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25 April 2022 I RISE by Marie Arnold, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Versify, August 2022, 320p., ISBN: 978-0-358-44904-1


“Black rage is founded on two-thirds a person

Rapings and beatings and suffering that worsens

Black human packages tied up with strings

Black rage can come from all these kinds of things”

– Lauryn Hill (2014)


“Once riding in old Baltimore,   

   Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,   

I saw a Baltimorean

   Keep looking straight at me.


Now I was eight and very small,

   And he was no whit bigger,

And so I smiled, but he poked out

   His tongue, and called me, “Nigger.”


I saw the whole of Baltimore

   From May until December;

Of all the things that happened there

   That’s all that I remember.”

– Countee Cullen (1925)


“‘Your last name is Bosia?’ he asks.

I nod slightly as dread seeps back into my body.

‘Any relation to Rosalie Bosia? The founder of See Us?’

‘Yeah, she’s my mom,’ I mutter.

The thing about being Rosalie’s daughter is that people either love or hate her, and they all want me to know about it. I guess that’s what happens when your mom is the founder of the biggest civil rights movement to hit Harlem in decades. See Us is similar to Black Lives Matter. It takes aim at police brutality, racial profiling, and an unjust prison system. But See Us specifically targets communities in Harlem.

My mom started it the year I was born, before the Black Lives Matter movement. The movement took off faster than anyone expected. And before she knew it, her five-person operation became a citywide movement with thousands of members. They organize marches, boycotts, and basically an all-points assault on the establishment.

‘I saw her on Good Morning America a few weeks ago. I love her! She’s so well spoken. She’s grown into quite a divisive figure, and to that I say, “Right on!” We need more sassy women like her.’

Mr. Gunderson thinks he just gave my mom a compliment. But I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t take it that way. I can practically hear her now: ‘Does my skin color lead you to believe I would be anything other than well spoken? And did you just call me sassy?

Just before he moves on to the next name, he mumbles to himself, ‘Rosalie Bosia’s daughter…Gosh, what must that be like?’

What’s it like?


I RISE is the powerful story of Rosalie Bosia’s fourteen year-old daughter Ayomide. Ayo’s upbringing has included making posters to free unjustly convicted prisoners, studying Black history flashcards, accompanying her mother on marches and house-to-house voter registration drives, and studying written and visual works of the Harlem Renaissance. She also leads the school’s See Us-related club. Ayo is an enlightened young Black woman. But now she fears that she’s missing out on all the normal stuff that her teen peers are getting to do. (She’s yet to receive her first real kiss.) Therefore, Ayo has decided that she wants out of her mom’s army.


Then her mother gets shot by a racist cop. And then the cop isn’t indicted. What is Ayo going to do now?


I RISE seriously kicks butt. There’s a wealth of Black history and true-to-life racism folded into this compelling and timely, contemporary coming-of-age tale.  It’s one of the most moving books I’ve read in a while. You can bet your bottom dollar it’ll soon be banned in the more backward corners of the USA. Just like the math books and Judy Blume and that Ta-Nehisi Coates book that Ayo actually refers to in the story.  Fortunately, four months prior to its August publication date, there’s already serious buzz about I RISE. With good reason.


No matter what Ron DeSantis, Greg Abbott, and Tucker Carlson try to tell you, there are still two Americas, Black and white. One of many highlights of this book involves Ayo and a couple of her fellow Black students engaging in a tense classroom discussion that dovetails perfectly with the recent news out of those states that are working to outlaw books, lessons, and discussions about racism. Other threads illuminate how dealers of cigarettes and opiates have historically targeted the Black community.


Sure, it’s easier to turn a blind eye to all these problems. But if you really believe in treating others as you would want to be treated; if you have the guts to walk in another’s shoes; if you believe in the dream of one day having a nation where everyone’s children will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character; this book is a must read and a must share.


Richie Partington, MLIS

Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.com






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