A heartbreaking and powerful novel about racism and social justice as fourteen-year-old Ayo has to decide whether to take on her mother's activist role when her mom is shot by police. As she tries to find answers, Ayo looks to the wisdom of her ancestors and her Harlem community for guidance.
Ayo's mother founded the biggest civil rights movement to hit New York City in decades. It’s called ‘See Us’ and it tackles police brutality and racial profiling in Harlem. Ayo has spent her entire life being an activist and now, she wants out. She wants to get her first real kiss, have a boyfriend, and just be a normal teen.
When her mom is put into a coma after a riot breaks out between protesters and police, protestors want Ayo to become the face of See Us and fight for justice for her mother who can no longer fight for herself. While she deals with her grief and anger, Ayo must also discover if she has the strength to take over where her mother left off.
This impactful and unforgettable novel takes on the important issues of inequality, systemic racism, police violence, and social justice.---from the publisher
320 pages 978-0358449041 Ages 12 and up
Keywords: social activist, being yourself, finding yourself, identity, African American and Black stories, Black Girl books, African American author, teens, mother/daughter, grief, anger, dealing with feelings, dealing with emotions, social issues, social conditions, social justice, prejudice and racism
“Black rage is founded on two-thirds a person
Rapings and beatings and suffering that worsens
Black human packages tied up with strings
Black rage can come from all these kinds of things”
– Lauryn Hill (2014)
“Once riding in old Baltimore,
Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,
I saw a Baltimorean
Keep looking straight at me.
Now I was eight and very small,
And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, but he poked out
His tongue, and called me, “N----.”
I saw the whole of Baltimore
From May until December;
Of all the things that happened there
That’s all that I remember.”
– Countee Cullen (1925)
“‘Your last name is Bosia?’ he asks.
I nod slightly as dread seeps back into my body.
‘Any relation to Rosalie Bosia? The founder of See Us?’
‘Yeah, she’s my mom,’ I mutter.
The thing about being Rosalie’s daughter is that people either love or hate her, and they all want me to know about it. I guess that’s what happens when your mom is the founder of the biggest civil rights movement to hit Harlem in decades. See Us is similar to Black Lives Matter. It takes aim at police brutality, racial profiling, and an unjust prison system. But See Us specifically targets communities in Harlem.
My mom started it the year I was born, before the Black Lives Matter movement. The movement took off faster than anyone expected. And before she knew it, her five-person operation became a citywide movement with thousands of members. They organize marches, boycotts, and basically an all-points assault on the establishment.
‘I saw her on Good Morning America a few weeks ago. I love her! She’s so well spoken. She’s grown into quite a divisive figure, and to that I say, “Right on!” We need more sassy women like her.’
Mr. Gunderson thinks he just gave my mom a compliment. But I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t take it that way. I can practically hear her now: ‘Does my skin color lead you to believe I would be anything other than well spoken? And did you just call me sassy?’
Just before he moves on to the next name, he mumbles to himself, ‘Rosalie Bosia’s daughter…Gosh, what must that be like?’
What’s it like?
I RISE is the powerful story of Rosalie Bosia’s fourteen year-old daughter Ayomide. Ayo’s upbringing has included making posters to free unjustly convicted prisoners, studying Black history flashcards, accompanying her mother on marches and house-to-house voter registration drives, and studying written and visual works of the Harlem Renaissance. She also leads the school’s See Us-related club. Ayo is an enlightened young Black woman. But now she fears that she’s missing out on all the normal stuff that her teen peers are getting to do. (She’s yet to receive her first real kiss.) Therefore, Ayo has decided that she wants out of her mom’s army.
Then her mother gets shot by a racist cop. And then the cop isn’t indicted. What is Ayo going to do now?
I RISE seriously kicks butt. There’s a wealth of Black history and true-to-life racism folded into this compelling and timely, contemporary coming-of-age tale. It’s one of the most moving books I’ve read in a while. You can bet your bottom dollar it’ll soon be banned in the more backward corners of the USA. Just like the math books and Judy Blume and that Ta-Nehisi Coates book that Ayo actually refers to in the story. Fortunately, four months prior to its August publication date, there’s already serious buzz about I RISE. With good reason.
No matter what Ron DeSantis, Greg Abbott, and Tucker Carlson try to tell you, there are still two Americas, Black and white. One of many highlights of this book involves Ayo and a couple of her fellow Black students engaging in a tense classroom discussion that dovetails perfectly with the recent news out of those states that are working to outlaw books, lessons, and discussions about racism. Other threads illuminate how dealers of cigarettes and opiates have historically targeted the Black community.
Sure, it’s easier to turn a blind eye to all these problems. But if you really believe in treating others as you would want to be treated; if you have the guts to walk in another’s shoes; if you believe in the dream of one day having a nation where everyone’s children will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character; this book is a must read and a must share.
Recommended by: Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA
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