Monday, February 03, 2014

A Rose Is A Rose, Unless It's a Blossoming Violet

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Violet Diamond is used to standing out.  That's what happens when you're the only brown-skinned, nappy-haired girl in your town, in your school, even in your family.  It doesn't bother the 11-year-old all that much.  Except when it does.  If only her African-American dad was still alive, then she wouldn't look so out of place.  Violet knows her mother and half-sister—both pale blondes—couldn't care less about the color of her skin, it's just that sometimes, she really wishes people could look at the three of them and see a matched set.

When Violet gets a chance to connect with her father's family, her world opens up like it never has before.  She doesn't completely match the Diamonds either, nor does she feel perfectly comfortable with them, but the better she gets to know them, the more whole she feels.  As she explores the black side of her bi-racial makeup, she asks herself some tough questions:  Is she black or is she white?  With which side of the family does she identify most?  To which does she really belong?  And, most important of all, does a family have to match in order to count?  In order to love?

I'm always thrilled when I find books for young readers that feature girls of color, especially those who are bi-racial like my adopted daughter.  She's only five, but you should have seen her face light up when she spied the cover of The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond by Brenda Woods—"That girl looks just like me, Mom!" she exclaimed.  Although my little girl is too young to read it now, I have no doubt that the themes of the book will resonate with her as she grows older.  The story brings up issues that are especially relevant to bi-racial children, but really, Violet's out-of-place feelings will be familiar to all readers since we've all felt that way at one time or another.  I definitely empathized with our heroine and felt that she was working through issues that need to be addressed more in children's literature.  That being said, I thought the plot got a little wobbly in places.  Also, I would have liked more subtlety, as the story sometimes seemed heavy-handed and preachy.  All in all, though, I enjoyed it.

(Readalikes:  Black Boy, White School by Brian F. Walker; Sell-Out by Ebony Joy Wilkins; When the Black Girl Sings by Bil Wright)

Grade:

If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for intense situations

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond from the generous folks at Penguin.  Thank you!

1 comment:

  1. It seems like these kind walk a fine line between good and being too preachy. I'm glad to hear this one was mostly just good.

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