“Infused with honesty, heart, and humor, The Black Kids is a true love letter to Los Angeles, highlighting the beauty and flaws of the city, and the people who call it home.” —Brandy Colbert, award-winning author of Little & Lion
Perfect for fans of The Hate U Give, this unforgettable coming-of-age debut novel explores issues of race, class, and violence through the eyes of a wealthy black teenager whose family gets caught in the vortex of the 1992 Rodney King Riots.
Los Angeles, 1992
Ashley Bennett and her friends are living the charmed life. It’s the end of senior year and they’re spending more time at the beach than in the classroom. They can already feel the sunny days and endless possibilities of summer.
Everything changes one afternoon in April, when four LAPD 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.
As violent protests engulf LA and the city burns, Ashley tries to continue on as if life were normal. Even as her self-destructive sister gets dangerously involved in the riots. Even as the model black family façade her wealthy and prominent parents have built starts to crumble. Even as her best friends help spread a rumor that could completely derail the future of her classmate and fellow black kid, LaShawn Johnson.
With her world splintering around her, Ashley, along with the rest of LA, is left to question who is the us? And who is the them?
Ashley Bennett has lived a luxurious life in an upper class Los Angeles neighborhood. However, as the school year winds down and a local man, Rodney King is murdered, Ashley is forced to reevaluate how she views herself and her peers. At first, Ashley the Rodney King murder is barely a blip on Ashley's radar, although after the verdict is delivered and the protests and riots begin, Ashley begins to see a difference in the way she and her family are treated. She is not just any girl at her high school, she is one of the black kids.
The Black Kids is so on point and perfectly written that I want everyone to read this book immediately. Honest, poignant, and driven, the writing had me hooked from the beginning; it was eerie how the events of the very first chapter seemed to perfectly echo the current events of the USA. I liked that Ashley's character was not the typical 'black kid' of the time and had to experience the consequences of the Rodney King murder to realize the truth of how her race effects her daily life. Through Ashley's eyes I experienced the blatant racism and sexism that was as rampant in 1992 as it is now. The prose also perfectly captured the wonders of being a teen along with the nostalgia of the early 1990's. Ashley's journey had great revelations about racism and the weight of representing her race in a white world, as well as understanding of poverty, friendship and growing up. The consequences of the Rodney King verdict and the subsequent riots were a turning point in Ashley's view of herself and her life, opening up her eyes and my own to see just how long people of color have been vigilantly fighting against systemic racism in the USA and highlighting the cycle of racism, unjust killing, protest and unrest until we put a bandage on the current issue until we forget about what caused the previous issue. The Black Kids is a must-read for everyone who wants to better understand the world we live in.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
Christina Hammonds Reed holds an MFA in Film and Television Production from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. Her short fiction has previously appeared in the Santa Monica Review. She lives in Hermosa Beach, CA.