Concrete Kids by Amyra Leon is a fairly tiny book from the Penguin Workshop Pocket Change Collective series that tells a story like many books. Leon uses playful words and unique vocabulary to tell her story as a young girl, up to her teenage years, and what she has experienced growing up. In this small book, she depicts her trauma and struggles throughout her childhood as a Black girl. She talks about how she had been separated from her birth mother without knowing her birth father and was put into the foster care system. From there, she constantly moved from house to house, unable to get adopted. It made her feel demoralized. Eventually, she was adopted by a Puerto Rican woman and immediately regained her lost hope. She felt at ease around her. The book portrays acts of violence Amyra has seen and the systematic racism around her.
Personally, I don’t read many books, especially nonfiction books, however, this book was interesting as well as inspiring. It is beautifully written. It captured my attention by both how the book is presented to me as well as the specific language and play of words. It uses simple lines that hold powerful meaning. For example, the author learns the value of self-love in the following lines: “I do not / Need to / Be White / Like her, like them / To love the skin / That I am in.” She is comparing the dolls her birth mother gave her and how her mother’s white skin was just like Barbie's, and there are no black Barbie dolls. Making her question how beautiful she is if no black Barbie dolls are being made.
Or the poem “Blink.” Although she uses simple words in this poem, she is able to convey how in a blink of an eye, things change so easily as they did for her as well:
In the blink of an eye / Everything can change / Blink. / Black car. / Blink. / Windows roll down. / Blink. / Music louder now. / Blink. / Shots. / Blink. / Too many. / Blink. / His friends and all their limbs running. / Blink. / His body hits the floor. / Blink.
Here, Amyra portrays her experience with gun violence—the boy in the white tee, and how she was both terrified and craved freedom. This inspires me because it opens up a lot of things about racism in the past and how nothing really has changed even with all these recent movements and activists nobody's listening to. It inspires me to listen to others and hear their experience with racism and how someone can hide their voices and their background in the context of religion, race, or social status. I would definitely want my friends to read this, and I 100% recommend this to someone. As this is a beautiful book with powerful meaning.
Review by:Nazabin Haider
Nazabin is 14 years old. She loves watching crime shows and reading about mysteries occasionally. Going into tenth grade, she enjoys drawing and doodling all over her notebooks, taking long naps, hanging out with friends, and reading a good book once in a while.
—Michael Baradi, Mid-Valley Regional Branch Library