“When you are mad, mad like this, you don’t know it. Reality is what you see. When what you see shifts, departing from anyone else’s reality, it’s still reality to you.” – Marya Hornbacher
What’s a book that’s made better by a book club?
This past week, I had the chance to participate in @thebookalert’s book club on Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson.
I was blown away by the depiction of mental illness and violence against children in the criminal justice system Jackson writes about. Sadly, Jackson’s depiction isn’t too far off the truth.
According to the Prison Policy Initiative, as of December 2019, “on any given day, over 48,000 youth in the United States are confined in facilities away from home as a result of juvenile justice or criminal justice involvement” of this population, Black and Indian youth, especially girls, are overrepresented by these numbers.
Furthermore, “while 14% of all youth under 18 in the U.S. are Black, 42% of boys and 35% of girls in juvenile facilities are Black.” Likewise, “American Indians make up 3% of girls and 1.5% of boys in juvenile facilities, despite compromising less than 1% of all youth nationally.”
As a future social worker, these numbers are horrifying.
Jackson’s main character, Mary, is a child who fell through the cracks and is continuously punished for the mistakes adults around her made. And, this is something that frustrates me.
In America, individuals are given different choices when they are BIPOC that are lesser in nature than their White counterparts. From these choices, we have to make the “best” from the heap we’re given. In this book, Mary never really has a fighting chance.
Her mother fails her. The adults around her fail her. But, most importantly, the child welfare and other protective system fails her. While this book is a work of fiction, it felt too real.
I’m so grateful to Femi and everyone else in the book club for being there to talk through this tomfoolery with. 😑
If you’re a lover of thrillers and smart depictions of those who are labeled as “criminals,” Jackson’s novel is one you’re going to want to add to your TBR List.
Other books you may enjoy from this genre and that share similar topics are Monster by Walter Dean Myers and Upstate by Kalisha Buckhanon.
Myers book is one I read in the 5th grade for my English class, and like Jackson’s book, it is a story that you have to be mentally prepared for before you attempt to read it even though it’s labeled as a “young adult” book.
Monster follows Steve, a teenage amateur filmmaker, as he stands on trial for a crime he didn’t commit. Told in the form of a screenplay, Myers’ story is a realistic and raw depiction of a Black boy’s struggle to retain his innocence as he’s thrust into manhood in a literal “trial by fire.”
If you’re an avid Netflix watcher, the film adaption is now available to watch.
Upstate, on the other hand, is a realistic look at how one’s family and partners deal with their long-term incarceration. Buckhanon tells the story of Antonio, a seventeen-year-old that is incarcerated for a shocking crime, and his high school sweetheart, Natasha, who is a sixteen-year-old with a bright future.
Faced with getting through a ten-year prison sentence, Antonio and Natasha believe their love can stand the test of time. While Upstate isn’t as jarring to read as Jackson’s book, readers will still be able to relate to these young lovers and their families as they spend a decade growing together and separate. If you’re an audiobook lover, Chadwick Boseman voices Antonio’s parts.