cover image Black, White, Other: In Search of Nina Armstrong

Black, White, Other: In Search of Nina Armstrong

Joan Steinau Lester. Zondervan, $15.99 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-0-310-72763-7

Like the current U.S. president, Nina Armstrong is biracial. Unlike him, the character is a teenager, and her black father, Silas, and white mother, Maggie, have decided to divorce. Nina lives with Maggie, a lefty whose family roots are in union organizing; her little brother, Jimi, lives with his dad, who is busy rediscovering his African-American roots, which include an enslaved great-grandmother Sarah, whose story Silas is writing. Nina is emotionally, socially, and historically conflicted: who is she, and whose is she? She's got white friends and black friends who inhabit different peer worlds, and the family tension shapes everything. Lester (Fire in My Soul) conjures a credible plot and complications; divorce is a fact of life and racially mixed heritage is conspicuously becoming one. The simple contrapuntal narrative of Sarah Armstrong's escaping slavery distinguishes the book emotionally and psychologically, raising it above other issue-oriented YA novels. Lester writes with social sensitivity and an ear for teen language and concerns. This is engaging treatment of a challenging subject that comes with little precedent. Ages 12%E2%80%93up. (Aug.)