on July 12th 2016
Genres: middle grade, contemporary
Buy on Amazon
From award-winning author Jewell Parker Rhodes, a powerful novel set fifteen years after the 9/11 attacks.
When her fifth-grade teacher hints that a series of lessons about home and community will culminate with one big answer about two tall towers once visible outside their classroom window, Deja can't help but feel confused. She sets off on a journey of discovery, with new friends Ben and Sabeen by her side. But just as she gets closer to answering big questions about who she is, what America means,and how communities can grow (and heal), she uncovers new questions, too. Like, why does Pop get so angry when she brings up anything about the towers?
Award-winning author Jewell Parker Rhodes tells a powerful story about young people who weren't alive to witness this defining moment in history, but begin to realize how much it colors their every day.
I just finished this and I loved it so, so much. It made me an emotional mess. It made me revisit September 11th in ways I thought I had left far, far behind me. Everyone remembers very vividly where they were the day the towers got hit. I was 21, getting ready to leave for morning classes in Detroit. I lived with my parents in a suburb, commuted every weekday to Wayne State University. That day was like any other, getting ready for school, until 8:46 AM when the horrific events of September 11th began.
I’ve never actually sat down to think about what each individual person that lived through that day might have felt. And now that it is almost 15 years behind us, how it continues to affect families to this day. Deja is a ten year old black girl currently living in a homeless shelter in Brooklyn. But why her family is homeless, she does not know. All she knows is her pop can’t work, that he’s sick and depressed and needs an inhaler sometimes. When Deja starts learning about 9/11 in school, she knows absolutely nothing because her family won’t talk about what happened. She was very little when the towers fell, and too small too remember, so she actually has no clue that anything even happened until she is told in class.
And that is a very interesting perspective. It’s interesting to me as an adult because I can’t imagine someone not knowing that the World Trade Center towers collapsed. I lived through it. It is a part of me as is all the history I lived through. And yet, it was 15 years ago and there are kids alive today who see it as past history and they gloss over it in their minds like we did when we were kids in social studies. I mean, how much attention did you really pay to learning about the Vietnam War? I paid enough attention to pass my test and then I forgot about it. And yet it was and still is very important to adults of my era and their parents who lived through it–maybe even fought in the war. And that’s how September 11th is still affecting families to this day. And Deja’s family is a good example. The other characters’ families in the book are also great examples.
I think this is an incredibly important book that middle school kids and teens should read. I think it should be taught in classrooms because of the different perspective it presents, one that kids today will be able to understand and relate to. It was also just an incredibly powerful book about family, life, community, and how you as an individual matter. There were moments in the book that made me really emotional and I think this one will stick with me for quite a long time. The ending was a bit too rushed for me and I was hoping for more, but other than that, it was absolutely brilliant.