Thursday, October 4, 2012

Black Boy White School by Brian F. Walker

I couldn't stop reading this book. Brian F. Walker writes from his own experiences here in part although it is a book of fiction. I walk around every day, in white skin and white privilege, not knowing what I am missing. I pass through the world with folks not knowing I am gay, but people of color don't have that opportunity. Judgment rides a broad and demanding horse, and this book attempts to shed light on one person's viewing of that experience.

Ant lives in East Cleveland, in a neighborhood filled with violence and anger. In spite of all of the trials Ant witnesses and battles against, he still carries the truth of what "home" can be. He receives a scholarship to an elite, mostly white boarding school in Maine, and once there, he quickly realizes that racism is an ugliness that pervades every community, from inner city to deep forest. He battles back, sometimes in ways that cause people to shy away and other times in ways that invite them to lean in.

In an interview on You Tube, Mr. Walker talks a bit about how much of the book is based on his experiences. The original title of the book was Look Both His story is only enlarged by listening to the words through his voice. Powerful. If you want to hear it from him, here is the link:

I loved how the author pulled few punches, and the realistic way he represents Ant's struggles expose powerfully the heft and tension an African-American male teen must carry these days. The story ends with some hope but no clear next steps. I appreciated the authentic struggles that the author uses to teach through this text, and I am glad he took the risk to name the bitter truth encapsulated and experienced within so many of the neighborhoods that fill our cities across the country. I most wondered how accurate the storyline holds with the author's experiences. I doubt if I would be surprised.

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