Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Edification of Sonya Crane || JDGuilford

Kimani TRU is a newish line of books for African American (okay, so I really prefer to say "black" only because I've NEVER been able to call myself African American without feeling like some kind of idiot, but whatever...) teens, but the plot of this one really intrigued me. As a light-skinned black person, I sometimes struggle with fitting in. Is it with the white people, with whom I tend to have more in common, as I listen to Death Cab for Cutie rather than Jay-Z? Or the black people, because that's who I *should* be with? Sometimes I forget the world is not accepting of me no matter what shade my skin is, because all they see is "black." I've never read a book where a middle-class white girl emulates the "ghetto" life of the black girls, but that's exactly what Sonya Crane does. That intrigued me enough to grab the book when I saw it on the library shelf. I loved the irony that the girl Sonya wanted most to be like ended up being what *some* may consider an "oreo"—black on the outside, white on the inside. Tandy Herman loves "white bands," she's brilliant in school, and yet she covers it all up so she can appear "down." Being a nerd is simply not cool, and having a 4.0 GPA is just... wrong. I learned that lesson the hard way during junior high/intermediate school. (It wasn't called middle school yet back then).
Sonya and Tandy become fast friends, but under false pretenses. Everyone thinks that Sonya is "mixed," and the stakes grow more and more as Sonya gets more involved in rallies and movements designed to promote black pride. The relationship grows in tension because both girls have big secrets that could destroy their social lives. Throw in typical girl vs. girl crime, and you have crazy, thick tension.

I would like to note the interesting use of covers. The cover to the up top is the original cover, but the cover to the right is the cover that amazon uses—a girl who is more visibly white. But part of the reason Sonya was able to "pass" was because of her more "ethnic" features, like curlier hair and a wider nose. And at the Kimani TRU Web site, the original cover is the one being promoted. What prompted the publisher to release a different version of the cover? Or is this something amazon did on its own?
The premise of this story was great. It is very interesting to read about someone having identity issues because of race, as I live with that every day. However, Sonya's life was far from charmed, and instead is strongly tainted with drug addiction, violence, and sexual abuse. The language in this book is strong, and the situations are very intense. It got to be a bit much for me at times. I wouldn't recommend this for the faint of heart.

Buy it here: The Edification of Sonya Crane


Ms. Yingling said...

I would love to have a copy of a book like this for my students, but want to see it to check out the language and sexual abuse issues. The question now, Ronni, is why don't YOU write a book about middle class, suburban black girls who struggle with their racial identity? It's exactly what is needed, and it sounds like you have the personal experience to write something perfect. I'll be waiting...

Dona Sarkar-Mishra said...

Hey Ronni!

I loved Sonya Crane too and it's by one of my fellow Kimani authors =)

zillah975 said...

@Ms. Yingling, I read a review of this book recently in which the reviewer does say that the sexual abuse is graphic and pervasive. She also questions why they're marketing this kind of very graphic story to black teenage girls.

I haven't read the book and so I don't have an opinion, but I would definitely want to read it before offering it to a young person.

Ronni, I found my way here after Googling for more info on this book and the imprint, and appreciate your perspective. And that's a very interesting note about the cover -- it does seem strange. But I saw a book the other day that was about a young black woman who described herself as often being mistaken for a boy, and the cover showed a long-haired white girl who would probably not be mistaken for a boy by anyone, pretty much at all. Publishers' choices of book covers are often bewildering to me, or else seem very sadly transparent attempts to cater to an audience they think might not be comfortable with a more accurate depiction of what's between the covers.