The Skin I’m In by Sharon G. Flake


The Skin I’m In by Sharon G. Flake




I’m making it a point to read classics written by Black authors this year and The Skin I’m In is the first for this year. It’s the story of Maleeka, a young girl in seventh grade who is constantly harassed because of the darkness of her skin and bullied because she’s poor. She is constantly being manipulated by other girls in her grade and it’s taking a toll. When a new teacher comes to her school, with a scarred face the kids find another target. But this teacher, Ms. Saunders, takes a liking to Maleeka. Intimidated and angered by this at first, Maleeka rejects her kindness. Overtime things change but Maleeka has to find her own strength before she can stand up to her abusers.
This book has been sitting on my bookshelf screaming to be read for at least a year. Now that I’ve read it, I have a lot of emotions. This book is so painful because it hints at the worst part of people and how some of those traits can appear in young people. Kids can be cruel. Unfortunately a lot of people, especially children, attack those they sense are weakest or those that are different. Maleeka was the darkest child in her school and the other students relentlessly teased her about it. Her mother began making her clothes after her father died, and the shabbiness of her appearance gave kids another reason to attack. And through it all she is trying to find her own voice, be brave and stand up for herself. It isn’t an easy journey. It never is for anybody and this book lays it all bare and takes us on this journey with this young girl in a cruel situation just trying make it through.
I really enjoyed this book. It is incredibly well layered. Not only does it deal with classism and colorism, but it also takes a look at the school system and how one person trying to make change has a lot to overcome. In many instances they even get push back from their peers who may have given up or simply like things the way they are. Reading this young adult book as an adult it’s easy to catch the nuance with so many of these situations. It’s also easy to remember how brutal middle school was and how hard it was to navigate and develop when there were so many outside forces interfering. This book does a great job with making children feel seen. I feel like it has the power to really speak to young adults and let them know they are not alone. This is something they may battle with but they have to overcome. Acceptance starts by looking in the mirror.
                I highly recommend this novel. It’s a quick read, but full of complex issues. The world building and character development is extremely well thought out. I loved Flake’s writing and really appreciated the way she crafted the story. I give this 5 out of 5 stars.

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