Watch Us Rise

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 20 Feb 2019

Member Reviews

This is a dynamic mix of a novel, filled with poetry, blog posts, and comments which keep the reader moving through the story. I feel like this mixture is geared perfectly to teens, and will draw them in. The characters are mostly well drawn, with flaws as well as strengths. While I have no experience with a school so focused on social justice and free expression, I do recognize the dynamic of a place so focused on it's outward appearance that it is blind to it's internal flaws. The addition of so many names in poetry, feminism and social justice, along with the extensive bibliography at the end are a giant plus. I have only two critiques. A few of the time jumps seems too disjointed. So much seems to be happening at the school, and then suddenly it's a month later. And the character of Nadine frustrated me as well. Every other character, including the teachers and parents seemed well drawn and to contribute a perspective to the story, but Nadine seemed to have no point of view. The book feels very important and will find a place on most library shelves and hopefully into the hands of many who need a push to make their own stand.
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Wow just wow !!! I knew from the blurb that this was going to be a very interesting book on intersectional feminism but the way it’s written in the form of poems, essays, quotes, art etc just blew me away. It made me think, rage, reflect, feel joy and also sadness. It’s been a great reading experience but I definitely don’t know if I can properly express my thoughts in this review.

Jasmine and Chelsea are two great realistic portrayals of teens who have a lots of thoughts and ideas, want to find a voice and express themselves but quickly learn that it’s not always easy, even at their very progressive New York high school. Jasmine is a big black girl actress and writer, Chelsea is a white girl poet ; their best friend Nadine is a Japanese Lebanese designer and Issac is a Peurto Rican artist and an ally to their cause. They are all encouraged especially by Jasmine’s dad who calls them “art-tivists” - people who can use their art to bring change and I loved the support he gave. Jasmine felt very relatable to me, mostly because I could feel everything she felt when she had to deal with conversations around her weight. She also came across as very thoughtful, even when dealing with the obstacles they face, along with her father’s terminal cancer diagnosis and the subsequent grief over her loss. On the other hand, Chelsea is very passionate about her ideas and doesn’t like to be stifled, so she can sometimes come across as rude/ stirring up the pot unnecessarily - however, I could also understand where she was coming from and she just needed a proper channel for her to voice her rage. But these two girls are not just feminists, they are also teenagers and I thought it was very realistically depicted. They have crushes, can get overwhelmed, have to deal with their feelings for boys and family issues; all the while wanting to be activists and not knowing how to reconcile all their various issues.

What I loved about this book is how it talks about broad issues but focuses on specifics that the girls face. The most relevant one I felt is the representation of women in the media, specifically women of color - how we are always subjected to the same old stereotypes which have racist origins, and how difficult it is to make people realize that stereotypes are harmful and affect so much of our thinking. The conversations about weight and how fat women are always represented as sad and needing to lose weight to be more happy; unable to find clothes in the usual sections because somehow, there has to be a separate but small plus size section ; how every  movie and media and magazine reinforces the same old beauty standards which only leads to more self-esteem issues among young girls. There are also many many more conversations here about sexism and misogyny and sexual harassment and microaggressions and how even the Principal/ teachers of a progressive school can be tone deaf to certain issues that stem from intersectionality. Another thing I absolutely loved about this book is how it gives so much detail about historical women who have been great activists, their notable works and many more resources for young women and allies who want to make a change and want their voices heard in this day and age. There is so so much more in this book, I probably highlighted almost half of it, but I’m just not able to articulate how important this book felt to me.

If you’ve enjoyed reading The Nowhere Girls or Moxie, then this book is definitely for you. I highly recommend this book to everyone - young and old, feminists and those who are unsure - this has something to ponder and think for everyone. It’ll give you a chance to reflect on your thoughts and actions of the past and how we can do better, how we can change the people or society around us in our own little ways. Just pick up this book and prepare to join the conversation.
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This was a very timely title and the poetry within and the resources provided were excellent. The characters and their actions were realistic and realistically frustrating (some major overreactions and thoughtlessness) but the characterization was not as strong as I would have liked. I enjoyed the feminist club and the intersectionality but overall it felt more didactic than I had hoped it would. Definitely recommended for fans of Moxie because this one handled race much better.
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I apologize in advance because I will not be able to discuss this book like a rational human being. 

I love this book. It is the book I needed when I was in high school; it is the book I need now.

