From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun by Jacqueline Woodson (Aug-Sept. 2006 Pick of the Month)

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Publisher/Date:  Puffin, July 2010
Genre(s):  Young Adult, Family, Lesbian Parents
Pages:  160
Website:  http://www.jacquelinewoodson.com

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Black lesbians with children take note: FROM THE NOTEBOOKS OF MELANIN SUN is a must-read book. The compelling novel follows Melanin Sun, a 13-year-old dealing with the complexities of adolescence and his mother’s newfound sexuality.

It’s summertime, and Melanin is looking forward to the finer things in life: hanging with friends Ralphael and Sean, pursuing his crush on Angie, and writing his innermost thoughts in his treasured notebooks.

But what he looks forward to and treasures most is spending time with his mother Encanta, a single mother working hard to make a living for her child. The two are inseparable, leaning on each other through the best and worst of times and having a mother-son bond so deep they know each other’s moods and the simplest of facial expressions.

Melanin’s perfect relationship is demolished, though, when day at the beach ends with Encanta revealing she’s gay—and in love with a white woman. This piece of earth-shattering news devastates Melanin to no end. He can’t imagine that his mother could ever fall in love with a woman, and a white woman at that.

The one thing that helps him is his notebook. There Melanin pours out his heart, recording every emotion he’s feeling: from anger to shame, from frustration to understanding. It helps him slowly work out the issues with his Encanta, the shyness he feels over approaching Angie, and the ruined friendship with Sean once he finds out his mother’s a lesbian. As the story concludes, Melanin realizes that life doesn’t get easier as you grow up, only more complicated as the days go by.

Woodson approaches From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun with a great understanding of what it’s like to be a young black male and the sentiments of dealing with a gay parent. She makes you see the issues a child can have with your coming out, and how to survive it. As always with Woodson, the writing is superb, and the novel is heartwarming and real, a story with even a small page number manages to have an impact. Children and parents alike should read this with open eyes and an open heart – they both could learn more than they realize.

Reviewed Aug-Sept 2006


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