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This Side of Home

by Renée Watson

Published by Bloomsbury, 2015
326 pages
ISBN: 978-1-5999-0668-3

Ages 12–18

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 during the summer before her senior year, everything in Maya’s world 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 escalate both at school and in the community to throwing racial slurs and ultimately destruction of property. 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 and offers a nuanced portrait of teens struggling with the shifting definitions of self, family, and community identities while facing both openly hostile and more subtle forms of racism. (ET) ©2015 Cooperative Children’s Book Center


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