Chelsea and Jasmine are amazing. They're smart and focused and fierce and funny and they are going to change the world, whether the people in their lives help or not. (I don't think it's a spoiler to say that many people don't but a not-small amount do.)

It's unapologetically feminist and its feminism is intersectional. It focuses on people of color and also deals with issues that are typically ignored. I think everyone who reads this is going to learn something.

But this doesn't feel like homework. It's a fun read and it's a book everyone I know will receive as presents this year. I love this book; I love its authors and it is the book we all need.

Highly recommended.
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I finished this book yesterday and I still don't really know how to put into words how much this book affected me. Told mostly through poems, playlists and blog posts, Watch Us Rise is a story about feminism and women's rights and how women's voices are silenced in today's so called progressive society.

Jasmine and Chelsea have been best friends since middle school and have been taught throughout their lives to use their talents to change the world. Both--along with their two other best friends, Nadine and Isaac; have been dubbed art-ivists, artists who use their talents to speak out against the wrongs of society and make their community in New York a better place. Jasmine an actor, Chelsea a poet, Nadine a designer, and Isaac an artist.

The characters within this story were rich and so raw and real that they honestly kept the story alive for me as we saw the struggles they face within their school. Each character showed a side of the issues female's face on a daily basis, Jasmine with microaggression and being forced to conform to the stereotypes of being a plus size African American and Chelsea with sexual harassment and being seeing but never heard. Sick of speaking into the void, the girls form their own after school club "Write like a Girl" where they post about woman's issues--needless to say their blog becomes an overnight success and they are soon sent on a whirlwind journey of learning: what do you want the world to hear when the whole world is listening?

Throughout my time reading I think I connected with Jasmine the most as we faced the same struggles in life--being plus sized in a world that demands thin, especially within our field of study (theatre/acting), and walking through the hardship of a parent dying of cancer. I cried and cheered for this character throughout as I watched her become more bold and confident with who she was and the voice she was creating.

The sole focus of this novel is using your voice--that it doesn't matter who you are and what you do, your voice still matters--and that the little sparks and actions can set off a fire that cannot be contained or controlled. This is what this book is--a spark to that flame that opens the discussion and dialogue of treatment of women and their rights around the world. With a diverse cast and a timely plot, Watch Us Rise highlights and references great female women who have empowered and made changes to society throughout time; giving these women's voices another platform to reach the generation of today. I honestly, learned so much from this novel, and it made me think about my own actions and if they were problematic or not. This book gives its readers a chance to reflect and take stock of their own lives so that they can be a better human tomorrow--something to which I tip my hat off too.

Overall, this young adult take on modern intersectional feminism was gripping and thought provoking. I highly recommend this everyone around me--young or old--there is something everyone can learn and take from with Watch Us Rise.

Representation: Diverse Cast, Plus Size MC, Cancer
Content Warning: Death of a Parent, Cancer, Sexual Harassment

(ARC provided by Netgalley and Bloomsbury YA in exchange for my honest review. Quotations taken from an uncorrected proof and may change upon final publication.)
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I received a free copy from netgalley in exchange for an honest review.  Watch us rise is an important story in a changing world in which women are speaking up and louder.  The book tells the story of Chelsea and Jasmine two womyn that are feminists that go to a social justice school. They decided to start their own club because they feel their school does not live up to its mission. This is the latest book geared towards girls and teens about feminism and need for people to speak up. I do think so other book have done this better but I think this is a good introduction for young women.
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In three words: Thought-provoking, emotional, inspiring. 

Jasmine, Chelsea, and their friends attended a very progressive school, which was supposed to focus on social justice.Yet, there were social injustices being committed left and right on school grounds. Instead of giving up, Jasmine and Chelsea formed a club, Write Like a Girl, where they shared stories, poetry, playlists, and information regarding women's issues and those, who have been fighting for women. 

One of the things I really enjoyed in this book was all the extras we got with the narrative: the illustrations, the poetry, the prose, the op-ed piece, and all the other informative essays. It was brilliant the way Watson and Hagan used these pieces to educate the reader, and they sought to inform without being preachy.

The same cannot be said for Chelsea. I gave her a little leeway, because I understood that she was a very passionate teen, but there were so many times she came across as one of those ranty white women. Her need to stir the pot ALL THE TIME was grating on me. Though, I did appreciate her struggle with her feminist ideals and subscribing to society's beauty standard, and I was proud of a big choice she made at one point as well. 

