racial prejudice

All posts tagged racial prejudice

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Stations Of The Cross by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Published July 7, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s Stations Of The Cross all about?:

Stations Of The Cross is a coming of age story about two young girls from different religions and how peer pressure affects their friendship.

What did I think?:

I was quite sad when I realised that Stations Of The Cross was the final story in this collection by Julie Orringer. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed her work and will definitely be checking out more things by her in the future. If I think back over the entire collection, I believe my favourite story would have to be Note To Sixth-Grade Self as it was a story that really affected me personally but honest to God, there are no complete bloopers to be found at all. Yes, there were some stories I’ve appreciated more than others but unlike a few other collections in my Short Stories Challenge, I found it difficult to find a story here that I really disliked.

Anyway, back to Stations Of The Cross which is, as any practising/lapsed Catholic might have guessed is firmly rooted in religion, namely Catholicism. Our main character Lila however is Jewish and is absolutely fascinated by her best friend Carney’s Catholic faith. Lila and her mother have uprooted themselves from easy, breezy, inclusive New Orleans to a very different part of America – South Louisiana which they’ve found (in some cases) to have completely different ideals from the ones they are used to. For example, Carney is getting ready to celebrate her First Communion and is in uproar about the fact that her “bastard” cousin Dale is going to be invited. She has never met him before, his mother, Carney’s Aunt Marian caused shame to the family when she was determined to have the baby out of wedlock and to top it all off the baby’s father was black.

Lila can’t understand what all the fuss is about but then New Orleans appeared to welcome everyone regardless of colour or creed and it is only when her family has moved to South Louisiana that she realises the depth of hidden feelings unleashed to anyone who is “a bit different,” even herself and her mother are treated as outsiders for their Jewish faith. Aunt Marian and Dale arrive and things appear to be mellow enough (apart from the hideous whisperings from the family gathered in the back garden) but things soon escalate into places that Lila cannot believe she ever allowed herself to be taken to. It’s a great little story about growing up, how peer pressure is so damned and frustratingly effective and how dangerous and cruel some children can be when left to their own devices.

Julie Orringer chose to end How To Breathe Underwater with a real blinder of a story. I was raised Catholic myself although have not been to church for many, many years and do not practice the religion at all. In that way, it was quite nostalgic as I still have quite happy memories of my own First Communion (let me just hurriedly state it was NOTHING like this one though!). Additionally, I also enjoyed that the author chose to bring two characters together with very different beliefs/religions and explore their friendship, which can often be so tenuous and traumatic at that age, especially if one child is more of a “ringleader” than the other. Some may say that it goes to extremes, especially at the end but I think I have to disagree. I have personal experience with peer pressure in my past and can completely understand how controlling and devastating outcomes can be if people get a little too carried away. Of course I don’t condone the behaviour of the children in this short story in any way, shape or form and wanted to shake them all for being so stupid and heartless but it just shows that this narrative really got under my skin and that’s the best kind of short story in my eyes.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: An Anxious Man by James Lasdun from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night.

Knife Edge (Noughts And Crosses #2) – Malorie Blackman

Published August 19, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

This thought-provoking and often provocative look at racism is a sequel to the award-winning Noughts & Crosses.

Persephone (Sephy) Hadley, now an 18-year-old single parent, is raising her biracial daughter in a sharply divided alternate England, where black Crosses suppress the white Noughts. She faces pressure from both her less-than-understanding Cross family and her disintegrating Naught family, and everyone in between. When her brother-in-law’s violent behavior leads to murder, Sephy provides a false alibi to save Jude, but doing so irreparably damages other lives.

What did I think?:

I’ve only dipped my toe so as to speak into Malorie Blackman’s excellent young adult reads so far, starting with the brilliant Noughts And Crosses (read my review HERE) and now with the follow up Knife Edge. Well, I might be a bit of a latecomer to the party but blow me down with a feather she is a superb writer! I always worry with a series that it might suffer from “second book syndrome,” or tail off and lose my interest but I enjoyed the sequel just as much as I did the first. I’m going to try my hardest not to spoil things for those of you that haven’t begun the series yet but it might be better if you go off and read the first book then come back and read my review!

