Anna's Reviews > From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun

From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun by Jacqueline Woodson
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Oct 18, 08

bookshelves: fiction, young-adult, teaching-tolerance
Recommended to Anna by: conference organizers
Recommended for: young adults, adults
Read in October, 2008, read count: 1

First off, let me just say that I didn't know much about this book before reading it. I am attending a young adult literature conference next weekend and I signed up for a workshop that featured this book and Call Me Maria by Judith Ortiz Cofer. The theme of the workshop is "Crossing Personal Borders" but that was all I really had to go on before I started reading this book.

The beginning was a little bit rough in the sense that I had a hard time getting into the author's writing style. She has regular "chapters" (that are numbered 1, 2, 3, etc.) as well as Melanin Sun's journal entries, which are italicized. Also, the action really doesn't start until about page 50 or so, which I initially found to be somewhat frustrating. In retrospect I think this makes perfect sense.

Once I got past page 50, I was addicted to the book. This was one of the most honest and moving stories I've read in a while. Melanin Sun finds out that his mother is gay and how he copes with it -- his thoughts, his interactions with his mother, and his interactions with the outside world -- are fascinating. I loved reading about what I think was a typical teen's reaction to such news. He was scared, angry, sad, hurt, confused. He wasn't a hateful kid but he also had no idea how to cope with the reality that his mom is a lesbian.

He's also an African American male and his mother tells him that she is in love with a white woman. This brought in a really interesting dimension of race to the story and I think it made it that much deeper and more thought provoking for the reader. This book is totally NOT preachy but it isn't afraid to talk honestly about race and sexuality.

Although I consider myself to be a very tolerant person, what I liked most about this book was that the author showed just how difficult it is for "normal" young people to cope with a parent's "coming out." Not only do they have to deal with their own emotional reactions but they also have to worry about the outside world's prejudices how this will impact how others will treat them.

The characters in this book are very real. It's a short novel but it has such incredible depth. A lot of young adults would benefit from reading this book. Those who have gay parents would most likely find great comfort in this story. Because the story is told through Melanin Sun's eyes, I also think it would be a good read for those who could learn to be a bit more tolerant.
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message 1: by Petra X (new)

Petra X I'm going to get this book for myself; your review made the book sound very interesting. But I don't think I'll get it for my bookshop - I don't think the somewhat fundamentalist West Indies is ready for it yet.


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