Monday, February 13, 2012

Black, White, Other: In Search of Nina Armstrong

Fifteen-year-old Nina Armstrong is caught in the middle in so many ways. Her mom and dad recently split up, and her formerly-stable family feels suddenly unreliable. Nina is biracial, but that’s never been an issue for her before. Now, her dad is getting in touch with his African-American roots and starting to express anger with white people, and her white best friend, Jessica, has found a new friend who is doesn't hide her feelings about the “ghetto” black kids in their high school. Even worse, her brother is being stalked by a bully from her high school. She can’t seem to tell her parents anything: they don’t get that race is just black and white to the kids she knows, and that whatever she is doesn’t fit in with either and that means everyday is harder and harder for her. Nina finds solace in a story her dad is writing, adapted from the journal and letters of her great-great grandmother Sarah, a slave who, despite all obstacles, escaped slavery through the Underground Railroad. As Nina reads Sarah’s story she becomes inspired to run away, too, from all her troubles at home and school. In the end, though, Nina realizes that her problems are nothing like Sarah’s but, like Sarah, she has it within her to change things for the better. Author Joan Steinau Lester tells two tales of two strong young women, Nina and Sarah, that all strong young women will enjoy.

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