Okay, so where the first novel focuses on two Romeo and Juliet-esque characters who are fated never to be together purely because of the difference in their skin colours, the second tends to focus and hone in on a couple of these characters – Persephone (Sephy to her friends) and Jude. After the nail-biting and shocking ending of Noughts & Crosses, Sephy has a hell of a lot more to be worried about then just relationships. She now has a whole new life to be responsible for in the form of Callie Rose, a daughter named for her father and more precious to her than anything else. Life never runs smoothly for Sephy sadly and she ends up moving in with Callum’s mother Meggie who is not completely delighted to have her there but begins to dote on her little grand-child. Poor Sephy is also suffering from what happened in the last novel along with a bout of post natal depression which begins to threaten her relationship with her daughter.

As well as Sephy’s viewpoint, we also get one from another familiar character – Jude, Callum’s brother who is on the run after being wanted as a member of the Liberation Militia, a violent organisation seeking equal rights for Noughts in a world ruled by inequality. He is absolutely furious with Sephy (and with all Crosses in general) for what he believes she has put his family through and when something happens to him that shakes his whole belief system, their paths cross again. Will she help him or will it be daggers at dawn?

I’ve got to admit I had no idea about which way Malorie Blackman was going to take this story after the ending of the first novel (which was pure fireworks for me, by the way) and I’m really pleased she dug down a bit deeper into her characters mindsets. We have suffered with Sephy from the very beginning of the series but in Knife Edge we see her becoming a mother, overcoming obstacles and really growing as a person. But Jude – what can I say? He is a vile, disgraceful and embarrassing piece of humanity but by the author exploring his character in more depth and allowing for a tiny glimmer of good that he might possess, I even started feeling a bit sorry for him! Only a bit, mind you. Once again, I also loved the way in which the author presented this dystopian world not too far removed from our own, where skin colour can mean everything in life is granted or taken away from you. And the ending? Oh dear Lord, she’s done it again….it’s one terrific cliffhanger that will have you grabbing for the third book in this four book series Checkmate immediately!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Banned Books #8 I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou with Chrissi Reads

Published February 23, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “powhitetrash.” At eight years old and back at her mother’s side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man many times her age—and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Years later, in San Francisco, Maya learns that love for herself, the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors (“I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare”) will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned.

Poetic and powerful, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings will touch hearts and change minds for as long as people read.

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Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to our second book of 2015 and the eighth book in our series of Banned/Challenged Books. We’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. This is what we’ll be reading for the rest of 2015 – the post will go out on the last Monday of each month so if you’d like to read along with us, you are more than welcome.

MARCH

Crank by Ellen Hopkins

Chosen by : Chrissi

APRIL

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

Chosen by : Beth

MAY

What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones

Chosen by : Chrissi

JUNE

Bridge To Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Chosen by : Beth

JULY

Detour for Emmy by Marilyn Reynolds

Chosen by : Chrissi

AUGUST

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

Chosen by : Beth

SEPTEMBER

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Chosen by: Chrissi

OCTOBER

Forever by Judy Blume

Chosen by : Beth

NOVEMBER

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Chosen by : Chrissi

DECEMBER

Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes

Chosen by: Beth

But back to this month….

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Chosen by: Beth

First published: 1970
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2007 (source)
Chosen by: Beth
Reason: sexually explicit

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: This is one of the “older” novels on the Frequently Challenged Books of the 21st Century (see source above) but I don’t believe that it was consistently sexually explicit for the time period. There is only one incident where the book was slightly explicit where Mr Freeman rapes Maya. I first read this book as a teenager and do remember feeling a bit shocked when the author describes the incident but I think the way it was written was utterly compelling and it made me want to read on.

CHRISSI: I can see why some people would have problems with using it with younger readers, but I think compared to some literature out there based around the same period it’s not as sexually explicit as some reads are. Yet, I can understand the particular scene which would be quite hard to read if we’re thinking about using this book in a school setting. It’s particularly shocking. The life lessons that are in this book are important, but incredibly heavy going.

How about now?

BETH: Reading this book again as an adult was a real treat and I found that my opinions and emotions around Maya’s rape haven’t changed. As to whether it should be a “challenged” book in today’s world, I really don’t think so. I would have loved to study this while at school as I think it brings up a lot of important issues. My only hesitation would be to aim the book at a slightly higher age level i.e. GCSE.

CHRISSI: Hmm. As I mentioned before, the life lessons are important, but the content itself is quite heavy going and shocking. I don’t think it should be banned, but it should be used with 15 year olds + . I don’t know. Am I underestimating younger readers?

