Jon's Reviews > Maizon at Blue Hill

Maizon at Blue Hill by Jacqueline Woodson
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M_50x66
's review
Mar 30, 08

bookshelves: children-s-lit
Read in January, 2008

Maizon at Blue Hill felt different from many of the books that I read in grade school. It was interesting that Maizon had a number of positive and negative character attributes, most of which were the same at the end of the book. It was interesting how there was relatively little character transformation.
In the beginning of the book, Maizon speaks what is on her mind, good and bad. She is somewhat conceited and assertive. “That dumb school isn’t even ready for me” (Woodson 16). In her last conversation to Ms. Bender and Miss Norman, she corrects them even after they compliment her having received all A’s, “Two A Pluses…History and English” (Woodson 142). Throughout the whole story she is telling everyone that she is smart, she uses it defensively, thinking the others think it cant be true. In her last reflection she comments confidently, as she has throughout the whole book, “Maybe my gift was that I had lived somewhere a long time before this. Maybe that’s where my knowledge came from” (Woodson 148). I sat for awhile, looking at this phrase, wondering how it spoke to Maizon’s character and experiences. She is still just as confident. She was wrong. She did have some good times at Blue Hill, there were more people than she thought on scholarship, more people than she thought understood The Bluest Eye, and she did make at least one friend in Sandy. Yet in the end she is completely confident in her decision to leave Blue Hill, despite these experiences. Confidence is a powerful asset, but Maizon fails to embody the lesson presented to her at Blue Hill, that she may not always be right, that she may not always have the right answers. In this way, Maizon fails to evolve.
However, it is interesting to note that many, by no means all, but many of her assumptions as to the effect of her race were correct. Her peers’ first impressions are that she is a black girl. Many are curious as to how she is different, but she wisely responds that she is not. Beforehand, she introspectively comments, “I hated the word minorities…I don’t consider myself less than anyone” (Woodson 2).
Her lack of evolution, her continual confidence, and her experiences with race relations are all interesting themes for students to study. The book does not have a happy ending, where Maizon learns something and imparts some wisdom to the students at Blue Hill and finds herself happy there. Maizon fails to adjust, the racist black girls do not learn anything, the students do not evolve. The reader is frustrated, prompting their contemplation on what they would have done if they were a character in the book. The last sentence of the book, “And somewhere inside that strong solid thing, I’d find a place where smart black girls from Brooklyn could feel like they belonged” (Woodson 149). This conclusion can foster in students the impression that racism, and perhaps some other issues, are not so easily resolved, and the author is not going to pretend otherwise, and it actually requires effort, on their part and others. Certainly they don’t want to be like many of the students in the book. Aside from this interesting moral implication, the lack of character transformation, so typical in other books, can be a source of significant class discussion. How did her person strengths and weaknesses play into her successes and failures?
A writer would be hard pressed to assert that the book has an overall racist overlay; however, it is interesting to note that Pauli, who is presented in a positive light throughout the book, comments, “First I denied the black part of myself to try to fit, then I denied the white part of me. Then I just accepted both. I mean, I am black and white…I cant choose between the two” (Woodson 130). This is contrary to the sentiment expressed during their reading of The Bluest Eye, where the moral of the discussion was that it was unfortunate that a black person desired to be white, the idea presumably being that it didn’t matter if you were white or black. Here Pauli asserts that she is identifying herself as both black and white, after trying to figure out how to resolve the fact that she is both. Why does she feel that way? There was no talk after her comment that she should worry about identifying herself the way she wishes to identify herself, and not on her ethnic origins. To state an obvious point, ancestral origins should not determine who one is, though sometimes society puts strong pressures on the contrary notion. But still, Pauli identifies herself as both black and white, instead of a human being, a member of the human race.
At the same time, once can argue that this incident and others are a strong characteristic of the book. The Woodson does not force feed us any conclusions as to Maizon’s character transformation or race morality, save in the discussion of Maizon’s favorite book The Bluest Eye. Many concusions are left to the reader.
Both Bridge to Terabithia and Maizon at blue Hill have 1st person narratives. It is interesting to note that there is more description of how Maizon feels than how Jess feels. Jess’s inner dialogue is what he is thinking. Maizon’s inner dialogue is what she is feeling. Of course, there is significant crossover. It is clear that its easier for girls to relate to Maizon than boys, based on the issues going around like girl’s periods and clothes. Many of the exchanges that Maizon contain some passive aggressive comments, something more typical of girls Maizon’s age than boys.
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