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Thursday, March 8, 2018

Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson - Book Review & Interview

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Review by Suze

Jade is taking the bus to go to private school every day. She studies with rich and privileged kids, but lives with a single mother who doesn't make much money. For Jade opportunities are scarce and when she gets them she needs to grab them with both hands. She's smart and artistic and does incredibly well at school, she regularly tutors others, but her achievements often go unnoticed. Jade has never been on holiday and a school trip would be a dream come true, but will she be invited?

Jade's being pushed into the Women to Women mentorship program, but she doesn't feel her mentor is teaching her much. However, if Jade wants to learn from her mentor she might have to share her thoughts. Jade needs to find her voice, so other people will hear her. Maybe if she speaks up she will finally be understood and get the chances she so longs to have? Will she ever be able to find out who she is and where she fits into the world, can she fit all the pieces of her personality together to make a beautiful whole like the collages she makes?  

Piecing Me Together is a beautiful strong story. Jade doesn’t feel seen or heard by anyone. She’s from a poor neighborhood, going to a private school where nobody seems to understand her. Jade doesn’t have many friends because of this, which is a fantastic thought-provoking topic for a story. She can totally lose herself in her art and this talent put a big smile on my face. Renée Watson describes her creations in such a stunning vivid way that it makes them pop off the pages of the book. Even though Jade’s being given opportunities, she isn’t happy with everything she’s being made part of and she’s absolutely right about that too. Jade is being asked for the Women to Women mentorship program. At first Jade feels smaller because of this program, but slowly she starts to find her voice and she grows into someone who can stand up for herself, which was such an amazing process to witness.

Renée Watson has a fantastic engaging writing style. I was captivated by her story from beginning to end. I really enjoyed reading about Jade's personal development. While she is used to running away from her problems she’s learning to solve them, to demand to be heard and seen instead. I absolutely loved that. I also liked the dynamics between Jade and her mentor, the way Jade lets her know how she feels and voices her opinions. Jade is smart, articulate and talented and when she lets people know how she feels she finally gets her results. It takes a lot of courage to do this and that is what I admired the most about this book, Jade’s journey to find that courage within herself and using it for others who need it as well. I love stories about strong girls and think Renée Watson has done a brilliant job with this one.

Advice

If you love reading about beautiful personal journeys you definitely don't want to miss Piecing Me Together.

About Renée Watson


Renée Watson is an author, educator, activist, and recipient of a Coretta Scott King Award and Newbery Honor for her Young Adult title, Piecing Me Together.”Her children's picture books and novels for teens have received several awards and international recognition. She has given readings and lectures at many renown places including the United Nations, the Library of Congress, and the U.S. Embassy in Japan. The New York Times calls Renée’s writing, “charming and evocative.” Her poetry and fiction often centers around the lived experiences of black girls and women, and explores themes of home, identity, and the intersections of race, class, and gender.

Her books include young adult novels, Piecing Me Together and This Side of Home, which were both nominated for the Best Fiction for Young Adults by the American Library Association. Her picture book, Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills received several honors including an NAACP Image Award nomination in children’s literature. Her one woman show, Roses are Red Women are Blue, debuted at the Lincoln Center at a showcase for emerging artists.

One of Renée’s passions is using the arts to help youth cope with trauma and discuss social issues. Her picture book, A Place Where Hurricanes Happen is based on poetry workshops she facilitated with children in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Renée has worked as a writer in residence for over twenty years teaching creative writing and theater in public schools and community centers through out the nation. Her articles on teaching and arts education have been published in Rethinking Schools and Oregon English Journal. She is on the Council of Writers for the National Writing Project and is a team member of We Need Diverse Books. She currently teaches courses on writing for children for the Solstice MFA program at Pine Manor College.

Renée has also worked as a consultant within the non-profit sector, specifically around teaching for social justice and the role of art in social justice, providing professional development workshops and leadership trainings to artists, staff, executives, and board of directors. Some of her clients include Carnegie Hall, DreamYard, Lincoln Center, RAW Art Works, and Writers in the Schools-Portland.

In the summer of 2016 Renée launched I, Too, Arts Collective, a nonprofit committed to nurturing underrepresented voices in the creative arts. She launched the #LangstonsLegacy Campaign to raise funds to lease the Harlem brownstone where Langston Hughes lived and created during the last twenty years of his life. Her hope is to preserve the legacy of Langston Hughes and build on it by providing programming for emerging writers.

Renée grew up in Portland, Oregon and currently lives in New York City.

Links


Interview

1. Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself?

Besides writing fiction, I also love to read and write poetry. I fell in love with words at an early age and have always enjoyed word games likes Scrabble and Taboo.

2. What’s the inspiration behind Piecing Me Together and the issues Jade is dealing with?

I was inspired to tell Jade’s story because I have been both a student in a mentoring program and a mentor. I wanted to explore the nuances of race, class, and gender and write about a girl who is trying to find her way. A lot of the characters are based on the girls I’ve mentored over the years, girls who are smart, talented, and full of dreams.

3. Art plays an important part in the story and it comes back in many different ways, could you tell a bit more about that and your own love for art?

For Jade, making collages is a way for her to process what she’s going through. She finds power in her ability to make something beautiful out of what people throw away, disregard, or deem useless. This is a metaphor for how she is building her own life. With collage, she takes these different scraps to make one whole piece and in her life she is trying to piece together all the individual painful and joyous moments into something she can be proud of.

For me personally, I believe art has the power to heal. I believe art can bring people together and help initiate conversations that are difficult but necessary to have. As a child, poetry and visual art helped me cope with all that was happening around me. So I very much used that part of my life to shape Jade’s story.


4. In your story Jade struggles with the decisions the grownups around her are making, you work with children in the same age category, how do you make sure you leave a positive impression and influence them in the right way? Jade finds her strength and wisdom, how do you teach teenagers to do the same?

Over the years I’ve really tried to listen more to the young people in my life. I don’t know that I have any answers, but what I do have to offer is my experience, my love, my support. It’s important for the young people in my life to know that I haven’t come to fix them or take them out of their neighborhood. I haven’t come to give them a voice. They already have a voice. I just want to provide space for them to share their voice, tools for them to cultivate their voice.


5. What are your plans for the future?

I am currently finishing up a few books that will be out in 2019 and 2020. I’m also running a new nonprofit in Harlem called I, Too Arts Collective. We’re housed in the brownstone where Langston Hughes lived and we’re dedicated to preserving his legacy and nurturing voices from underrepresented communities.

18 comments:

  1. i'll definitely give it a try, the story looks promising esp its a personal journey where most of us will relate and learn a lessons in life, girl power indeed.

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  2. That cover is so beautiful, one more book to my TBR

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  3. I really enjoyed reading your interview, thank you!

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  4. Jade seems very relatable, and this cover is amazing.

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  5. Very cool to learn about Renee and her book!

    --Trix

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  6. I love stories about strong girls and I just have to read it.

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  7. This got me curious. Nice interview :)

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  8. It sounds very uplifting and inspiring.Great interview too.

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  9. A story which will inspire other disadvantaged young women

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  10. I loved the metaphor of Jade's collages - very apt!

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  11. I'd like to read about Jade's journey.

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  12. Thank you for the great review and interview :)

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  13. This looks like the perfect read for me, great review!

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