Happy Sunday and welcome to my stop on the THE BLACK KIDS blog tour! I’m so excited because today I have an interview with Christina Hammonds Reed to share with you! This book is truly amazing and I’m so so excited to for you to find out more about THE BLACK KIDS and Christina, plus enter to win an ARC!
The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed
Published by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers on August 4, 2020
Genres: YA, Historical Fiction
Los Angeles, 1992
Ashley Bennett and her friends are living the charmed life. It’s the end of senior year and they’re spending more time at the beach than in the classroom. They can already feel the sunny days and endless possibilities of summer.
Everything changes one afternoon in April, when four LAPD officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley’s not just one of the girls. She’s one of the black kids.
As violent protests engulf LA and the city burns, Ashley tries to continue on as if life were normal. Even as her self-destructive sister gets dangerously involved in the riots. Even as the model black family façade her wealthy and prominent parents have built starts to crumble. Even as her best friends help spread a rumor that could completely derail the future of her classmate and fellow black kid, LaShawn Johnson.
With her world splintering around her, Ashley, along with the rest of LA, is left to question who is the us? And who is the them?
If you could trade lives with any YA character for a day, who would it be and why? What about a week? A month, year, or forever?
A day – Katniss. I would like to see if I actually had the fortitude to make it through the Hunger Games. I’m 97% certain I would not.
A week – Madeline from Everything, Everything – because I feel like that’s pretty much what quarantine has felt like anyway; might as well throw in a cute forbidden romance with the boy next door. (Note: I only say this because View Spoiler »she’s not actually immuno-compromised « Hide Spoiler)
A month – Jupe from Odd One Out, because to my mostly settled down boring thirty-something self, a messy queer love triangle sounds fun, so long as I know there’s an end in sight to all the drama.
A year or forever – as much as there’s a lot that’s beautiful about being young and discovering life and who you really are for the first time, no thank you. I was sooo angsty and unsure of myself as a teenager and I have no desire to return to any of it for any substantial length of time. Except for maybe the not having to pay bills part.
What would you do if you spent the day with Ashley? Where would you go to eat, hang out, relax, etc.?
We would absolutely spend the day being beach bums together. Then, maybe at some point, we’d head back to my parents’ house, chill at their pool and have my dad grill us up some deliciousness. I’m a mermaid at heart.
If Ashley were to hang out with characters from other YA books, who would they be and why?
So technically it’s middle grade, but I think she and Alberta and Edie from The Only Black Girls in Town would thoroughly get each other and hang out with each other if they were the same age. Being the only middle/upper middle-class Black girls in a California beach town struggling to figure themselves out, navigating friendships and uncovering secrets? Check.
What was your favorite bit of research you ended up not using?
I’m not sure it technically counts as research, but I dug further into the history of this place of which I was already vaguely aware. In Pacific Palisades there are these crumbling structures that used to be a Nazi bunker called Murphy’s Ranch. It was supposed to be a haven for Nazi sympathizers who were anticipating the fall of the US to The Third Reich. And apparently at one point in the 60s and 70s it was converted into an artists’ compound. But now the trail around it is a little overgrown and mostly used for hiking and the abandoned structures are covered in graffiti and graffiti art, which of course is often the creation of Black and brown kids. So this place is such a microcosm of Los Angeles and America itself – a white supremacist compound, built on stolen Native land, in city founded by Black and Latinx folks, and now young people have found a way to defiantly create a kind of beauty and their own subversion of this place in an area that is largely very wealthy and white. I had to cut the scene that included it, but it was among my favorite.
What is your favorite quote, scene, or moment from The Black Kids?
That’s like asking me to choose one of my children over the other. I don’t have any kids, but all of the sentences that make up the book feel like they are. Though I suspect some parents might be ok with choosing one kid over the other? My sister’s definitely the better sibling of the two of us. Anyway, I do really love when Ashley and LaShawn are on the trampoline together. That moment of them coming together and the fact that they’re just being teenagers and finding hope and joy in the middle of all this external and emotional chaos was important to me.
What would your characters think about everything that’s happening in 2020?
I think they would be frustrated with what’s going on, but not surprised. Especially since towards the end, Ashley becomes fully aware of the ways in which riots and race and the destruction of Black bodies is part of a continuum in the fairly modern history of this country. That said, I also think they might be hopeful in that the recent protests have been more multicultural, multigenerational and multinational than any of the protests that have preceded them and organizers aren’t letting up. So I personally really hope it’s a sign of a significant shift in how we tackle systemic and institutional racism moving forward and I think they would too.
Christina Hammonds Reed holds an MFA in Film and Television Production from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. Her short fiction has previously appeared in the Santa Monica Review. She lives in Hermosa Beach, CA.
Doesn’t this book sound amazing? I’ve added it to my tbr, have you added it to yours? Let me know in the comments and have a splendiferous day!