The Skin i’m in by Sharon G. Flake

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Our Score

Synopsis

If people aren’t taunting Maleeka about her dark skin then they get at her about her homemade clothes or her good grades. She’s learned to find a way to survive by keeping her head down.  That is until  a new teacher, whose face is blotched with a startling white patch, shows up to teach.  But when the students mock Miss Saunders she doesn’t it let her bug her. Maleeka can’t help but wonder how this new teacher can truly love her flawed skin. Or why she thinks that Maleeka is so special.

Pros:

  • lots of white space on the page which makes it accessible for all types of readers.
  • looks at a topic/situation that not all teens may deal with (racism within the black community).
  • deals with bullying, peer pressure, being unique and loving yourself without becoming a bully yourself.
  • authentic African American voice without resorting to gratuitus language or overly lewd descriptions.

Cons:

  • does have some mature themes: Maleeka talks about some students “locking lips” in the hallway, smoking (including the main character once), drinking and partying in one scene, two boys try to force their affection on Maleeka and when a friend comes to help they beat him up.
  • the slang and writing are authentic which may be a pro or a con. I loved stepping so completely into another world. Others may find the reading of it a little rough or coarse.

Final Word:

I really enjoyed this book. It was easy enough to read but dealt with some dark subjects which may not be for everyone. The rough moments in the book all have a purpose in the plot line and give a glimpse into Maleeka’s (and many other black girls) life. I rated this as a teen book due to its mature content but the reading level is closer to Middle grade as is the protagonist.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How is Maleeka’s life similar to your own? How does it differ?
  2. Compare Maleeka’s life with that of the slave girl, Akeelma, that Maleeka writes about.
  3. Do you think Maleeka dealt well with the bullying she experienced? How might you deal if you were in her place?
  4. Describe a time when you didn’t feel comfortable in “the skin your in”. Also describe how/if you resolved it.
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Karen deBlieck

Karen deBlieck’s writing reflects the tension of identity and the sense of belonging she struggled with as a black American born in Japan and adopted by white Canadian parents (phew!). From a very young age she found solace in putting her thoughts and feelings down on the page. Writing in poem, short story and novel form her pieces are emotionally and conflict charged. Her stories are written for the general market but she hopes that it challenges her readers to dig further into what True Life is really about.


She was a finalist in The Word Guild’s (Canada) “God Uses Ink”, ACFW’s “First Impressions”, and The Reading Rooms “Aspiring Writers” contests. The short story Talking Drum can be found in “The Story – 2014 Anthology”. Her day job is Awards Director for The Word Guild, a group that supports Christian writers across Canada.


She dreams of travelling through space and time, being sorted into a Hogwart’s house and finding her way to Neverland. When she’s not writing or cooking for her hubby and four kids she enjoys teaching teens about life and words. Check out more about Karen, the current novel she is working on and her blog at http://karendeblieck.com/.


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