Who is Nevaeh Levitz? Growing up in an affluent suburb of New York City, sixteen-year-old Nevaeh Levitz never thought much about her biracial roots. When her Black mom and Jewish dad split up, she relocates to her mom’s family home in Harlem and is forced to confront her identity for the first time. Nevaeh wants to get to know her extended family, but one of her cousins can’t stand that Nevaeh, who inadvertently passes as white, is too privileged, pampered, and selfish to relate to the injustices they face on a daily basis as African Americans. In the midst of attempting to blend their families, Nevaeh’s dad decides that she should have a belated bat mitzvah instead of a sweet sixteen, which guarantees social humiliation at her posh private school. Even with the push and pull of her two cultures, Nevaeh does what she’s always done when life gets complicated: she stays silent. It’s only when Nevaeh stumbles upon a secret from her mom’s past, finds herself falling in love, and sees firsthand the prejudice her family faces that she begins to realize she has a voice. And she has choices. Will she continue to let circumstances dictate her path? Or will she find power in herself and decide once and for all who and where she is meant to be?
This book has been on my radar since before it came out and I’ve been wanting to read it since then. I knew it was about a biracial girl coming to terms with her identity and privilege, which was more than enough for me to want to read it. I was eager to get to it! Trigger warnings: racism, racist microaggressions
This book was amazing. It’s such an honest look at a girl trying to figure out her identity and grapple with her privilege.
First off, I loved the writing. It felt lyrical and easy to read and it was packed full of emotion. I know this book was based off the author’s own experiences, and the writing truly reflected that. It felt like the words came from her heart and it made the book all the more powerful.
I love, loved all of the relationships Nevaeh had. Her cousins challenged her, her aunt, uncle, and grandfather were there to help her. Her community was there to guide her. Her mom had her own battles to fight, but she was still there to support her. Nevaeh had so many different people and all those people had such an impact in her life. I loved seeing how all the relationships blossomed or crumbled, and how they impacted their life.
Speaking of relationships, I loved the characters in those relationships. Jerry was adorable, Stevie was hilarious, and of course I loved Nevaeh. One character that I loved that was a bit surprising to me was Navaeh’s mom. She struggles a lot with depression and that isn’t shied away from in the book. I know it’s a bit weird, but I always feel touched when I see an older adult dealing with their mental health. It’s hard to articulate, but I did want to mention that I really liked that aspect of the book.
Really, this book’s message is one that’s incredible important. Navaeh doesn’t feel like she fits anywhere. She’s trying to grapple with what boxes she should put herself in, but also trying to understand the privilege she was by passing as white. She isn’t perfect, but she tries her hardest to learn and do better. She messes up sometimes, but she wants to do better. She wants to find out where she fits in the world by being biracial and Jewish. She wants to use her voice where it’s appropriate, but she also wants to uplift others’ voices when she can. This is a book where mistakes are made, but those mistakes are looked at head on.
This was an incredibly powerful book, one with heart wrenching writing, amazing characters, and such an important message. I am so glad that I read it.