Piecing Me Together, by Renée Watson, is a young adult novel that examines issues of race, privilege and identity for a teen girl from a poor neighbourhood. Jade, the book's main character, is a black teenager, whose family struggles financially. She attends a private school with mostly white students and gets accepted into a mentorship program. She questions her place there, societal expectations placed upon her, and the racism she routinely encounters. Ultimately, she learns to become more confident in herself and to challenge discrimination and prejudice.
This book fits well in the identity literature circle I teach my middle years students. Piecing Me Together is a young adult book, so it offers a more mature examination of identity compared to other books in the unit. I appreciate the main character's growth over the course of the book as she develops self-confidence in herself and her abilities as an artist, and learns to call out racism.
The book offers lessons about racism for students, as Jade encounters discrimination in a variety of forms. At her school, teachers make assumptions about her behaviour, treating white students differently. While shopping, she is treated disrespectfully by a store clerk. Notably, Jade has trouble getting her white friend to acknowledge that racism was the cause of these incidents, illustrating how white people avoid acknowledging the realities of racism. Towards the end of the book, Jade learns to use her voice to identify racist acts and advocate for herself and others. I appreciated seeing this character development, as well as this examination of how deeply embedded prejudiced attitudes are in our society. This book contains many lessons for students and is worth sharing.