Calling My Name

Book review by
Terreece Clarke, Common Sense Media
Calling My Name Book Poster Image
Beautiful, honest look at the journey from girl to woman.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Provides important discussion points on abstinence vs. sexual activity and sexual health, navigating social, religious, and family expectations. It also can help families discuss the overwhelming pressures to succeed in high school and gaining college acceptance. Students are pushed to examine their own moral beliefs and attitudes. 

Positive Messages

It's important to establish boundaries -- with parents, friends, and your boyfriend. Respect yourself and your instincts enough to maintain those boundaries. There's is no such thing as perfect. Making mistakes and having the strength and courage to learn from them is more valuable than being perfect. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Taja fights to maintain agency over her life, body, and religion as she navigates her relationships with her parent, boyfriend, and friends. For example, when she decides to stop having sex because of the guilt, she sticks to her decision despite pressure from her boyfriend and the rumors he starts. 

Violence

Girls are yanked by their arms hard for misbehaving, and they know they will receive a spanking later for it. Siblings fight with each other, pushing and shoving. 

Sex

Some kissing, and a girl loses her virginity, which is described in detail -- the feelings of pain then pleasure, the bare bodies, places that were kissed and stroked. Heavy petting including kissing breasts, stroking penis and over panties etc. And some girls get pregnant.  

Language

A few swear words, including "hell" and "s--t." 

Consumerism

Some brand names used in scene setting, such as a car described as a Cutlass Supreme. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults are described as smoking and drinking. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Calling My Name is a lyrical, honest novel that deals with the typical teen issues of growing up, relationships, and navigating intimacy from the perspective of a devoutly religious family. Parents should be prepared to discuss Biblical takes on relationships and intimacy, the stigma and double standards around sex and girls vs. boys. They should also be prepared to discuss the pressure to succeed and the college selection process. 

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What's the story?

In CALLING MY NAME, Taja Brown has a family that loves her, friends that care, and eventually a boyfriend who makes her feel something deep. She also has a lot of questions. Questions about religion as she sits in the pews every Sunday, and in her regular life. She also has questions about all the advice from her family, friends, the church, and eventually her boyfriend. Growing up is hard, navigating everyone else's opinions. Who should she listen to? And what about listening to her own heart?

Is it any good?

Hauntingly honest and incredibly engaging, this novel has such rhythmic and lyrical prose that even the awful moments have significant beauty. Author Liara Tamani shows the impact of religion, peer pressure, and gender inequality on the decisions and perspective of a young woman in transition, creating a story almost any teen can relate to. Tamani perfectly captures that internal struggle that comes with finding and using your own voice and trusting yourself. While there are depictions of sex, they are not graphic, and parents/educators can use them as a gateway to discussion. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about boys and girls being treated differently when it comes to dating and sex in Calling My Name. Have you noticed this kind of double standard in your life? 

  • How stressed are you about test scores and the college application process? How do you cope with stress?

  • How do you maintain your boundaries and values with your friends, family, and the people you date?

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