Monday, January 22, 2018

Review: Peas and Carrots

Tanita S. Davis. Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 2016.  279 pp.
Rating: Decent

I debated whether to write a review for this book mainly because the writing is unremarkable and it was just an okay read to me; however, in subject matter this is a narrative that needed to be written. Oftentimes when we think of foster children, our minds are automatically wired to visualize children of color despite the stark reality that children of all races and ethnicities flow in and out of foster care trapped within an imperfect system. This story had to be written if only to demonstrate that black families foster more than just black children. It's important that I reiterate this because a few months back, a friend asked a question that I took exception to. For a brief moment, she shedded her friend cloak for that of a stranger. "How are you going to respond when someone asks you why you chose a white child, when there are so many black children in the system?" is the question she posed to me.

To understand this question, you must know that I'm a single Black woman with no kids who is the foster parent of a white teenage girl. There is so much I could say in response to her question, but the bottom line is that ALL children need love, a loving home, and a safe living environment. Period. End of discussion.

Months later my friend confessed that finally she understood that it wasn't about race, but about a child who yearned for a stable, loving home and a woman who has always wanted to be a mother and has an abundance of love to give.

With that said...on to the book review.

Book Jacket Blurb: Dess knows that nothing good lasts. Disappointment is never far away, and that's a truth that Dess has learned to live with.

Dess's mother's most recent arrest is just the latest in a long line of disappointments, but this one lands her with her baby brother Austin's foster family. Dess doesn't exactly fit in with the Carters. They're so happy, so comfortable, so normal, and Hope, their teenage daughter, is so hopelessly naive. Dess and Hope couldn't be less alike, but Austin loves them both like sisters. Over time their differences, insurmountable at first, fall away to reveal two girls who want the same thing: to belong.

Tanita S. Davis, a Coretta Scott King Honor winner, weaves a tale of two modern teenagers defying stereotypes and deciding for themselves what it means to be a family.

Peas and Carrots started with a great hook, but it quickly went downhill. The writing didn't appeal to me. The story lagged in spots and was boring. Nonetheless, one thing the book hits on the head is the issue of conflicting loyalties. Davis authentically portrays the internal struggle foster children bear regarding loyalty to their birth family, which intensifies when they are placed in a good foster home. 

"Home. I thought home was where I waswith Granny Doris, doing what Trish would maybe want me to. I thought that since Granny Doris needed me, I was in the right place. Family is important, right? Me, and Baby aren't going to stay with the Carters forever. Trisheventuallyand Baby and me are going to try and make some kind of life. Maybe" (277).

Although Trish bungles her parental duties and fails Dess again and again, Dess holds out hope that she and her brother will be reunited with their mother. As a result, she feels allowing herself to become comfortable with the Carters and in their home would be traitorous. Not to mention, the betrayal Dess feels at hearing Austin call Mrs. Carter "mama" and Hope "sister." I love that by the end of the novel, Dess resolves some of her inner conflicts and gains peace within herself.

On to my problems with the book. Basically, I found it corny. Heifer. Really. Sure, my sisters and I call each other heifer, but we are in our mid-thirties to late forties and have grown up using the word thanks to my grandmother. However, I don't see a fifteen-year old teenaged girl living in the twenty-first century calling another girl a heifer. Maybe it's me...I don't know. I just don't see it. Not to mention that Dess is such a Mary Jane. She is popular, can sing, sew, has all the answers and a unique fashion style to boot. 

Another issue is the inaccuracy of the cover. Outside of skin tone and hair texture, Hope isn't portrayed correctly. The publisher should have depicted her as she is described in the book especially since her appearance is a huge contention in the story. Although it could happen, I didn't find Dess's trustfulness of and comfortability with Mr. Carter and Henry so soon after meeting them believable due to her past experiences with men. 

As I mentioned earlier, the best part of the book is the hope-filled ending when Dess realizes that she isn't being disloyal to her birth family by finding peace, safety, and a sense of belonging with the Carters. To close, I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes. 

"The words loop like a rope around me, pulling me into the herd. Mom. Dad. Home. The rest of us. Hope talks like I'm supposed to be with herlike "home" is real, not foster care. No wonder I got soft. Foster Lady and Mr. Carter got Baby and me believing it, too" (278). 

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