Some Places More Than Others by Renée Watson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Amara lives in Beaverton, Oregon and is about to turn 12 and honestly, she is living a great life. Her mom owns a boutique and designs clothes, including ones for Amara. Her father works for Nike and she has early access and employee discounts for sneakers. Her parents are expecting a much wanted baby. She has a great best friend.
What Amara wants more than anything: to go to New York City to meet her father's family. Her mother is an only child, and both her parents died before Amara was born. In New York City are her paternal grandfather; her aunt; two cousins. People she knows mainly from phone calls. FAMILY. Amara craves family; when her father makes the recipes his mother made, Amara thinks how great it would be to be making those recipes, eating that food, in the kitchen where her grandmother cooked, where she taught her son.
After much (much) pleading and begging, Amara gets her birthday wish. When her father next goes to NYC on business, she's going to go with him.
I LOVED this story. I love how Amara doesn't realize, until her mother points it out, that her father and grandfather don't speak to each other. (Before you think she's clueless, think: if all your contact is by phone and the phone getting passed around, you're not going to notice that.)
So, there's a family mystery: why doesn't her father and grandfather speak? But there is also the mystery of family, of discovering these people who look like her; of learning more about her father as a boy, a teen, a young man, realizing that before he was a business man he was a kid.
I love how sometimes things don't work out as you think; at first, her older cousin sees Amara as more of a nuisance than anything else. I love that the rich cultural history of New York City is shown, and how excited Amara gets about exploring the African American history of the city.
I love even the side things that are there, for a reader to pick up on, or not - -things aren't overly explained. For example, Amara discovers that her father had a passion for poetry as a child. Now, he's a businessman. But, and this is important: he loves what he does. I think it's great that a book shows that. Another is how Amara isn't sure about the new baby sister because her mother has had three miscarriages. There's a lot to unpack there, but this is Amara's story so it's about her, her feelings, her fears, not her parents' story.
My only quibble: part of what drives Amara's look into her family history is a school assignment. It's actually pretty well handled in the book, and I enjoy it, but the adult part of me always cringes at assignments about family because that is such a source of potential anguish and loss and exclusion for kids.
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