Three novels that show the experiences of others in the world.
BY REESE PLAGENZ, ’23.
Now more than ever, people are looking for ways to learn about the different struggles that others face everyday. Whether it be referring to a parent wanting to look out for their child or a teenager wanting to help out their friend, people are always trying to look for ways to understand each other better.
For many, sharing emotions comes with great difficulty and vulnerability that not everyone is able to share. It’s awkward and uncomfortable, but through literature, the resources to learn about these struggles without having to come face-to-face have been increasing tremendously.
I am an avid reader and am always looking for new novels to read about the experiences and hardships others spend their lives going through in order to open up my horizons. By learning more about the oppression faced by others who are not quite like me, it opens up my mind and makes me realize how different we all are.
In the following novels, The Hate U Give, I Am Alfonso Jones, and This is My America, we look into the lives of young girls who are all facing and fighting for the same notion but with completely different experiences. I have read through and outlined the main ideas and importances of these books, as well as what I have personally been taught through the ideas expressed in these stories.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is about a teenage girl, Starr Carter, who faces police brutality and open shootings early on all while having her voice feel silenced because of the danger it could further cause for her. Throughout the book, we are taken through a period of growth for a young girl who quickly learns that a weapon doesn’t have to be something you can hold. Starr not only learns how to fight her way through an injustice system, but all while navigating through the high school years of a teenage girl. Overall, The Hate U Give was an eye-opening novel that relates back to the social injustice that was all over the news back in the early months of summer. The Hate U Give reminds us that just because something isn’t consistently relevant in your life, doesn’t it no longer exist for others.
This Is My America by Kim Johnson once again about a teenage girl, Tracy Beaumont, who also faces the injustice system in a similar but different way. In this novel, Beaumont is fighting for her father who was wrongfully accused and sentenced to death row of a murder he did not commit. The dedication and fight Tracy Beaumont gives so she can one day see her father freed goes unnoticed by everyone but her family. Her strong perseverance doesn’t allow her to give up, but when her only brother is wrongfully convicted of murder on top of her father, it seems like everything is fighting against her. Through the novel, we see the determination someone can awaken within themself when the life of someone they love is on the line. This Is My America gives us the chance to review the idea of our actions, and how something that seems so minor could be deeply affecting another individual.
I am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina combines the misfortune of being wrongfully convicted of a crime and police brutality. Alfonso Jones is a teenage boy just like everyone else, but with his father behind bars. From the moment he was born he knew nothing different of his father, but that he was innocent. Finally, the day when Alfonso’s father is cleared and is coming home, a police officer mistakes the clothing hanger Alfonso was holding for a gun. He died in the department store, where he was shopping for a new suit to finally reunite with his father. I am Alfonso Jones brings us through the after-life of a teenager who died at the hands of a police officer. It opens our eyes up to how our country reacts to an injustice act and how the victim views what has happened to him. Throughout the novel anyone can learn that when it is not our place to state our opinion, we can still find ways to uprise and support those who need it.
From the complex tragedies faced in these novels, I quickly learned a great deal about problems that some are too uncomfortable to address. I learned ways to safely state my opinions, and help support the people in America who need help more than others. When we are trying to learn about racism and injustice throughout America it can be unclear where we should start. If you pick up one of these three novels, and the hundreds of others one at a local venue that’s a great place to start.