I’m Still Here Review

I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for WhitenessAustin Channing Brown’s first encounter with a racialized America came at age 7, when she discovered her parents named her Austin to deceive future employers into thinking she was a white man. Growing up in majority-white schools, organizations, and churches, Austin writes, “I had to learn what it means to love blackness,” a journey that led to a lifetime spent navigating America’s racial divide as a writer, speaker and expert who helps organizations practice genuine inclusion.

In a time when nearly all institutions (schools, churches, universities, businesses) claim to value “diversity” in their mission statements, I’m Still Here is a powerful account of how and why our actions so often fall short of our words. Austin writes in breathtaking detail about her journey to self-worth and the pitfalls that kill our attempts at racial justice, in stories that bear witness to the complexity of America’s social fabric–from Black Cleveland neighborhoods to private schools in the middle-class suburbs, from prison walls to the boardrooms at majority-white organizations.

This was definitely an important novel in this day and age. Mrs. Austin really talks about important issues that stem from being black in everyday life and being black in the business world. Little things that most people would just ignore really hurt Austin, such as when a girl at her school says that a black person took her place at her dream college due to affirmative action and no one decided to correct her. She had to learn how to fight through the silent prejudice at work, like when her coworkers thought she was being impersonal by leaving right after the meetings and not staying to chat, even though other people did the same thing. She even had to fight the racism within the church, the last place that she thought she would see it.

This powerful story truly shows how deep people’s prejudice could be, and revealed the subtle ways that they choose to show it. By calling people out on it and letting others know that this type of racism is still occurring, things might actually start to change for the better.

I appreciated the fact that this book was written completely in chronological order. This allowed me to see how Austin went from not understanding the racist ideals around her, to feeling as if she couldn’t escape them. Even as a reader I felt depressed reading about Austin’s work and church environment.

I also know the church racism all too well. Many people don’t know that I am a Lutheran, and have been all of my life. I have also gone to a mixed-race church and a predominantly island/African American church. Honestly, I have seen more discrimination in the predominantly island/African American church! People who are Christians might claim to love each other, and they might accept other black people coming to the church, but they don’t want anyone “different.” If someone is “too poor”, white, hasn’t come to church often enough, or gay, they wouldn’t even try to hide the fact that they aren’t welcome. If we want to work together towards ending these thigns, we can’t say “no discrimination and racism as long as you fit these conditions,” we have to say No Discrimination and Racism PERIOD.

This book has a lot to say, and I hope that more people pick it up to hear its message. I would recommend this novel to anyone looking for an inspirational novel discussing racism and prejudice in modern America and the modern church.

Overall Rating: 6 out of 5 stars

Dear Martin Review

Dear Martin

Justyce is top of his class and headed for an Ivy League school, but he is also one of the only African American boys in his area. This is emphasized when he is put in handcuffs after trying to transport an intoxicated friend back home after a party. He has tried to fit in with the white boys at his school, but he is simultaneously hurt when they are oblivious to the racial differences between them.

When Justyce is riding in the car one day with his friend Manny, they have the music turned up high. This angers an off-duty white cop, and they are caught in the crosshairs of the policeman’s gun. When the media gets involved, Justyce is the one under attack.

This is an important book for everyone to read, just as The Hate U Give is important. It even better than The Hate U Give for people who don’t read that much, as it is shorter. I would have read this entire book in one sitting if I didn’t take a break to eat in between chapters.

This book shows that no matter how “good” someone can be, it will always come down to race in America. It wouldn’t matter if a boy like Justyce, who didn’t do drugs or belong to a gang, was innocent. In the eyes of a cop, he could be just another troublemaker. This resonates with me, an African American girl who is also good in school and applying to high-achieving colleges. There could be a day where I am in the wrong place at the wrong time and killed, whether it be a case of mistaken identity or simply a racist person with a gun.

I think that it is important for people to read stories like this because even though they may be fictional, it really opens your eyes. Hopefully, these types of stories will simply be historical fiction when I  am an adult, and that my generation can start to eliminate racism.

Overall Rating: 6/5

Kindred Review

Kindred Character Analysis: Kevin and Dana-Interracial Relationships

Dana is a normal 26 year old African American woman living in 1976 (the year the actual story was published). She had recently married Kevin, a white man whose books are successful, unlike hers. She thinks that they will live comfortably in their new house, and grow old together.

Then she is swept away. She lands in a different time, in the past, and a half drowned boy is being dragged from the river by his mother. Dana performs CPR, but after the boy is revived the father points his gun at her. Then she is swept back into 1976.

After she washes off the mud from the river and changes her clothes, she is swept away again. Now she gets to speak to the boy, named Rufus, who has set his curtains on fire as revenge on his father who had beaten him for stealing. When she hears him call her the N word, she is first offended, then she is astonished. She has time traveled back to 1815, and this Rufus is one of her ancestors. The other one of her ancestors is named Alice, a young slave girl, and Dana sees Alice’s father being beaten and her mother forced to watch while standing naked outside. Dana is almost raped by one of the overseers, but then she zaps back into the present.

The next time she zaps to the past, Kevin grabs her and goes with her, and then the story begins.

This book is brutal. It’s sad. But it is very well written. Most of the time, I wasn’t sure if what Dana was doing was right. But I was addicted to this realistic time traveling story and had to keep reading it.

I don’t want to read this book again. It was horrifying, the things that the owners did to the slaves, things that could very well have been done to my ancestors. But if you haven’t read it, you definitely should. Almost all of the historical fiction stories make me open my eyes, realizing how grateful I am for what I have. Sure, Rufus was rich and would inherit all of the property if his dad passed away. However, even me as a regular person in this time, am thousands of times richer than him. I have a computer, air conditioning, a refrigerator, television, things that weren’t even known about during those times. I recommend this book to anyone who hasn’t read it, but if you are sensitive to violence both physical and sexual, then I advise that you pass this book.

Overall Rating: 6/5