In 2011, The Brown Bookshelf celebrated Renée Watson as an up-and-coming voice in the world of children’s literature, with two titles debuting the previous year: A Place Where Hurricanes Happen, a picture book illustrated by Shadra Strickland and published by Random House; and What Momma Left Me, a middle grade novel published by Bloomsbury. Since that time, she has become a celebrated author who has gone on to produce other stellar titles, including the picture book Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills (illustrated by Christian Robinson, Random House 2012) and her first YA novel – which happens to be today’s featured title – This Side of Home (Bloomsbury 2015).
In This Side of Home, twins and high school seniors, Maya and Nikki, find themselves in the unusual predicament of being at odds over the gentrification of their neighborhood. Nikki is excited about the new changes—pretty shops and boutiques replacing abandoned storefronts—while Maya is disturbed by all the “upgrades” that seem to be only for the benefit of the new people coming in, as opposed to the residents who have been there all along. For the first time, the sisters must, as the publisher puts it, “confront their dissenting feelings on the importance of their ethnic and cultural identities and, in the process, learn to separate themselves from the long shadow of their identity as twins.” Complicating matters even more, Maya finds herself becoming attracted to the new white boy who has moved in across the street, which understandably creates a sense of internal conflict.
Watson’s timely and conversation-provoking young adult novel has been well received, garnering starred reviews by Booklist and The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (BCCB). Please join us in celebrating This Side of Home on Day 6 of 28 Days later!
Read what Renée Watson has to say about This Side of Home:
Listen to Renée Watson speak about This Side of Home and writing for children: