Friday, September 3, 2010

Sellout - Ebony Joy Wilkins

Sellout by Ebony Joy Wilkins
Natasha (Tash) is the only Black girl in an all White ballet troupe. Tash loved playing volleyball, but took up ballet to fit in at her all White New Jersey high school. The ballet instructor wants dancers to have the same hairstyle. This is difficult for Tash.

When the story opens Tash is preparing for the final recital of the year. Heather her best friend and follow dancer, convinces Tash to wear a fake bun. After an incident with the bun Tash is very embarrassed and ready to get away. Every summer Tash spends a few days with her grandmother (Tilly) in Harlem. This time Tilly wants Tash to stay longer.

Tilly believes Tash living in a predominately White community is not helping her know and love who she is. Tash is always comparing herself to the other dancers and never matches up.

The beginning of Sellout was good. Its wasn't as put together as I would've like but there was definitely something there. Though Wilkins used hair as a descriptive indicator too many times. Tash and Tilly were good characters. Tilly was my favorite Wilkins does a good job with Tash's voice.

Wearing the scarves couldn't possibly be that big of a deal. All the hottest fashion magazines had models wearing them. I bet even my mother had plans to add a few to her own wardrobe. Besides, with a bun, I looked like all the other dancers. Marcia wanted uniformity, so I gave it to her. Really, it was all her fault Stephanie fell.

I focused on the three piece art display of African American dancers hanging on the wall across from me. Those dancers had all kinds of scarves tied in their hair and on their bodies. What was so wrong with how I wore mine?

Wilkins connects the reader with Tash, so we know where she is coming from. Tilly wants Tash to volunteer at Amber's Place. Tilly has been helping out at Amber's Place for years. Its a community center for trouble girls. Tash doesn't know how to talk to these girls. She is quickly on the wrong side of a clique of girls lead by Monique.

In the beginning Wilkins had me. I was really into this story. In my head I was already thinking this would be a great novel to be paired with Finding My Place by Traci L Jones.
Both deal with a Black female character attending an almost all White High School. There's also the issue of Black identity. I had it all planned out in my head, unfortunately Wilkins lost me.

Sellout was one of those novels that could've gone either way. Wilkins can write and the diagolues was very good. There was a lot of potential and in the end it was simply a matter of how the author put it together. The story was going along well enough until one scene at Amber's Place.

Tash decides to play on the volleyball team with the White or light skinned Black girls ( I wasn't sure which) either way Monique and her friends start calling her a sellout. The two get into a verbal standoff in front of gym teacher. Monique calls Tash a sellout in front of the adult several times.

I have a difficult time believing an adult would allow a teen to call another teen a sellout and not do anything thing. If the adult doesn't know the meaning behind the word, the tone of it should have been enough. This scene would've been more believable outside of the presence of an adult.

Sellout didn't work for me as well as I would've liked. Though I still believe many young readers will enjoy it and take something away from it. Ebony Joy Wilkins is an author I will keep my eye on. ages 11up

1 comment:

MissA said...

I liked this book, but that was it. I was hoping to live it, but I agree, the execution fell flat. The adults didn't seem all that involved (I too paused at the incident in the gym, but I guess the adults wanted Tash to learn how to defend herself?).

The romance was the most surprising thing to me. I liked the beginning best along with the ending and the middle was just 'meh'.

I'm going to read Finding My Place soon! My birthday is coming up and I'm hoping I get a booksotre/VISA giftcard so i can buy it.