Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Piecing Me Together

Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson (2017), narrated by the author

Jade accepts every opportunity that comes to her way, because she wants to make sure she has every chance at success. She takes a bus across town to attend a private school on scholarship, and she is now asked to join a mentoring program called Woman To Woman. She joins, but is resentful that it's for "at-risk" kids and she's not at risk. She is, however, one of very few black kids at a mostly-white high school and can't help but think that's why she keeps being asked to take opportunities that are supposed to help her. Jade thinks she is completely capable of helping others, and what she wants most is to be asked to participate in the study abroad program and use the Spanish she studies so diligently while taking part in a volunteer project.

As if it wasn't enough she didn't want to join Woman To Woman in the first place, her mentor Maxine keeps standing her up, and taking long phone calls when they're together. At the same time she's very supportive of Jade's art, spectacular photo collages.

Jade has recently befriended a girl named Sam who takes the same bus across town to school. Sam is white, and sometimes doesn't understand the things that Jade complains about. When they're shopping together and a salesperson exhibits racist behavior toward Jade, Sam tries to explain it away. As much as Jade likes Sam, these interactions make her very uncomfortable.

A major theme in this book is Jade's unwillingness to speak up for herself. She internalizes unfairness, slights, and racism and doesn't ask for the things she wants. She's a smart creative person who has a lot to give to the world and I really liked seeing her grow stronger and begin to find her own voice and take the scary step of confronting people and asking for what she wanted. It felt so liberating!

Although her relationship with Maxine was sometimes strained, Maxine helped Jade to take this initiative. It was rough though. Maxine had to convince Jade she was worth spending time with, and had to convince Jade's mother that she wasn't overstepping her bounds. Jade's mom worked really hard but was also a great mother, and didn't appreciate being treated like she wasn't there for her daughter, who consequently needed another adult woman to help her out. But eventually mom and Maxine got to know each other more and the relationships all solidified a bit. It was an interesting dynamic to watch unfold.

The audiobook was narrator by the author, who doesn't sound like a professional narrator, but I liked listening to her. She had a casual, conversation tone that sounded appropriate for a teenage girl.

This was only about 5.5 hours long, so it only took me about a week. I usually just listen on my commute, but I found myself carving out time at home to listen while doing other things. Jade was a great character, and I loved seeing her come into her own and really start standing up for herself. She'll go far, and she doesn't need any more well-meaning help to do it.

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