All the Fighting Parts

Recorded Books. Sept. 2023. 513p. $15.99. ISBN 9798890592552.
Gr 9 Up–Sawyerr, the 2016 Youth Poet Laureate of Baltimore, began her verse novel in 2020 while awaiting her abuser’s trial. Although this work is fiction, the overlapping elements are many—Baltimore, church leader, violation. Sawyerr opens with 16-year-old Amina in a police station, “remembering all that I have forced myself forgetful.” Sawyerr goes back to “4 months before the assault” and restarts Amina’s story, about being the only Black girl in her honors history class, whose outburst (even if he deserved it) against another student earns her a call home. Her father decides that helping at church will tame “all the fighting parts” Amina inherited from her late mother—putting her in predatory Pastor Johnson’s path. Despite the debilitating trauma, Amina courageously refuses to stay silent.
VERDICT That Sawyerr succinctly, solemnly reads her searing debut is an empowering gift, particularly for anyone who’s ever said me, too.

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