Review: Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From

Title: Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From
Author: Jennifer De Leon
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Canada
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: August 4, 2020
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

First-generation American LatinX Liliana Cruz does what it takes to fit in at her new nearly all-white school. But when family secrets spill out and racism at school ramps up, she must decide what she believes in and take a stand.

Fifteen-year-old Liliana is fine, thank you very much. It’s fine that her best friend, Jade, is all caught up in her new boyfriend lately. It’s fine that her inner-city high school is disorganized and underfunded. It’s fine that her father took off again—okay, maybe that isn’t fine, but what is Liliana supposed to do? She’s fifteen! Being left with her increasingly crazy mom? Fine. Her heathen little brothers? Fine, fine, fine. But it turns out Dad did leave one thing behind besides her crazy family. Before he left, he signed Liliana up for a school desegregation program called METCO. And she’s been accepted.

Being accepted into METCO, however, isn’t the same as being accepted at her new school. In her old school, Liliana—half-Guatemalan and half-Salvadorian—was part of the majority where almost everyone was a person of color. But now at Westburg, where almost everyone is white, the struggles of being a minority are unavoidable. It becomes clear that the only way to survive is to lighten up—whiten up. And if Dad signed her up for this program, he wouldn’t have just wanted Liliana to survive, he would have wanted her to thrive. So what if Liliana is now going by Lili? So what if she’s acting like she thinks she’s better than her old friends? It’s not a big deal. It’s fine.

But then she discovers the gutting truth about her father: He’s not on one of his side trips. And it isn’t that he doesn’t want to come home…he can’t. He’s undocumented and he’s been deported back to Guatemala. Soon, nothing is fine, and Lili has to make a choice: She’s done trying to make her white classmates and teachers feel more comfortable. Done changing who she is, denying her culture and where she came from. They want to know where she’s from, what she’s about? Liliana is ready to tell them.

Review:

Liliana is a Latinx high school student in Boston. Her father has disappeared, but he has left before, though not for as long. Lili is accepted to a program called METCO, which is meant to desegregate schools. She starts going to a predominantly white school in a wealthy neighbourhood. The problem with the program is that Lili is still treated as an “other.” The METCO students are separated in social situations from the other students in the school, which further segregates them. Things get out of hand when Lili and the other students face racism from students and teachers. Lili has to figure out a way to fight back and show the world who they are.

This is a painfully honest story. Lili and the other students had to deal with some horrible racist situations from both students and teachers. It was really disturbing to see the teachers also making inappropriate comments. Lili also had a hard time at home because her father was gone. There were undocumented immigrants in her family, and it seemed like a problem that would be impossible to solve.

Even though METCO was a program created to bring students of different backgrounds to the school, it actually segregated the students more. Instead of being part of their whole school, the small group of students stayed together. The point of the program was to give them more opportunities in schooling, yet they were not guaranteed these opportunities even if they worked hard. These kinds of programs may be created with good intentions, but they need to fully integrate the students in the school, rather than separating them in their own group.

This is a must read book! I loved it!

Thank you Simon and Schuster Canada for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Color Me In by Natasha Diaz

A Love Hate Thing by Whitney D. Grandison

Have you read Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From? What did you think of it?

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