Brianna Justice wants nothing more than to be a star reporter.
The president of her sixth-grade class at Blueberry Hills Middle School, this young, African-American student always gets what she goes after—most of the time. Her overzealousness to be mentored by her favorite TV news reporter backfires and lands her instead with a newspaper journalist. As her first assignment, he has her cover a SheCodes program at Price Academy. Brianna frets over this seemingly lackluster assignment because the school is located in what she believes to be a “shady neighborhood” on Detroit’s east side. From the first, Brianna wrestles with self-consciousness over her financial privilege and with her own stereotypes about the African-American students at Price. She comes to realize that using the word “ghetto” to describe the kids she meets there is not only derogatory, but it also deflects attention from the real issues of poverty and lack of opportunity within that community. This perceptive tale about how a young girl grapples with the diversity of conditions within her own racial demographic trusts its readers with weighty material. Winston does an excellent job highlighting the complex race issues that African-American children face. Though her father and grandfather tell her not to use the word “ghetto,” it is her white mentor who schools Brianna on the history of the word, and this is when the use of the word finally sinks in for her.
Thought-provoking and smart and a great springboard for discussions on race and class. (Fiction. 10-13)