What did you think of this book?

BETH: I loved this book when I first read it and I still love it today. The author writes so beautifully about her childhood and the barriers she had to overcome in the American South, where racial prejudice and segregation was simply a way of life. She comes out of everything she goes through stronger and more determined with a zest for life that is truly inspirational.

CHRISSI: I didn’t like it as much as I had hoped I would. I thought it dealt with some incredibly powerful issues, but for some reason it fell short for me. Perhaps its because non fiction really isn’t my sort of thing. There’s no denying that Maya Angelou is a talented writer though.

Would you recommend it?

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Yes! (to some)

BETH’s star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Please join us next month when we will be discussing Crank by Ellen Hopkins which was chosen by Chrissi.

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Noughts & Crosses (Noughts & Crosses #1) – Malorie Blackman

Published December 14, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Two young people are forced to make a stand in this thought-provoking look at racism and prejudice in an alternate society.

Sephy is a Cross — a member of the dark-skinned ruling class. Callum is a Nought — a “colourless” member of the underclass who were once slaves to the Crosses. The two have been friends since early childhood, but that’s as far as it can go. In their world, Noughts and Crosses simply don’t mix. Against a background of prejudice and distrust, intensely highlighted by violent terrorist activity, a romance builds between Sephy and Callum — a romance that is to lead both of them into terrible danger. Can they possibly find a way to be together?

What did I think?:

I am ashamed to say that even though Malorie Blackman is our Children’s Laureate in the UK until 2015, this is the first of her books I have read. She first came on my radar earlier this year with all the buzz around the first Young Adult Literary Convention which she organised and I attended and had a really great time. I’m happy to say that I’ve now been bitten by the Blackman bug as this book was truly fantastic and I can’t wait to continue the series. The novel is set in a world where individuals are divided into two classes on the basis of their skin colour. The Crosses are the elite, ruling class and are dark-skinned and the Noughts (or “no colour”) are the white subservient class who at one time, were slaves to the Crosses. Slavery has been abolished, but racial prejudice still runs high. The Crosses get the top jobs, the best pay etc whereas the Crosses tend to do more menial labours that require little/no education. It is only recently that Noughts have started allowing Crosses to enter their system for a better schooling yet there are no guarantees that they will be employed, especially if the employer is a Cross.

Our two main characters are Sephy and Callum who have been inseparable best friends since childhood even though Sephy is a Cross and Callum is a Nought. As they continue to grow up their feelings for each other change and they begin to fall in love. Unfortunately, this coincides with both teenagers becoming more aware of the differences between them and a heightened racial prejudice being reported in the media. For example, the idea of a Nought and a Cross becoming a couple is seen as despicable in most quarters. Furthermore, Callum who has been accepted to a high class Cross school, is in the obvious minority and suffers from physical attacks and taunts on a daily basis, sometimes shockingly, from the teachers. Fed up with being a second class citizen, Callum does not know where to turn and even Sephy cannot fully understand what he is going through, being a rich Cross who is chauffeur-driven to school due to her father being a rising and popular politician. Callum’s brother has decided to channel his hatred in a different manner – by joining the Liberation Militia, a Nought group fighting back against racial prejudice, but often in violent and almost terrorist ways. Callum has never condoned violence and is filled with hatred for what his brother does, but during his day to day life, he is becoming more isolated and is distancing himself from Sephy, afraid of what will happen if their two worlds collide. Sephy herself becomes increasingly desperate, not knowing how to reach out to Callum but is certain that they are meant to be together.

This was such a powerful book that affected me on so many levels. It’s almost like a modern day or dystopian Romeo and Juliet love story – ah, the star crossed lovers that can’t be together! Malorie Blackman has put her own magical spin on it however with the main theme being racial prejudice, that is just as heart-breaking and passionate as Shakespeare’s original story. I don’t think she had any motive in turning things round so that it was dark-skinned individuals who had the upper hand. In fact, I think she was making a general statement that racial prejudice of any kind against any person of any colour is fundamentally wrong and should not be tolerated. Sadly, there are still some deluded individuals out there who can’t quite understand this… Anyway, I absolutely loved the characters, the excitement of the plot, the suspense element and the (my mouth is gaping wide open right now) ending. This is a series with so much potential and from a talented author such as Malorie Blackman, I think it’s going to go really, really far.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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