Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush

I'm not a pro-affirmative action reader when it comes to books about people other than WASPs, or stories about other than your typical upper-middle class society. Books are books and a good story is a good story whether the main character is a minority or not. Honestly, some of the stories written from a minority perspective are forced, and contrite, and stereotypical. Which defeats the whole point of stories with minority main characters to begin with. It's one of the reasons why I never liked Esperanza Rising. EVERY teacher chooses it as part of their reading list. It's overdone, and a little old fashioned. Granted, I've never read it myself. I should at least try it, I know. But the premise doesn't peak my interest.

Not so with Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush. It's awesome. It's suspenseful. It's dramatic. It's real. It's sad. It's bittersweet.

Sweet, or Tree, or Teresa (she has several names) is a fifteen year old girl. She has an older brother. He suffers from porphyria. I had to google that. Their father is out of the picture. Their mother is a live-in nurse who comes home about once a month for a weekend to check on the teens, and to stock up the fridge.

One day, Tree sees a ghost. And then her whole life changes. Hm, that sounds more sci-fi than it actually is. A ghost visits Tree and her brother during a time of transition. That sounds more accurate.

You can't tell it's about a Black family except for some of the dialogue and the fact that the cover art gives it away. I like that. The minority bit of the story shouldn't be a gimmick. It should be approached by assuming the reader is intelligent deduce it from context and language clues. Actually, in some cases, I think the cover art should be more vague about it too. It makes for a more authentic reading experience.

The book isn't not really for the young, young kids. There are several words in the book that prevents me from reading it with, say, third graders. Sixth graders can handle it though. The vocab is challenging, so I would teach that carefully before beginning it as a read aloud.

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