Saturday, April 20, 2019

Watch Us Rise by Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan - ESSENTIAL

Watch Us Rise by Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan, 368 pages. Bloomsbury, 2019. $19. 

Language: PG-13 (11 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG ; Violence: G;



Jasmine and Chelsea are best friends attending a New York City high school dedicated to the arts and social justice. In fact, each student is required to be in an after school social justice club. Jasmine has been in the August Wilson Acting Ensemble for the past two years, but when the teacher won’t let her escape the stereotypical roles for a black overweight female, she convinces Chelsea to quit the poetry club (which isn’t hard since for the past 2 years they never got to poetry written past the 70s) and form a women’s rights club, as “art-ivists”. Together with their friends Nadine and Isaac, they fight against sexism using their artistic talents, learning both productive and counterproductive ways to do so. 

I started out this book, not really sure if there are girls that are this into activism. It felt overly feministic. But about 50 pages in I was hooked. Jasmine and Chelsea alternate chapters as the narrators and you really get to know them, their friends, love interests, talents, and family troubles. This book brings something that is missing a lot in education, combining arts with social justice issues, and allowing students to think for themselves. Not only was this a great guide to being an activist, but it references real people, both common names like Maya Angelou, and less well-known people like Natalie Diaz. 

Reviewer: J. Rosskopf

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