All the Fighting Parts

Abrams/Amulet. Sept. 2023. 400p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781419762611.
Gr 9 Up–Sixteen-year-old Amina Conteh is a reflection of her deceased mother—not only her dark skin and kinky curls, but her spirit. Her words are her weapon: all the fighting parts from her mom that concern her father. When Amina’s sharp tongue lands her in trouble again at school, her father’s solution is to send her to volunteer for a well-respected pastor at church. Annoyed at first to be working alongside “Holy Holly” from school, Amina becomes motivated by an offer to be paid for her work. One evening Pastor “Call me Randall” Johnson sets up a scenario where they are alone sorting papers, and he sexually assaults her. Amina becomes withdrawn, struggles in school, and distances herself from her best friend and boyfriend. When Johnson is unexpectedly arrested at church, Amina realizes she isn’t the only one he has hurt. She digs deep to find her voice, while the only time her father breaks his silence is to speak over her. This stunning debut novel in verse unearths Amina’s entangled emotions of self-blame and RAGE via poetry in free verse, concrete, contrapuntal, and other forms. Texts, police interview transcripts, and news media are also interjected, enlightening readers in a fast-paced style to events unfolding before and after that devastating evening. Sawyerr navigates this painful topic with grace and sensitivity, with the assault itself taking place off-page. She focuses on Amina’s individual journey and acknowledges there are different pathways to healing from trauma. The complex relationship between father and daughter also evolves along the way.
VERDICT Achingly profound and inspiring; a must for all collections.

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