No Ivy League

Lion Forge. Aug. 2019. 208p. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781549303050.
Gr 9 Up–In this graphic memoir, Newlevant, who now uses gender-neutral pronouns but refers to their teenage self using the pronouns she/her, chronicles a transformative summer working for the No Ivy League, a conservation crew of teens who eradicated invasive species of European ivy from the Oregon forests. Newlevant is white and grew up in an insular white world, but at 17 she was thrust into a group of young people from different races and backgrounds. When she was sexually harassed by a black teen named Obasi, she reported his behavior, and he was fired. Newlevant was ostracized by the other teens and grappled with guilt. As she explored her feelings, she discovered that her mother’s decision to homeschool her was rooted in racism, and she started to unpack her white privilege. Careful plotting deftly depicts her growth from a teen who thinks she’s got it all figured out to a more humble and self-aware person. Newlevant’s soft watercolors are tender and nostalgic. Their characters are expressive and convey the complex emotions of this thorny story. While Newlevant’s tidy reconciliation with Obasi’s cousin belies the deeply embedded structural racism at play in the summer’s events, the author nonetheless exposes the tangled interplay of the personal and political. The “invasive species” metaphor for European colonization provides a poignant backdrop for Newlevant’s awakening. Strong language and some sexual references make this title appropriate for older audiences.
VERDICT This authentic and relevant account delves into the messy work of recognizing one’s own white privilege

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