Friday, February 10, 2012

Do I Have To Paint You A Picture? by Nancy Rue

book cover

Do I Have To Paint You A Picture?
by Nancy Rue

ISBN-13: 9781578560356
Trade Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press
Released: August 1, 1998

Source: Bought from

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Brianna and her mother moved from Oakland to Reno to escape racial tensions and to give Brianna a chance to concentrate on her art. But when Brianna's boyfriend Ira gets into a game of "chicken" with a group of white supremacists and is critically injured, Brianna is thrown back into the middle of the black/white violence.

This isn't Oakland, though. Now Brianna has the Flagpole Girls. With their help--and God's--will she be able to see her way through vandalism and death threats to find a more positive way of settling differences?

My Review:
Do I Have To Paint You A Picture? is a young adult Christian novel about a teenage black girl dealing with extreme racism. This book is the fourth in a series, but you don't need to read the previous books to understand this one, and this one doesn't spoil the previous books. I was a bit disappointed at how small a role the other flag pole girls had in this book, though.

I'm sure people with disagree with me, but I felt like this complex issue--racism--was dealt with in a way that almost promotes segregation...which is ironic considering what Brianna's big "a-hah!" moment was about. But Brianna was basically told that being black made her problems special and heritage powerful in a way that the white, Native American, and Hispanic girls would never be able to truly understand or connect with.

I was also confused by how the two main characters--Ira and Brianna--acted so out of character. We're told Ira would never do what he did, and initially no one believes he did it, and yet we're also not given a compelling reason why he acted so out of character without first trying to solve the problem with more "in-character" efforts. Brianna was very "I'll handle this myself!" at the beginning, but then she immediately runs to Ira--whose plan didn't work!--to tell her how to handle things.

I liked how Brianna was able to see certain of the "enemy" as people with hopes and hurts even if their attitudes were wrong. However, I didn't really like how the book ended with her still thinking of certain people using superiority-based negative descriptive words. She's got a lot of prejudice (not race based) of her own to work on.

The Christian element seemed to mainly be some God-talk ("we'll pray" and "God's timing"), and Brianna not asking God for help until the end when she makes a painting "into a prayer." There was some "he cussed" style bad language. There was no sex.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
It should have been one of the best days in my whole eighteen-year-old life. But the minute Ira and I walked into the Jack-in-the-Box for the celebration, Dillon Wassen came up behind me and said, "You better start watchin' your back, you..."

Then, of course, he added the usual expletive people like him have to throw in when they're talking to people like me. Black people. African-Americans. People they think ought to be wiped off the face of the earth, and the sooner the better.

I wanted to turn around and chew him up one side and down the other so bad. Three things stopped me. One, I was pretty much walking on air, and I wasn't ready to come down yet. Two, the Flagpole Girls were about to show up. And three, my man, my Ira Quao, was with me.

"Ignore him," Ira whispered to me.

No comments: