Joan Steinau Lester's newest book looks that the emotional and social experience of Nina, a teen girl living in LA who feels caught between two worlds - the "white" world of her mother and the "black" world of her father. This nowhere land of race becomes harder to navigate when the support system her parents offered is shattered by their divorce.
Now, with racial tensions rising in her school and community, her white friends seeing her as too "ghetto" and her black friends labeling her too white, and her father pressuring her to take up her black heritage, Nina feels lost and abandoned. Even Nina's faith seems to fail her - how can she cling to God and the songs of the church when God's image in her seems twisted?
When Nina discovers a book her father is writing about Sarah, her great-great grandmother who escaped from slavery on the Underground Railroad, Nina finds someone who can understand her feelings of being trapped in an upside-down world. But will those stories be enough to guide Nina through the pressures she now faces?
©2011 Joan Steinau Lester (P)2011 Zondervan
This young-adult book will strike a chord with many of today's youngsters, either because they find themselves in this situation, or because others they know are struggling with similar problems to Nina.
Nina is American, has a white mother, black father and a mixed brother who is darker than she is. She hadn't seen this as a problem until her parents decide to divorce and she stays with her mother, while her younger brother goes to live with her Dad. At the same time, her classmates suddenly seem to have a problem with her colour, which didn't seem to be an issue before - is this because she has become more aware of race, or just an age thing, as teenagers grow and become more self-aware? Either way, Nina finds herself fitting into neither the black, white, nor mixed-race camps.
An interesting side theme has Nina's Dad writing a book about his Great-Grandmother, Sarah Armstrong, who lived as a slave and, at fifteen, escaped to Canada. Nina gradually reads the chapters of her father's book as he writes them and it does serve to put her struggles into some sort of perspective. There are certainly similarities when Nina decides to run away from home, but no-one is chasing her to bring her back into captivity, or threatening to beat her almost to death.
The ending was a little contrived, but the message was clear enough.
I listened to this in Audible format, excellently read by Bahni Turpin.
I see the author has a second novel, recently released, Mama's Child, on a similar theme. Although not currently available on Audible, I will certainly be on the look-out for this one.
"A relevant story for our times"
Absolutely! this is a warm and compelling story of life lived as a Bi-Racial teen in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 21st century. One would think the progressive liberal ideas of Northern California would produce a very different environment for a bi-racial teen; yet the struggle for identity is just as difficult as if the time was the 1950's and the setting was the old south.
The author tells two stories at once; the story of Neena and her journey with the manuscript her father has written about his enslaved ancestor, this intertwining of stories was a wonderful twist.
The telling of the story of what has been known in African-American history as "Box Boy Brown"
Black White Other...when the past can heal the future!
Black White Other is a great read for anyone adult or youth who wants to better understand the difficulties of living as a mixed race person in the united states; told from the point of view of a young girl growing into adulthood. A little corny at times but the messages are well articulated.
The author gives and excellent description of the issues biracial children, and children in general, deal with in todays environment. Both positive and negative. At the same time she gives a well researched history of the past and insight of what slaves experienced. Lester's "Novel within a Novel" is very engaging and pulls together the present and the past.
I am buying the hard copy for my book shelve and giving all of my Grandchildren a copy. This book should be require reading in schools for every girl and boy, biracial or not. It would open up some positive discussions on the subject. Just about everyone in the U.S. is biracial but do not appear to be. I have three sons who are biracial. Caucasian, African American, Native American. They do not look biracial. I just had my "Genetic Profiling" done and discovered I am also biracial. By a good margin. Caucasion & African American. I had no idea.
The narration by Balmi Turpin is excellent and makes the story come to life.
I am looking forward to reading more novels from this author and books narrated by Turpin.
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