Title: Anger is a Gift
Author: Mark Oshiro
Series: none – standalone novel
Edition: Hardcover that I preordered as soon as I heard about it
Blurb: A story of resilience and loss, love and family, Mark Oshiro’s Anger is a Gift testifies to the vulnerability and strength of a community living within a system of oppression.
Six years ago, Moss Jefferies’ father was murdered by an Oakland police officer. Along with losing a parent, the media’s vilification of his father and lack of accountability has left Moss with near crippling panic attacks.
Now, in his sophomore year of high school, Moss and his fellow classmates find themselves increasingly treated like criminals by their own school. New rules. Random locker searches. Constant intimidation and Oakland Police Department stationed in their halls. Despite their youth, the students decide to organize and push back against the administration.
When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can actually be a gift.
Review: Y’all. This book. I just can’t.
Let me back up. I first discovered Mark Oshiro probably in 2008. He was writing a blog for Buzznet at first, but then branched out on his own, writing daily posts where he reviewed books a chapter each day, usually popular books that he had never read. He started with the Twilight series (oh, how he hated those) and his reviews were hilarious. Then he reviewed Harry Potter, expecting it to be boring kiddie books, and it changed his life. After that, he started his own website, Mark Reads, and has reviewed tons of books this way. His posts are funny, insightful, at times heartbreaking, and always unprepared for the next plot twist.
So of course, when I saw that he was writing a novel of his own, I had to get it. When I saw the title and heard what it was about, I knew that this wouldn’t just be cute and adorable. This would be serious. This would be tragically timely. I was both excited and terrified to get started.
You will absolutely love Moss and his friends. They are sweet, wonderful kids who are beautifully written, facing issues that kids that age shouldn’t have to face. In short, they grow up way too quickly, especially Moss ever since the death of his father. At times, the plot points felt way dramatic and over the top, except that I know for a fact that this stuff happens all the time. And that made it, at times, very hard to read, but also very important to read.
Mark is bearing witness to issues that affect many different underprivileged communities and people of color. In the book, Moss has a friend who was adopted and goes to the “rich school” and it is important to see how she doesn’t quite understand the struggles that Moss and his friends deal with at his school. She is sympathetic and wants to help, but she doesn’t understand. She doesn’t get it. This is so relevant right now, it almost hurts. Many people, me included, have never had to deal with these struggles – racism, classism, other-isms – and while we are sympathetic, we will never fully relate to these experiences. It is important to recognize that, especially since it can make people unintentionally insensitive to certain situations.
I think this is a book that should be read by everyone, especially high school students. It will probably end up being challenged or banned by people who don’t read it and think, just by the title, that it promotes anger and violence (which it absolutely does NOT do). That just means that it should be read more. Everywhere. This book will lift you up, break your heart, and the last sentence will bring you to tears. Read it.