Monday, January 27, 2020

MG Novel Straightforward, Thought-Provoking, and Entertaining

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Twins are rare enough, but 11-year-old Minni King and her sister, Keira, are more unusual still.  Children of a Black mother and a white father, Minnie's skin matches her dad's while Keira's is the same shade as their mom's.  Their parents have always assured them that what matters most is that they're all part of the strong, tight-knit King Family, but that doesn't mean their unique family doesn't attract plenty of stares and ignorant comments from people in their mostly white Pacific Northwest community.  

When the girls' overbearing grandmother calls, insisting Minni and Keira come stay with her in Raleigh, North Carolina, in order to compete in the Miss Black Pearl contest, Keira's over the moon.  She's vivacious and gorgeous, the perfect candidate for a beauty pageant scholarship competition.  Shy and awkward, not to mention pale as milk, Minni can't think of anything more horrifying than being gawked at while prancing around a stage in a fussy dress and high heels.  Unable to talk her way out of going, Minni vows to face her fate with courage—the way her hero, Martin Luther King, always did.  
Mingling in a mostly Black society for the first time in her life, Minni feels very, very white.  While she struggles to define her own Blackness, she also bristles at her grandmother's constant criticism of Keira.  As the sisters each experience racism, prejudice, and confusion about their mixed ethnicities, they will both learn valuable lessons about identity, understanding, sisterhood, and family.  
As the white adoptive mother of a bi-racial child, I'm always glad to find books like The Other Half of My Heart by Sundee T. Frazier (who is the daughter of a Black father and a white mother).  They open my eyes to issues my daughter will likely face in her life and aid me in knowing how to help her through them.  While The Other Half of My Heart tackles issues like race and identity in a blunt, straightforward way, the story is also funny and entertaining enough to keep middle graders reading.  The plot's a bit loosey-goosey, but the story moves fast enough to prevent it from getting dull.  While the tale is predictable, I still found it enjoyable overall.  I listened to this one as an audiobook and especially liked the narrator, Bahni Turpin

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other novels about being Black (or bi-racial) in a white world, including The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond by Brenda Woods; Black Boy, White School by Brian F. Walker; Sell-Out by Ebony Joy Wilkins; SLAY by Brittney Morris; etc.)

Grade:

If this were a movie, it would be rated:


To the FTC, with love:  I received a free audiobook of The Other Half of My Heart through a promotion at Audible.

4 comments:

  1. It's nice that this book explores bi-racial issues in a mostly effective way. Even if there were some issues with it it sounds like there were some real strong points.

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  2. This is a good premise. DNA is a fascinating this, isn't it?

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  3. Hallo, Hallo Susan,

    I had intended to spend the night reading your lovely blog - though I took ill awhile ago now and decided to visit this review and return when I feel a bit better after some rest! *le sigh*

    This is a title I found via my local library when I was seeking out diversity reads and #diverselit overall; I felt it had a strong premise but never had the chance to read it.

    I love how you've captured the essence of the novel within this review whilst giving us an open line of thought towards what we will soon discover about the girls' lives. I love reading stories about cross-cultural heritages as I grew up in a city full of diversity - culturally, ethnicities and religious heritages - whilst at the same time, I'm a Prospective Adoptive Mum who wants to adopt out of foster care in the future - so I can definitely relate to reading stories that are pro-positive about that experience and/or stories in the future I will seek out to be a better parent through having new perspectives to read which can identify with my (future) children's lives.

    Definitely going to re-borrow this at some point this year and finally see what there is to see inside the novel! I agree with you about plots which tend to have a strong premise, a good start and then either stall or slow down midway through -- sometimes they forget to loop back round to where they begun -- however, overall, I felt there was still enough heart and message in this story to appeal to my initial curiosity about it! Thanks for sharing your well-rounded thoughts & takeaways!

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  4. I had not seen this book before, though I have heard of twins like Minnie and Kiera. Sounds like the story hit upon many relevant issues, while still bringing the warmth I expect from middle grades reads. I always feel like those authors handle these tougher topics really well.

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