Chelsea was a little bit of a struggle, but you know, who I absolutely adored? Jasmine. I welcomed all her thoughts with open arms. Both Jasmine and Chelsea were frustrated with beauty ideals, but I found Jasmine's emotions so much more relatable. And, my heart broke for her and her family as they watched their father's illness progress. I cried just about every time dad was on page, and not just because it was sad for Jasmine, but because I thought he was pretty incredible. I loved how he supported not only Jasmine's growth, but that of her friends as well, by giving them different "challenges" to complete. 

But I didn't just cry for dad. I also cried during the big climax. I am a woman, who attended engineering school and worked in IT during the early 90s. Lots of sexism, and seeing these fiction young women rage for equality put a smile on my face, and made me wish I had half their courage back when I was their age. 

This book wasn't all BIG issues though. There were also common teen woes and worries in there regarding crushes, friendship, and family, which the authors wove into the story quite well. 

Overall: A really well written and compelling story of finding and making sure your voice is heard.
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Watch Us Rise is a timely and powerful read that focuses on Chelsea and Jasmine, two teens who are tired of the way women are treated even at their own high school, a progressive school in New York City that has received awards to recognize its dedication to social justice.  Their frustration boils over and they decide to start a Women’s Rights club, which they name Write Like a Girl, and which centers around a blog they create where they share videos, poems, and essays they have written, and where they spotlight female authors, and pay special attention to those who are women of color.

What I really loved about this story is the determination Jasmine and Chelsea show as they use their club and blog to make sure all women’s voices are heard, to speak out against sexism, racism, and even against those impossibly perfect standards of beauty and fashion that contribute to low self-esteem in so many young women.  I also liked that the story itself included excerpts from the blog, including some incredible resistance poems as well as comments from readers of the blog.  As a blogger myself, I just found this element of Watch Us Rise easy to relate to and loved that all of their hard work was paying off.

Watch Us Rise also explores some of the obstacles that the girls run up against as their blog grows in popularity.  They have their fair share of trolls, both online and in their school, and their principal isn’t nearly as supportive as he should be. I’ll admit I was not completely sold on the idea that the principal of such a progressive school wouldn’t be supportive of a Women’s Rights club, but I still thought that showing how the girls approached any obstacles that got in their path was very effective.

With Watch Us Rise, Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan have written a thought-provoking story that is sure to resonate with and empower many young women.
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Wow, what a treat! I wish every single man in the world could read and ingest this story. I worried early on with some of the clichéd cat fighting between the girls that this book would ultimately go against its own message, but I was thankfully proven wrong. This book doesn’t have the time to fully delve into every single facet of feminism - if it did, it would probably never end. But it made heroic, encouraging efforts to touch every perspective possible while choosing specific aspects to really dive into and explore in depth. This is what intersectional feminism looks like. And it’s amazing.
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This is such an amazing feminist piece! It was absolutely amazing! I'm giving it five stars! This book has such amazing characters, pacing and writing. The message in the story really touched me. There is so much power in h=this work!
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I absolutely loved this book and read it all in one sitting.  I appreciate that the two main characters had important discussions about all aspects of feminism and how blinded we can be to our own privilege.  Will be putting into the hands of so many library patrons.
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While I wholeheartedly hope that this book inspires and empowers teen girls, it felt a bit inauthentic to me at times. That said, I'll still recommend it to teens interested in books that explore feminism and standing up for what's right, and I'll still read whatever Renee Watson puts her mind to!
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Watch Us Rise is a book that speaks inspiration. Whether it be the poems about microaggressions, or the ways their voices are suppressed, Watch Us Rise is a book to give to all the young teens in your life. It is a book about friendship, keeping each other accountable, and checking our privilege. At the same time it's a story about loss, online trolls, and activism.

