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Harbor Me

Review

Harbor Me

In HARBOR ME by Jacqueline Woodson, Haley, a young teen living in Brooklyn, New York, struggles with the death of one parent and the incarceration of another while being raised by her paternal uncle. When it seems she has no one to relate to, she finds herself in an unsupervised experimental classroom, the ARRT room (short for "A Room to Talk") with her eldest friend and four other peers who the school believes are struggling academically. Throughout the story she narrates her fears, insecurities and struggles --- some being with identity as a biracial child and others being simple social anxieties. She quickly finds out that the other children have just as hard a time dealing with their own family troubles, which stem from everything from immigration, a world divided by racial injustices and even grief.

"The lessons packed in HARBOR ME are essential for everyone from their teens to the elderly. It’s an incredibly critical book for its time..."

While my younger self --- a minority child who lived in the inner city at one point and comes from a destructive parental background --- would have inevitably related to HARBOR ME, as an adult I felt just as compelled to pass it on as a must-read. This book allows for the perspective of a range of children that as adults we may gloss over from time to time because the handling of an issue becomes the forefront while pain is pushed to the back. As minorities we are taught that pain is a privilege, suffering will not get you anywhere. Nonetheless, it seems to be the one things that help a variety of us push forward, including Woodson’s protagonist, Haley.

For a middle-grade novel under 200 pages, the lessons packed in HARBOR ME are essential for everyone from their teens to the elderly. It’s an incredibly critical book for its time as we are trapped in what seems a time warp for America. As adults, we fail to remember that childhood trauma is just as severe as any other, if not more impactful than many others. HARBOR ME is a story of finding oneself in the midst of chaos when it seems the world around you is passing by. Woodson questions the safety and security of what it means to be a child, especially a minority child in America and the socioeconomic issues that come with living as such. The most intriguing part of Woodson’s storytelling is the breadcrumbs she leaves that keep you wanting more. A bit of suspense leaves you wondering what may happen next while simultaneously feeling empathetic with the children's struggles. This is my first Woodson novel but I am interested in what else she has to offer. I will most definitely be purchasing some of her other reads, and passing all her books onto my daughters!

Reviewed by Kylah Paige on August 27, 2018

Harbor Me
by Jacqueline Woodson