Welcome to #WNDBSummerReading! Our goal is to help families engage in discussions on race and diversity. This week, we are welcoming Lisa Moore Ramée to the blog in this guest post for her middle-grade novel A Good Kind of Trouble (Balzer + Bray, 2019).
by Lisa Moore Ramée
Why can’t kids just be kids? Why do they have to think about hard stuff like racial inequality and police brutality? Can’t they just be kids? As a matter of fact, yes they can. Because kids are aware and curious and sometimes living lives of despair/fear/worry/anger while simultaneously laughing so hard their cheeks hurt and flirting and dancing and trying with all they have to get over the next hurdle. To pretend young people’s lives are not complex is such a disservice to them, to their reality.
Outside my childhood bedroom door was a hallway lined with my parents’ books. I was a voracious reader so after I read my books, I would pull a book off those shelves. Sometimes my mom would see what I was reading and take the book away. Hide it in her room. I’d find it, go back to reading, she’d get it again. The dance continued until I’d finish the book. (I was a very determined kid.) I read about disturbed young white boys, racism, love, and sex. (Sex was probably Mom’s biggest issue with what I was reading.)
Here’s the thing. Those books not only answered some questions we all had (every girl in my sixth-grade class passed around Judy Blume’s Forever) but also made me feel normal. Life was complicated. The world around me often didn’t make sense. I was full of questions. Reading books that pretended a kid’s life was all science projects, lemonade stands, and summer camp was unfair. Nothing wrong with a lemonade stand, don’t get me wrong, but to assume that kid you see shilling some sweet juice might not be aware of real-world problems and might actually be experiencing some of those problems and have some real questions about it is just silly.
But let me be more specific. Black kid’s lives are particularly complex. And while it’s way past time for people to understand we are more than Black pain (so, so much more), our pain does have a way of vining its way into our stories. It has to. It’s part of our story. So yes, a book about a Black girl that is primarily about friendships shifting, family, and a first crush also has to be about police brutality. Why? Because that’s the truth of being Black in America. Black kids know this; other kids should know it too. How does it help a young person to tell them the world is fair and that racism no longer exists?
Come on, we were all kids once. We knew when we were being lied to. When someone was trying to cover our eyes so we couldn’t see the “nasty” parts. When a game was being played.
Growing up requires not only being exposed to the world but also given context and understanding. In A Good Kind of Trouble, I wanted to provide a framework to explore Black Lives Matter. I wanted a reader (especially younger readers) to walk away nodding, okay, yeah, I get it. Racism? Bad. Police brutality? Bad. Judging someone negatively because they are Black? BAD. Kids get it. They’re so ready for it.
And we owe them the truth.
Lisa Moore Ramée was born and raised in Los Angeles and she now lives in the Northern California, with her husband, two kids, and two obnoxious cats. A Good Kind of Trouble was her debut novel, published in 2019. Something to Say was published in 2020.