Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed. This tour is being hosted by Simon & Schuster.
The Black Kids
by Christina Hammonds Reed
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young
Release Date: August 1, 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Contemporary
Perfect for fans of The Hate U Give, this unforgettable coming-of-age debut novel explores issues of race, class, and violence through the eyes of a wealthy black teenager whose family gets caught in the vortex of the 1992 Rodney King Riots.
Los Angeles, 1992
Ashley Bennett and her friends are living the charmed life. It’s the end of senior year and they’re spending more time at the beach than in the classroom. They can already feel the sunny days and endless possibilities of summer.
Everything changes one afternoon in April, when four LAPD officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley’s not just one of the girls. She’s one of the black kids.
As violent protests engulf LA and the city burns, Ashley tries to continue on as if life were normal. Even as her self-destructive sister gets dangerously involved in the riots. Even as the model black family façade her wealthy and prominent parents have built starts to crumble. Even as her best friends help spread a rumor that could completely derail the future of her classmate and fellow black kid, LaShawn Johnson.
With her world splintering around her, Ashley, along with the rest of LA, is left to question who is the us? And who is the them?
The Black Kids was so hard to read at times, but also so good. Please be aware that the N word is in there quite a bit. I struggle to even read that word, but I’m not sure how anyone else feels about it.
Ashley and her sister, Jo, are black kids raised in a rich, white area in LA. Things have been easier for them in a sense, but they also see racism all over. Jo fights it, but Ashley tends to excuse it. The trial for Rodney King was happening early in the book with protests and riots starting. Ashley sees it, but I don’t think she quite got it.
A lot of this book is Ashley’s life and growth. Her best friends are all white. She has a nanny, Lucia, who helped raise her and still takes care of her. If Ashley is in trouble, she calls Lucia. There are a lot of flashbacks that show how Ashley’s friends really are, especially her best friend. She excused it even when it made her uncomfortable. Ashley’s senior year was going well, but now she’s noticing things more. She made a mistake which we find out about later in the book (but it’s pretty obvious right away). There are a handful of black kids in her school, but she never spends time with them. She sees them protesting and being vocal, but I think she was afraid to walk away from the group she thought she loved to join in with them. Ashley’s eyes really start to open up once she finds herself surrounded by the things happening in LA. She finds out secrets about her family and their history. And her sister gets herself in trouble, too.
While this book was very serious and covered a lot of heavy topics, I have to say the 90’s references were fun. 1992 was my freshmen year, so I remembered everything. Even Sweating to the Oldies which I admit to doing. A lot.
I gave this book 4 stars. Thank you to SimonTeen for my review copies (earc and physical arc).
Warnings for racism, homophobic comments/actions, sex, drugs, teenage drinking, police brutality, lynching, fire, talk of suicide. Definitely heavy topics.
You have to be better than those white kids around you. It’s not fair, but that’s the way it is.
There’s no hope. And when kids turn to gangs or drugs, people act all surprised. Like, what the fuck did you think was gonna happen?
It seemed a little silly when I was little, but now I think she was right. If all the heroes in our stories are white, what does that make us?
This isn’t just a race riot; it’s also about class. It’s a rebellion of the poor and disenfranchised.
Sometimes when you want to disappear, it’s easiest to hide in music.
We have to walk around being perfect all the time just to be seen as human. Don’t you ever get tired of being a symbol?
Protesting isn’t supposed to be easy.
Sometimes it’s hard being a girl, and it’s hard being black. Being both is like carrying a double load, but you’re not supposed to complain about it.
The world doesn’t let black children be children for very long.
Christina Hammonds Reed holds an MFA from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. A native of the Los Angeles area, her work has previously appeared in the Santa Monica Review and One Teen Story. The Black Kids is her first novel.