Cover Image: Malcolm and Me

Malcolm and Me

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Member Reviews

Where do I even start with Malcolm and Me? This book blew my mind in the best way possible. It's 1973, and 13-year-old Roberta Farmer has a lot of feelings. She's reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X and discussing Black history and Black Power with her father at home, and clashing with a racist nun at her Philadelphia Catholic school. When she's sent home after a blowup with Sister Elizabeth, she deep dives into the Autobiography, examining her own feelings and frustrations through Malcolm X's lenses. Already a writer, she begins journaling her verse and diary entries, guided by Malcolm, and it gives her the strength she needs as her home life and school life begin unraveling.

There is such power in this book and in the characters. Roberta emerges as an incredible heroine; a self-aware 13-year-old coming of age in the aftermath of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, during Watergate, she questions her own faith in God and in organized religion, in family, and in color. Inspired by an event in the author's life, Malcolm and Me is essential reading that hits that often hard-to-reach middle school/high school age group. Please put this on school (and adult) reading lists, and talk about this book with your tweens and your teens.
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This ARC was provided for review, but in no way affects the following impartial and unbiased review:
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5*
Pros: Step inside the 1970s and follow the story of this beautiful Black 13-year-old girl in one of the most influential periods in the fight for racial equality. Raises extremely important points about racism, prejudice, persistent microaggressions, and hurtful stereotypes. Fantastic, fun and witty female lead. Full Black cast, with many nuances and complexities. Talks about family relationships and the concept of a "broken home". Loved the light shined on poetry and the passion for writing. Includes many adventures and misadventures that will make you laugh, rage and feel empowered.
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Cons: Can't think of any, it's a must-read middle-grade for all ethnicities and ages.
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Malcolm and Me is one of those Young Adult books that speaks to readers of all ages. Roberta Forest, the central character, is an assertive, inquiring, and fierce student with a gift for writing; she's also Black, Catholic, and attending Catholic school. As she reads The Autobiography of Malcolm X, she gathers the knowledge she needs to question and resist the world around her. This coming of age story is powerful, funny, heart-breaking, and wise.
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This book had me hooked from start to finish.

This book is a complex exploration of faith, race, and belonging written in a truly engaging and beautiful way.

All readers will be able to find something to relate with within this book.
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Overall, I feel that, despite its target audience being middle school readers, this novel can be read by anyone. In fact, I think Malcolm and Me is even more important because it’s a book intended for younger readers. The novel addresses serious, relevant issues concerning race and identity that are important for readers of all ages to encounter in a raw way.

Roberta is a wonderful protagonist who guides the story in an understandable way. Her coming-of-age is messy and heart-wrenching at times, but it never feels deprecating. Roberta’s life changes throughout the course of the novel, and she learns a lot of hard lessons, but it’s real. She matures and enacts change in her world, all at age 13. Roberta’s story is authentic for the novel and a reality for so many youth activists in 2020. Malcolm and Me feels so true to life and inspiring, and that’s why it’s is such a worthwhile read.

You can read my full review up now on Affinity Magazine.
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Similar to other reviews, I think this book would be perfect for 10-13 year olds. The main character is a great role model - standing up for her beliefs and fighting against the racism that she faces in her everyday life. She struggles with her identity - being black and Catholic - and her character develops as the story goes along. It was a good introduction to Malcolm X for those who don't know much about him (maybe younger readers).

Whilst the book was set in the 70s, I think it is still relevant and important today.

I have given 3 stars as I enjoyed it but was not the target age audience - would be great for younger readers!
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I originally thought this was a YA book, but it’s more of a middle grade book. Regardless, it was a powerful story. 

This book gives you a look into a year of the life of Roberta Forest. Roberta is 13, attends a private Catholic school and has read Malcolm X’s biography twice. She deals with blatant racism from a nun who’s her teacher, religious issues and her own family issues with a scandal that is tearing them apart. 

