A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Watch Us Rise is a novel co-written by the multiple-award-winning Renée Watson (Piecing Me Together) that encourages activism for social justice. It will open lots of teens' eyes and minds to issues surrounding feminism, racism, and more. The main characters are a diverse group of friends during their junior year in high school who are great role models for standing up and fighting for what you believe in, for loyalty to each other and their families, and for finding creative and artistic ways of expressing themselves, especially through poetry. There's one punch in the face and a boy slapping a girl on the buttocks. Strong language is rare and mostly mentions of seeing words like "p---y" and "slut" in titles and graffiti, although one character uses "crap." The teens talk about or describe romantic feelings briefly, and there's one kiss and mention of going to third base in the past. They're not interested in alcohol, but there are a couple of mentions of drinking wine with dinner and a past incident that ended in throwing up. Lots of references to artists and poets may inspire further research, and the characters' examples of activism and creative expression may inspire teen readers to do the same. Many issues related to sexism and racism should provoke lots of thought and discussion.
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What's the story?
Jasmine, Chelsea, Nadine, and Isaac invite you to WATCH US RISE as they fight to find their own voices, and for a place for their voices to be heard. All students at their Harlem high school are required to join a school club where they can put what they've learned about social justice into action. As much as Jasmine loves the theater group, and Chelsea loves the poetry club, they both become increasingly frustrated and restless -- Jasmine by attempts to typecast her as the sassy black girl, and Chelsea by the club's myopic reading list of old, dead, white poets. The two decide to drop out of their clubs and make one of their own, and that's how the "Write Like a Girl" blog is born. Through their posts they explore what it means to be female, and through action they try to create a space for women's voices to be heard. Some of their actions land them in plenty of trouble, proving that they've still got a lot to learn about how to bring about positive change.
Is it any good?
Award-winning novelist Reneée Watson has teamed up with the poet Ellen Hagan to empower teens, especially young women, to find their voices and be heard. Jasmine and Chelsea, high school juniors, take turns narrating Watch Us Rise, which moves the story along and gives two distinctive voices a chance to shine. Through their experiences struggling to be heard by their community, teens will learn a lot about social justice, racism, sexism, feminism, poetry, and lots more.
Chelsea and Jasmine each provide a compelling way for teens to start learning about a lot of big issues, and about a lot of inspiring artists, poets, and activists. They're believable, and teens will relate to their struggles not only for social justice but with themselves as they learn who they are and what they can do. The beginning is a little slow. At first, remembering who's narrating and what their situation is can be confusing, and it feels like the authors are trying too hard to raise too many issues without any resolution. But these things even out soon enough, and the rest of the novel will have readers rooting for the friends as they exercise their right to be heard.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the four best friends in Watch Us Rise. What do you like, or not like, about them? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
Did you learn anything about feminism that surprised you? How does being female affect what happens to Chelsea and Jasmine? Are their experiences realistic?
What issues bother you the most, and how can you express your feelings about them? Are you inspired to take action after reading this book? What can you do to help make a more just and equal society?
The characters and story are heavily influenced by poetry. Is there one poem that really stands out, that you found inspiring or moving?
- Authors: Renée Watson, Ellen Hagan
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Activism, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, High School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
- Publication date: February 12, 2019
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 13 - 17
- Number of pages: 368
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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