“You look so unusual.”
“But what are you really?”
These are comments Isabella is used to hearing. Her father is back and her mother is white and now that they divorced, it seems like she is split in two. Not only does she have to switch houses, nicknames, and backpacks; it seems like she has to switch identities too. Both parents have moved on to wonderful new partners in their lives but even a supportive “new” older brother can’t make her feel whole.
Racism is a very real part of Izzy’s life and how people are treated differently based on their ethnicity and appearance plays out in her life. After a disturbing incident involving a noose placed in her best friend’s locker after a history class on lynching, Izzy questions her identity:
“‘I’ve got friends who are white. And friends who are Black. We’ve got kids at our school from all races--and most of the time we kinda blend without thinking about it, like cookie dough. But this noose thing with Imani has really changed the recipe, at least for me.’
Mom waits for a tick, then asks, ‘How do you mean?’
‘Because I am that dough, Mom! Am I the chocolate chip or the vanilla bean? I’m really not sure.’”
Changing houses each week brings her parents together in an awkward and sometimes unpleasant meeting. But both are supportive of Isabella’s musical talent as a gifted pianist. The high point of her career is the upcoming recital. The shocking climax of the book comes on the way to the recital when an ugly and dangerous racially based incident occurs. The whole extended family comes together in solidarity and love to support her.
This is a window and mirrors book that will evoke empathy in many a young person.
Tessa's Picks, 4-6th grade, Character driven, Family life, Issues fiction, People of Color.