Jade & Patina: Two Admirable Young Women
One of our short listed titles this year is The Hate U Give, with a teenaged black protagonist attending a predominantly white school away from her own neighborhood. At least two other titles in 2017 feature similar situations. Jason Reynolds’ Patina and Renée Watson’s Piecing Me Together (both received four starred reviews from major review journals.) If two or all three are nominated by Newbery members, the chances are high that these three titles are discussed and compared against each other.
Readers of Heavy Medal perhaps already know how I assess THUG against Piecing Me Together. To quote my own comments a while back, “I find Jade to be a much more memorable and realized character than Starr. Her artistic expressions and her ‘caught between two worlds’ experiences leave a much stronger lasting impression for me,” and “The specificities of Starr’s family and her father having to deal with a powerful local crime lord make this title, in my view, actually less universal.” In contrast, the tension of Jade’s story does not come from criminal activities or life and death situations — but real, every day struggle of a young woman trying to find her place in the world, and doing her best to excel.
Jade attends “St. Francis High School on the other side of town… Which means it’s mostly white, which means it’s expensive. ”
Jade’s focus on excelling in her school work and her artistic expression are both clearly conveyed by Watson. Watson employs the mentoring program to organically represent several different individual experiences of the young black women mentors so readers have the opportunity to perceive more than a single story or imagery. Jade’s chosen artistic medium is collage which echoes the title of the book and authentically reflects her own coming-of-age experience. Toward the end of the novel, Watson writes in Jade’s voice, (chapter 67 – renacimiento/rebirth)
I’ve been combining moments from different photos, blending decades, people, and words that don’t belong together. Knitting history into the beautiful, bloody tapestry it is. Emmett Till meets Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. Rosa Parks and Sandra Bland talk with each other under southern trees…. The faces lie on top of newspaper articles and headlines, only I take the words from the headlines and spell out new titles, rewrite history.
Piecing Me Together, although does not make light of African American struggles, definitely focuses more on everyday triumphs and is emotionally uplifting for its intended readers.
In Reynolds’ second installment of the Track series, Patina is a new student and a “raisin in milk” at the mostly white Chester Academy where “rich girls whose daddies own stuff. Not like cars and clothes, though they got those, too. But stuff like… boats…and building! And businesses!”
What I appreciate most about Reynolds’ portrayal of Patina (Patty) is her sharp and and always matter-of-fact observations: “lunch is sautéed prawn, which ain’t nothing but a fancy way to say cooked shrimp.” Reynolds is also dexterous in vivid descriptions. When Patty feels anxious and her throat closes up, she thinks, “Did I eat the plate without knowing? Did the pointy fingers of the fork break off? Did I swallow them, so now plastic nails were poking the inside of my neck?”
Like Jade, Patty is single-minded — to excel in what she does best, running. Like Jade, she must navigate between two/multi-worlds. And like Jade, she finds the beginning of a brighter and more hopeful path at the end of the book.
I absolutely love how Patina ends — Reynolds keeps it in suspense and readers never quite find out how the race ends! The last few lines read like spoken-word:
Warriors. The finish line. Right there. Leave your legs on the track. Heart pounding. Beads clicking in time with my steps, like a clock ticking in my ears.
Or a time bomb.
Come on, Patty. Come on!
These two titles would definitely get my votes over The Hate U Give. I wonder if any of them is on the actual Newbery Table this year!
Filed under: Book Discussion
About Roxanne Hsu Feldman
Roxanne Hsu Feldman is the Middle School (4th to 8th grade) Librarian at the Dalton School in New York City. She served on the 2002 and 2013 Newbery Committees. Roxanne was also a member of 2008-2009 Notable Books for Children, 2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults, and the 2017 Odyssey Award Committees. In 2016 Roxanne was one of the three judges for the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards. You can reach her at at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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