I am a Renée Watson fan, so I was ecstatic when NetGalley approved my request to review this book. It will be released September 3, 2019. Preorder a copy or two for your library.
Amara is the only child in her middle class urban family. Her mother is expecting a new baby, but since there have been numerous miscarriages, Amara reists getting excited about it. She has solid friendships and is mostly happy to be where she is. Her mother is happy to live in Colorado, and could care less about returning to New York where she met Amara’s father.
Amara has never met her father’s family although she talks to her grandfather on the phone regularly. When her father, who works for Nike, is set to go to New York on a business trip, she announces that she wants to go and meet his family as a 12th birthday present. At first, her mother adamantly refuses. When the visit is combined with a family history school project, her mother relents with the proviso that Amara leave her father and grandfather alone so they can mend their fences.
Once in New York, Amara is immersed in a city rich with black culture, art, history and people. As much as her grandfather wants his grandchildren to connect, there is tension between the cousins because they don’t want to have to ‘babysit’ Amara while she is visiting. This culminates in Amara taking off on her own to explore New York.
The schism between her father and grandfather stems from different understandings about what it means to be a man. Her grandfather was a coach who thought boys should be into sports while her father was a writer of poetry. They haven’t spoken since her grandmother’s funeral.
Renée Watson writes powerful characters, puts them into realistic situations, and delivers authentic responses. All readers will end up attached to these individuals and wanting the best for them. I appreciate that she shows us successful families inside and outside Harlem, all the while connecting them through similar experiences and history.
I especially appreciated this book because as a white reader of primarily children's fiction, I am mostly exposed to black families in inner cities or the American South living under difficult situations. I am thankful for this opportunity to extend my understanding of what it means to be black in American today.