105 Ways to Give a Book

Standing Against the Wind

Standing Against the WindStanding Against the Wind, by Traci L. Jones, isn’t about plot, it’s about characters — even if the characters seem a bit cookie-cutter. Nice girl in tough circumstances. Rough boy with a tender heart. No-good mom. But it’s still an interesting book about struggling to make things happen.

Patrice is left with her aunt when her mother is sent to jail. The aunt takes advantage of Patrice by having her do all the chores and take care of her niece and nephew, but Patrice does it because she feels bad about her aunt having to take her in. Patrice is a quiet girl from Georgia, and the rough urban area is hard on her. She is teased about her “puffy” hair that she never has time to fix, and her studious ways. She should ask her sister, the master hairdo queen, to do it for her, but Patrice can’t count on her sister. Her grandmother, who used to care for her, is now in a nursing home, and her mother’s in jail. Her father’s totally out of the picture. What she has going for her is good grades, and she hopes those grades will be her chance to get a scholarship to an African-American boarding school.

She attracts the attention of a popular boy in school, Monty, when he asks her to tutor his brother. As she works with his brother, Patrice and Monty build up an unlikely friendship, and help each other.

I like the language in the book, which felt authentic, but not overdone. I felt like I was listening in to real conversations. Here is an exchange between Patrice and her sister about Monty’s mother:
“I don’t really know. There were only six there: Monty, Michael, three other boys, and a little girl, Mia?” answered Patrice. “Why? Do you know his mom?”

“Yeah, her trifing butt is always up in the salon getting some ghetto hairstyle from Termaine, the hairstyling queen of tackiness,” said Cherise. “I don’t think any of them kids got the same daddy. Plus, Miss Deborah is forever in the club or pregnant. She be bringing all these different men up in the shop, getting them to pay for her hair or nails. Old men, too. Ugh. Then she got the nerve to come in the shop every now and then asking us stylists to lend her money for food. Hell, she always got money when she want to get a new weave or them tacky finger waves. She’s too pitiful.”
I will say that so much of this book reads like a fourth- or fifth-grade book, but the sexual harassment — and almost assault — that Patrice suffers later in the story does make it more for Young Adult. I didn’t realize it when I read it, but Standing Against the Wind won the 2006 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent.

No comments: