Jade is a young, black teen trying to make the most of every opportunity she gets – as girls like her must. She takes the bus every day to her private school where she can’t really relate to anybody. And she even accepts the opportunity to participate in Women for Women – a mentorship for at-risk youth – even though it’s the last thing she wants to do. But Jade is much more than a girl who needs help every step of the way. She has a lot to offer the world – if only the world would stop looking at her as someone who needs opportunities.
Piecing Me Together is a quiet book and, I think, as a result, it’s the type of book that a lot of people might look past. Personally, I love quiet books. I think they are difficult to pull off but when done right, they are immensely powerful. That’s what Renée Watson has done with Piecing Me Together.
Jade’s story is one of the most relatable I have ever come across. Her voice is honest and raw in its vulnerability. She is a young girl who has a lot to learn – but who also has a lot to bestow upon the world. She is a character who grows and changes immensely in a matter of a few hundred pages, and it’s an emotional journey to experience this growth with her.
One of my favourite things about Jade was her love for languages. Every chapter of the book begins with a Spanish verb, followed by the English translation. This is because Jade loves the Spanish language and is intent on learning it for a variety of reasons. Many of us have the same opportunity that Jade has here – to learn a new language. But for Jade, Spanish is not simply a subject she chooses to do in school. Her love of languages, and of Spanish, is deeply rooted in her lived reality:
“Jade, what do you want?”
To travel with the study abroad program.
Maybe go to Argentina.
To tasta asado hot off the fire.
To lick my fingers after enjoying sweet alfajores – the dulce de leche dancing on my tongue.
To eat and speak Spanish in Argentina, in Costa Rica. In New York, California. In job interview where knowing more than one language moves your application to the top of the pile.
To give myself a way out. A way in. Because language can take you places.
This book reshapes the way that we think about languages. It makes us consider how language can be about upward mobility. How many opportunities another language can provide us with – opportunities that many of us take for granted.
Watson’s writing is also incredibly powerful. She integrates important and timely topics into Piecing Me Together and handles them with the depth and nuance that each of them deserves.
If I’m honest, there is very little I can say that will do Piecing Me Together justice. It’s a brilliant book with a main character who will stay with you long after you put the book down.
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