Young adult fiction is my escape. I have always found comfort in reading about young people as they work to discover who they are and who they have the capacity to be. Lately, I have been reading a lot of young adult fiction that discusses social justice themes and has characters working on finding their voices. It’s a relief to read about characters speaking out and affecting change.
Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan has been referred to as a feminist anthem for young adults working to raise their voices. Watson is a Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Award-winning author who has written a timely and thought-provoking novel about a group of teenagers who want their high school and surrounding neighborhoods to change.
Jasmine and Chelsea, along with their two other friends, attend a progressive New York City high school. The curriculum may be different than other local high schools, but Jasmine and Chelsea quickly realize that the school is not as progressive as it claims to be. All students must join an after school club, something these young women greatly enjoy. When they each experience issues in their respective clubs, they decide to start a Women’s Rights Club. The two post their work online for all to see. Soon their essays, poems, and videos go viral as other people in the community resonate with the stories of racial, gender, and weight-based microaggressions the two share. The club receives so much positive support, but that doesn’t stop trolls from targeting the group.
When the negatives start to boil over into real life, the school administration gets involved and the principal shuts the club down. Devastated and angry with this turn of events, Jasmine and Chelsea take the club off-campus to their favorite bookstore where they plan ways to fight back. Refusing to be silenced, Jasmine, Chelsea, and their friends risk everything to raise their voices and be heard at their school who touts the platform of all voices being heard, even though that just isn’t true. The art this group of friends creates adds a level of realness to this novel about two young women who demand to be heard.