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Parents' Guide to

What Lane?

By Barbara Saunders, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 10+

Biracial 6th-grader torn between groups in sweet novel.

What Lane? Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 12+

Based on 1 parent review

age 12+

Too much racist propaganda.

What to do when your "anti-racist" book shoots itself in the foot by promoting racist myths and pushing misleading racist narratives? While the premise about an ethnically mixed child having trouble figuring out which "racial lane" he should be living in is strong and topical, and has the potential to make this a book that gets people to look beyond skin color and have empathy and respect for each other, and to be a basis for solid, healthy discussions about diversity and inclusion earns the author a sold "B". The author gets an "F" for research, and a "D" for mindlessly repeating racist lies. Through the course of the book, the main character repeatedly makes bad choices, and learns to blame the outcomes for those bad choices on "racism", and to view himself as the victim of systemic racism, rather than accepting responsibility for his own poor choices, and realizing that some of the people he encounters are not racist, even though some (of all skin tones) appear to be. The main villain in the book is a white kid who appears to target the protagonist due to jealousy over the protagonist's friendship with his cousin, rather than due to skin color - but another (black) character is constantly telling the protagonist that it is due solely to racism. And the protagonist repeatedly chooses to place himself in positions where the villain can harm him, rather than simply taking the initiative to avoid an obviously angry and mean person. Maldonado brings up Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Michael Brown, and Trayvon Martin, describing them as "unarmed black men" who were killed by police. He does not mention non-blacks who were killed by police - in fact, he specifically has his characters deny that anything similar has ever happened to any white person - completely ignoring people like Andy Lopez - a non-black kid in California who was shot by quick on the trigger police because he was walking home with a toy gun (not pointing it at anyone, just carrying it home after playing) one of dozens of kids who get shot by police each year while handling toy guns (like Tamir Rice), or Daniel Shaver - who was videotaped being tortured and executed by police because he had earlier showed a friend an air rifle in the privacy of his hotel room - an actual unarmed victim who had committed no crime. Yes, Tamir Rice and Philando Castile were innocent victims of abuse of power/unlawful use of force by overly quick on the trigger police. Rice was playing with a toy gun in a park, but not pointing it at anyone. Castile was shot while he followed police instructions after informing them that he had a concealed carry permit after being pulled over for looking vaguely like a crime suspect. Brown and Martin are a very different story. Michael Brown was a repeat offender who was being questioned about jaywalking, then attacked the officer, who then shot him in self defense. Trayvon Martin was a repeat offender who bragged to his girlfriend about what he was going to do, then initiated an attack on his (Hispanic, "Person of Color") victim, who was trying to determine if Martin lived in the neighborhood, and who shot Martin in self defense when Martin was bashing his head into the sidewalk. But Maldonado just parroted the divisive and contrafactual BLM narrative, instead of putting the facts into his book, which would have provided his readers with needed information to put events into perspective. It's sad that five minutes of internet research by Maldonado could have allowed him to include some important facts that are often left out of the discussion - he even had some characters who could have brought them up - which would have made this book a powerful resource for starting discussions about police violence, as well as an honest discussion of race and racism. Instead, it simply pushes a dishonest and racist narrative. It's sad that this book is marketed as being "anti-racist" and for use to help teach about diversity and inclusion, because it fails at those goals.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: (1 ):
Kids say: Not yet rated

This sweet story paints a realistic picture of middle-school drama. For What Lane?, author Torrey Maldonado draws on his 20 years of experience as a teacher. The main character, a boy with a White mother and a Black father, is both innocent and wise. He lets himself open his eyes to the challenges he confronts in a world where race matters more than he wishes it would. At the same time, he remains optimistic about the possibility of bridging differences between communities. The book presents a thoughtful illustration of the difference between being a friend and being an ally.

Book Details

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