A groundbreaking debut by the crucial new YA voice Christina Hammonds Reed. Searingly raw and profoundly moving, The Black Kids is an unflinching exploration of race, class, and identity that is as shockingly timely as it is powerfully timeless.
Set against the backdrop of the 1992 LA riots which witnessed Los Angeles engulfed in flames, violent protests and looting after four while police officers brutally beat a male African-American motorist close to death. For 15 minutes these police officers repeatedly kicked and beat Rodney King, resulting in skull fractures, broken bones and teeth, and permanent brain damage. As I write this in 2020, the death of George Floyd has sparked international protests and the Black Lives Matter Movement.
It is as heartbreaking as it is terrifying that The Black Kids could be set today, nearly 30 years since the LA riots, and very little would be different.
"People glorify protest when white kids do it, when it’s chic, frustrated Parisian kids or British coal miners or suffragettes smashing windows and throwing firebombs at inequality."
The Black Kids follows seventeen year old Ashley Bennett who has, so far, lived a seemingly perfect, privileged life - she lives in a rich neighbourhood, attends an elite school and spends most days on the beach with her white best friends high on the endless possibilities of summer. Charmed and content, Ashley has never really known the struggles of her black history and heritage, nor the lives of her fellow black friends. But everything changes one afternoon in April, when four police officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley’s not just one of the girls. She’s one of the black kids. What follows is an eye-opening, coming-of-age narrative that seamlessly captures Ashley's transition from girlhood to young adulthood, parallel to the turbulent and pivotal 1992 LA riots.
Beautifully written and cleverly constructed to include passages from Ashley's past, The Black Kids is a salient, smart and striking story and I encourage you all to read it.