In Watch Us Rise I absolutely love the two main characters because through these two lives we are able to witness all of these varying nuanced conversation. Jasmine is a fat black teen who is coming to terms with her dad's cancer diagnosis. Whereas Chelsea is an outspoken feminist in a family that she feels doesn't support her as much as she'd like. While there are certainly experiences and passions that unite these two, there are also issues that they cannot comprehend. Like the sadness Jasmine feels when she shops with Chelsea. And while Chelsea has no problem speaking up, and sometimes putting her foot in her mouth, Jasmine's ethnicity means that even the things they experience together, are different for her.
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In Watch Us Rise, the story bounces between the points of view of Chelsea and Jasmine, high school juniors who attend a progressive high school in NYC, when they discover their school has a lot more progress to make.  Chelsea is white and a strong proponent of women, equality, respecting women's bodies, and respect.  Jasmine is black and full-figured, and joins Chelsea with these added lenses.  Together, they form a Women's Rights Club at school and their blog begins to get a lot of attention when they point out the harassment and narrow mindedness coming from several staff members and students.  They post everything from poetry to descriptions of the sexist and racist behaviors they see, but they soon run into opposition from their school and trolls online.  They do not let this deter them from their cause.

What I like about this book is that it teaches young readers about what women go through and gives them examples of young women their own age who are able to make a difference.  Many of the stereotypes pointed out in the book are widely accepted, and this book will educate readers and teach them to keep their eyes open to them.  I also appreciate that it teaches self-love, but the characters are both humanized when they start to question their own beliefs for the sake of romance.
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Timely, important, lyrical. This is a book I wish I'd had for the youth I work, years ago. We've needed this book for a long time. Longer review to follow on goodreads & the blog, but this book is one I've been waiting for.
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I want to thank NetGalley and Bloomsbury for allowing an advanced read of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Where to start? 
Watch Us Rise puts words to so many things that we all need to hear.  
These students are present in every high school, in every state, in our country and others.
We silence them daily.  We don't feel that we can afford to let them speak out.  
But the ideas here of non-violent protests against a system that has long been tolerated speak volumes.  
Do the students make mistakes?  Yes.  And they learn from them.  
Isn't that what we want them to do?

As a librarian, I especially love the research done to list readings to educate and empower those who are finding their voices.  

As a woman, I may not agree with every word written but I feel emboldened to reimagine the person I oncewas. The person long silenced by the expectations of others and the people-pleaser within.
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Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan inspire, empower and embolden with their latest, Watch Us Rise. I could not put this book down. This is a book for girls, for boys, for teachers, for students, for activists, for ally's, for anyone who wants to see and be change. This is a book that has power and gives a greater voice to those who are not often given space and respect. The book was beautiful, poignant, timely and perfect, I cannot wait for the world to see this book.
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For fans of Angie Thomas. This book is so needed right now for everyone. It's an absolute must read. The characters and the challenges they go through can resonate. Really recommend.
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Jasmine and Chelsea attend high school at Amsterdam Heights, a progressive school with an impressive social justice program. They are unhappy that their theater and poetry groups are still embracing the traditional, white ideas and want to make a change, so they start their own women's activist group, called Write Like a Girl. Each group in the school has a blog, so they start theirs, and their writing attracts lots of attention, both good and bad. The principal admonishes them that they need to watch themselves, which defeats the whole purpose of the group. The girls also have complicated lives. Jasmine's father is dying of cancer, and she has a long time friend in Isaac, but she's not sure where the two stand romantically. Chelsea has a younger sister who is also a feminist, but her parents are old school and religious. Chelsea is interested in a boy in her class, but he already has a girlfriend, although this doesn't stop him from putting the moves on Chelsea, which she doesn't appreciated. Still feeling that their voices aren't being heard, the girls print t shirts highlighting women's voices, and even stage a strike by the women in their school. While they are still not happy with the atmosphere, there are small steps being made, and the two are glad that they are socially conscious and willing to take risks in order to be heard. 

Strengths: This has lots of female empowerment as well as on trend depictions of many social issues like body positivity. Jasmine and Chelsea both take control of their own destinies and try to figure out a way to make their voices heard. They deal with a variety of reactions to their opinions from teachers who are supportive to classmates who mock them. The poetry will appeal to readers who like free verse.
Weaknesses: I found it a little hard to believe that the principal of a school that wins awards for social justice would be so completely tone deaf to microaggressions and outright harassment. It's not unusual to portray principals as incompetent, but it would have made more sense if the principal had been more supportive.
What I really think: This is very introspective and deals with many issues that middle school students are just discovering. It would be appropriate for middle school, but most likely of limited interest. An excellent purchase for a high school.
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LOVED this book. I clapped, I cheered, I learned new things. WATCH US RISE slides in right next to MOXIE on my “favorite feminist YA contemporary” shelf.
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