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I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Thank you, Bella Books, for this copy.
What’s it about?
When did life get so dangerous? Kaz Adams just wants to read comic books with her best friend, Aisha Warren. And maybe get up the nerve to ask her out, if Kaz turns out to be a gender that Aisha’s into.
Kaz figured she’d be the target of violence for her gender nonconformity, but a fatal police shooting thirty miles from their town opens her eyes to the realities of racism. She watches as pressures at school and in their social group mount against Aisha. Kaz would try to stop a bullet for Aisha if she had to, but she has no idea how to stop the waves of soul-crushing disapproval and judgment. When she talks to the other white students and adults in her area, they don’t seem to understand what she’s talking about.
Aisha has helped Kaz find a place in the world, but that was about Kaz’s gender expression. Kaz can’t magically change the world for Aisha, but something has to change in their school system or she’ll lose the girl she loves.
Book: In The Silences | Author: Rachel Gold | Publisher: Bella Books | Published: 15th May 2019 | Pages: 260 (Paperback) | Genre: YA contemporary | Rep: nonbinary, bi, trans, nonbinary, lesbian, gay, black, Indian American, Asian American (Korean?) | TW: racism, queerphobia, queermisia
What did I think?
First of all, I have to say that this book is really, really important. For several reasons. Any white person should read this, especially if they’re cis and straight. And I will now explain why.
There are two main themes in this book, gender identity and race. Kaz is a white teen who’s mainly been around other white people all of their life. Until Aisha moves into their neighbourhood, a black bisexual girl who makes Kaz question everything they’ve learned about race and especially black people. The two of them soon become best friends, learning more about each other and their environment as they grow older.
Kaz learns a lot about race and racism, and the reader learns alongside them. Kaz learns how to be an ally step by step, what to look out for, what to say to which people, where and how to win arguments. How to help black people. Racism is portrayed in so many forms, the outright, obvious racism, but especially the subtle that people might not notice. Unless they are on the receiving end. This story makes the reader more sensitive to the latter kind of racism, the one that is pretty much anchored in every white human. That has been taught for generations and that we might not notice, but the people suffering under it notice only too well. Aisha, who is really smart and wants to become a doctor, is underestimated by almost every white person she meets, especially teachers. She gets angry, but knows that she can’t really do much about it. But Kaz can and they do.
Aisha and her family help the white people who are willing understand, help them becoming better. And Kaz helps protecting Aisha anywhere they go together (which is pretty much everywhere).
And Aisha helps Kaz figuring out their identity. While Aisha’s family is accepting her the way she is, Kaz’s family is a whole other thing. Kaz’s brother, Brock doesn’t even really try to understand Kaz or Aisha, he is racist and a queerphob but says about himself that he is neither. Their mother’s way to acceptance is a long one, but I’m pretty sure she’s trying her best. Luckily, Kaz has their grandmother Milo’s support. Milo is such a great, fierce character who doesn’t take shit from anyone and constantly wants to learn how to make the world a better place for minorities. Kaz is figuring out their gender through the whole of the story and is nonbinary, but they don’t want to label themselves.
So Aisha and Kaz learn a lot from each other, but from friends and family as well. They actively look for sources that might help them understand, they talk a lot to accepting family members and to a trans lesbian college professor as well. Just… there is so, so much to learn in this book. About gender and race and the history of both (in the US). There are definitions, explanations, examples, etc. It’s informative and helpful with characters that will make you cry.
Plus there’s a lot of superhero stuff mixed in with the story.
Generally, this book was really, really diverse. Kaz is nonbinary, Aisha is a black bisexual girl who has two lesbian aunts and a trans cousin, they have trans and gay friends, there’s the trans lesbian college professor, an Asian American girl, a queer Indian American girl.
So yeah, I hope this explains why especially white people should read this. And when they did, think about what they’ve just learned from this book written by a nonbinary author.