This Side of Home

by Renée Watson

Maya Younger has always been secure in who she is and where she is going. Her plan... read more

Maya Younger has always been secure in who she is and where she is going. Her plan has always been to attend Spelman University together with her twin sister, Nikki, and their best friend, Essence. But, with the gentrification of their North Portland neighborhood everything begins to change. Nikki starts shopping at the neighborhood’s hip new boutiques and befriends one of the new residents. Housing renovations and increased rents force Essence and her mother to find cheaper housing in seedier parts of Portland. The high school’s new principal eagerly finds ways to combat the school’s rough reputation while courting the new residents as he promotes a watered-down multiculturalism over the school’s traditional Black history and community events. Feelings surrounding race and class at school and in the community escalate into racial slurs and property destruction. A thoughtful response from Maya and her friends begins to heal the community. Watson skillfully explores the complexity of experiences, emotions, and politics that come from the gentrification of a historically African American neighborhood while offering a nuanced portrait of teens struggling with the shifting definitions of self, family, and community identities when facing both openly hostile and more subtle forms of racism. (Ages 12–18)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2016

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