Ashley lives in her nice house in the Los Angeles suburbs where the most people worry about is when the wild fires come down and houses burn. Well, that is what people think. But just like most places and with most people, it doesn’t take too long looking under the surface to see issues. Like Ashley’s older sister, Jo. Jo has become a huge source of conversation at their household, and mostly because their parents don’t know what to do with her. Ashley feels like that has taken some of the pressure off of her, but really, how much pressure can be removed considering she’s a young black girl, growing up in Los Angels in 1992?
What Ashley doesn’t realize is that an event that happens not too far from her house (relatively speaking) is going to change how she views many things – her parents, her sister, her friends and most of all, herself. Rodney King was beaten savagely by police officers and it was caught on video tape. Ashley and her friends are shocked when riots break out across the city after the officers are acquitted of any wrongdoing at their trial. Ashley, who has been sheltered from some things because of her well to do parents and the life they gave their two daughters, often feels apart from the other black kids at her private school. Ashley has three close white girlfriends that she’s grown up with. Now, with the riots, Ashley, her friends and even her family are all coming up against ideas they have long held and are having to decide if they can still live with those thoughts.
The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed is like a look back in time and a look back to last week. Never does the author make the point of how little has changed when it comes to police brutality and people of color – or how this country, almost thirty years after the Rodney King event, are still grappling with issues of race. However, it is impossible as a reader to not see how little has changed. Children are still struggling with where they belong and who their friends are, really, and our society still hasn’t figured out how to move on from the legacy of slavery. This is a really great read.
Recommended for mature 8th graders and up due to content.