long waiting list at my library and then after a few 'Deliver Later' attempts, it was some time before I finally got to reading New Kid

In New Kid, Jordan Banks would like to go to an art school, but his parents have a different idea - they enroll him at a prestigious private school that had mostly white students and a social makeup that didn't match his current lifestyle or neighborhood. He isn't sure if he will ever fit in even after he meets the handful of black or brown students enrolled at the school. As the school year progresses, he learns how to deal with micro-aggressions and also respond when he is expected to teach the black perspective and experience to his white teachers or students. His friend, Drew Ellis, who is also black, struggles more than Jordan does, if it is even fair to compare experiences in racism and micro-aggressions. Class Act focuses more on Drew and his struggles at the school - how he is intentionally set apart by some of the teachers and his race-related experiences treated as imaginary.

I loved both New Kid and Class Act. The thread of race and racism runs through both the books - a lot of Jordan's and Drew's experiences are colored by it, whether they are trying to find a book at the library (and are constantly handed out books about survival versus say, magic kingdoms), or they play sports (and are expected to be very talented), or they talk about their neighborhoods (and are assumed to be poor). Much of the race treatment is not overt as they sometimes are not in institutions that are trying to be more race-aware but very implicit and full of false assumptions. 

Both books do a great job of showing how many race-related incidents a colored student may run into on a typical day at school. There is a constant expectation, even if unstated, to prove one's commitment and capabilities. The people talking about anti-racism are almost always the people least affected by it and often colored people are treated as interchangeable and names mixed up (gosh - the number of times that has happened to me - it's frustrating). 

If there's one issue I had, it's that there was some stereotyping of the lone Indian character in the book - bangles, bindi - stuff that's very common in India but not seen commonly in US schools. This just proved that trying to understand a community means intentionally looking beyond what you already know or have heard of - this isn't easy. And complaining (as so many are doing now) that people are too sensitive is just another way to admit that one would rather ignore the damage caused by continued racism than confront one's role in continued perpetration of racism.

New Kid and Class Act are written for the middle grade audience but very well-written for anyone to read and enjoy.