"The tenderness and truth of the book moved my heart. As well as the enormous love." - Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Color Purple Identity Crisis. As a biracial teen, Nina is accustomed to a life of varied hues—mocha-colored skin, ringed brown hair streaked with red, a darker brother, a black father, a white mother. When her parents decide to divorce, the rainbow of Nina’s existence is reduced to a much starker reality. Shifting definitions and relationships are playing out all around her, and new boxes and lines seem to be getting drawn every day. Between the fractures within her family and the racial tensions splintering her hometown, Nina feels caught in a perpetual battle. Feeling stranded in the nowhere land between racial boundaries, and struggling for personal independence and identity, Nina turns to the story of her great-great-grandmother’s escape from slavery. Is there direction in the tale of her ancestor? Can Nina build her own compass when landmarks from her childhood stop guiding the way?
|Contributor(s)||Joan Steinau Lester|
|About the Contributor(s)||Joan Steinau Lester
Joan Steinau Lester, Ed.D., is the author of three previous books, the most recent Mama’s Child, as well as Fire in My Soul, a civil rights biography of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. Her first YA novel, Black, White, Other, was a finalist for the Bellwether Prize. The former Executive Director of the Equity Institute, a national diversity consulting firm, she is also a frequent NPR commentator and print columnist.
|Publish Date||Aug 8, 2011|
- Review by Written Melodies
In Black, White, Other, Nina Armstrong, a product of a white mother and black father, seeks to regain her identity once her parent’s divorce completely alters the life she has always known, forcing her to view her surroundings in a manner alien to her. Rejected by friends for refusing to pick a side and live in a world that is either black or white, Nina stands alone. Feeling a connection to a dead ancestor, Nina sets out to explore how her life is akin to her enslaved great-great-grandmother. We follow Nina Armstrong on her tumultuous journey as she attempts to answer the elusive question, “Who am I?”
‘Other’ applies to more than just biracial or multiracial youth, but it describes us all as we at some point in our lives feel or has felt like an outsider, longing to be like everybody else. Lester’s employment of a novel-within-a-novel does well to enlighten readers of aspects of slavery and individuals during that time that may not be discussed in school, such as Henry “Box” Brown and Dr. Alexander Ross. Also, Lester calls attention to modern-day slavery, stereotypes, and racial profiling. Even though these issues are addressed, Lester does not delve into them. Failing to explore any of these issues deeper, especially Nina’s racial profiling incident, the reader is deprived of how these experiences affect Nina’s expedition to self-discovery.
Black, White, Other adequately describes the emotions of identity-lost teenagers. The glossary in the back of the book is an excellent reference for readers. Likewise, the discussion and follow-up questions at the end of the novel are excellent resources for teachers, book clubs, and for anyone who does not fit neatly into one defined category and is simply “other.” (Posted on 9/15/2014)
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