If you’re looking for a book that is both an enjoyable read and is also a rather thoughtful look at race, friendship, and what it means to be yourself, you might want to read My Year in the Middle by Lila Quintero Weaver.
The Story: Lu Olivera knows several things. 1. When running, save your strength for the home stretch. 2. Her Mamá and Papá are some of the best people in the world. 3. Life is not always as black and white as it seems. In 1970s, Alabama, segregation has been overcome, but that doesn’t mean the racism is gone, especially for a school like Lu’s where there are only a few black kids for the very first time. Lu herself is not exactly sure where she stands in it all, being in the middle row and from Argentina. With everyone inside and outside of school taking sides and a big race coming up, Lu just wants to keep her eyes on the prize to become a great runner. Can she really accomplish her goal? And does Lu have even more strength to decide what kind of a person she wants to be?
My Thoughts: I’m going to level with ya’ll. Personally, I’m a little sick of the way politics has been creeping into children’s books. Don’t get me wrong; I think kids ought to know about this kind of stuff, but it seems like I can hardly pick up a fiction book without seeing the agenda behind it. That having been said, I think My Year in the Middle manages to make its point rather eloquently without having to shove the issue of racism down your throat. At its core, this is a story about Lu Olivera, the girl who wants to become a runner someday, but it also deals with both sides of the racial issue in the 70s. Without spewing too much hate or being particularly biased, this is a good read that allows kids to think and make up their own minds.
Parental Advisory: There are mild racial (one could call them “racist) jokes throughout, though they are generally pointed out for what they are. Otherwise, a clean read.