Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Books I've Read: Anger is a Gift

I have really mixed feelings about this book, even now, more than week since I finished it.

It is a powerful story about activism and making your voice heard.  It is also about oppression and how those in power try to control people who frighten them by their very existence.  

Unfortunately its flaws were too glaring to allow me to fall as deeply in love with the story as I really wanted to.

Moss lives in a poor suburb of Oakland.  His father was shot by police several years ago and he and his mother became symbols of the movement to stop police brutality.  Even now Moss gets recognized on the street, something that heightens is anxiety and often leads to one of the all-too-frequent panic attacks he suffers.

The school Moss goes to is old and falling apart.  Books are missing pages and covers and there aren't enough for everyone in the class to get one.  It's also very diverse with people of all colors, orientations and genders represented.

When the school decides it needs metal detectors to keep the student body safe, Moss and his friends are outraged.  The incident that led to the decision was a minor misunderstanding, and the school needs new books far more desperately than it needs more security.

Moss and his friends decide to protest the new rules at school, but when the police are called, the simple, peaceful protest they had planned turns violent and ends in tragedy.  

With the media twisting the story to make it look like the kids were to blame for the tragedy, Moss must decide whether to fight for what's right, or to back down in fear.

I think the main problem I had with this book is that it seemed to feel everyone needed to be represented.  The cast of characters was so diverse, they felt token.  I love that there was that diversity, but it didn't feel authentic that Moss' friend group would include only queer, disabled, gender-diverse, ethinically diverse, and adopted kids.  Even with Moss being gay himself.

And this made it hard to care about any of the characters, even Moss himself.  Which is a problem in a book where the MC is putting his life on the line for what he believes in.

So while I think the themes of this book are important, I wouldn't necessarily recommend it because the book itself does not really do the themes the kind of justice I would have hoped for.  Particularly in a book as long as this one is.

 But don't just take my word for it.  Here's the blurb:

A story of resilience and loss, love and family, Mark Oshiro's Anger is a Gift testifies to the vulnerability and strength of a community living within a system of oppression.

Six years ago, Moss Jefferies' father was murdered by an Oakland police officer. Along with losing a parent, the media's vilification of his father and lack of accountability has left Moss with near crippling panic attacks.

Now, in his sophomore year of high school, Moss and his fellow classmates find themselves increasingly treated like criminals by their own school. New rules. Random locker searches. Constant intimidation and Oakland Police Department stationed in their halls. Despite their youth, the students decide to organize and push back against the administration.

When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can actually be a gift.

1 comment:

  1. The fact that all the "token" kids would hang together makes sense to me. That was what it was like in my school. The picked on kids generally were friends. Of course, that doesn't mean this book did it well.