I was a bit worried about requesting Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes as I tend to find books and movies that cover racism extremely disturbing. I'm so glad I pushed myself though.
The book is Jerome's story, a 12 year old boy playing with a plastic gun in a park, before he is shot by police. The book alternates between his voice pre and post death and is his own journey of discovery as he meets other boys like himself.
I read the whole book, which is older fiction though not necessarily YA territory, in an evening. The chapters are very short and the narrative moves really well. I felt so challenged reading this book and within a day of finishing it I had recommended it to at least two people. It's a story of racial prejudice in law enforcement and the Black American children who have lost their lives because of it.
Instead of feeling angry and bitter this book is an exploration of what it means to bear witness and to face up to these things that happen regardless of how 'colour-blind' we may claim to be. It's hopeful and heartfelt and devastating at the same time. I consider it to be an incredibly important book and I will be recommending it to the school my children attend as a novel study book.
While it might seem as a New Zealander this issue is not particularly 'ours' reading the book felt like a real challenge to me. I came away from it thinking anytime I recognise a sense of fearfulness or stereotyping in the way I think towards a people group, that indicates thinking and experience I must challenge in myself.
As a mother raising two wonderful white boys this is a book I want to read with them as they get a bit older and to talk about these things. I think it's so, so important for any of us raising white children, especially boys, that we do all we can to help them realise their 'privilege' and to be able to humbly journey with that in the spaces they occupy in the world. We cannot let attitudes of entitlement and unchallenged perspectives of the world be their journey. Having said that I think this book is for everyone we all have something to gain from it.
It's so foreign to me to think of the police as anything other than a group of people or person that would help me. It would never enter my thinking to be frightened of them or worry that I might experience injustice at their hands - sadly that's because of my privilege not a universal truth.
I find racism so upsetting yet I am not without my part to play. I am sure I have offended, appropriated and lived in the spheres of my privilege unchallenged, arrogant and unaware. I hope and pray that I will continue to learn and I am very grateful for the beautiful book that is Ghost Boys and its invitation to me as a white woman on a journey.
Details - Hachette NZ, 24 April 2018 RRP $19.99 PB
love you more than a painful realisation you still have a way to go xxx