I loved watching Roberta mature throughout this book. I loved reading her poetry entries and how empowering of a person she was despite the issues and challenges she was dealing with. I was rooting for her through the whole story. Everyone should read this book, regardless of age.
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Robin Farmer’s 'Malcolm and Me' is set post-Civil Rights Movement and upon reading the book, it’s clear that not many things have changed. The honesty of 'Malcolm and Me' is what struck me most whilst reading. It is unapologetic and nothing is sugar-coated to appease readers. Through the story’s protagonist, Roberta, the reader can see that every tribulation in Roberta’s life is leading her to an explosive outcome. However, Roberta channels her outrage into her art, telling a story that is all her own.

'Malcolm and Me' does a great job of introducing young readers to difficult but necessary content matter. It is very well-suited to a middle-grade audience, and it is likely they will find both compelling and relatable elements of the story whilst they read. Throughout the novel, it is great to see just how Roberta grows through everything life throws at her. Farmer balances all of the struggles that Roberta is experiencing and devotes time to each one. No issue ever feels pushed to the side or discarded for another. This is a testament to both Farmer's writing and storytelling.

3.5/5
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When I see a debut book by an author from Philadelphia with a story based in Philadelphia… I’m all in (because it’s my hometown)! 

This story is about Roberta Forest, a 13-year old black girl growing up in Philadelphia in 1973 during the post-civil rights era.  Roberta is in the 8th grade, goes to a Catholic school, is very smart and enjoys writing poetry.  She also enjoys reading her dad’s copy of The Autobiography of Malcolm X and she begins to question and analyze racial prejudice.  She questions her mom, her dad, her brother and her teacher (who she is basically at war with).  

Roberta tends to see things in black and white, until she encounters some gray areas in her life.  It was interesting to see how her relationship with various characters evolved throughout the story.  Roberta went on a journey that felt true, authentic and refreshing.  This book really showed the influence and impact reading can have in the lives of children (and adults too).  I really, really enjoyed this book!
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“I try to swallow questions bubbling up. About being Black and Catholic. About divorce. About Malcolm. About what to do when your heart thunders. I chew my lip, but the most pressing question slips out. ‘What happened?’” 

Robin Farmer’s, Malcolm and Me is a middle age novel on the cusp of YA that I found to be well-written, thought-provoking and a necessary read for all audiences alike. It is here we meet Roberta Forest a 13 year old 8th grader who is in the midst of an identity crisis that one can assume most teenagers at some point will encounter. After an altercation with a teacher in which she is told to “go back to Africa” and a fight ensues, Roberta’s life is never the same. 

While Roberta should be enjoying her last year before high school, it proves to be the most difficult after she finds herself questioning everything including her own identity. What it means to be Black and Catholic, to know love and loss, to come of age in the 70s and exploring politics and social justice issues are just a few of the challenges that will come to define her year. 

One of the things I enjoyed most about Farmer’s exploration is that it is told from the point of view of a budding teenager who is inquisitive and creative and full of hope. Who isn’t afraid to ask the hard questions. And, one who is determined to make life’s sour lemons out of lemonade. A beautiful, heart rendering coming of age novel that should be read by all and especially in classrooms to continue the conversation of themes explored in the book. 

Thank you to NetGalley and SparkPress for the eArc in exchange for an honest review.

Publication date: 11/17/20
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Malcolm and Me is an excellent MG book. Thank you NetGalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review! Our protaganist is thirteen years old. It straddles the line between MG and YA but I would put it more towards MG. She goes to a private Catholic school in the seventies and right in the very first chapter it shocks you with the reminder of what used to be considered acceptable, as well as how overt racism was. It provides an excellent backdrop to talk about racial justice, liberation, and "being too black" through a historical lens that we often forget is historical. The way Farmer weaves her journey against the changing times of the post-Civil Rights era for a black girl, with a passing mother and dark skinned father was wonderful. It occasionally has bumps in the flow but the book is well written with an incredibly strong voice, set in a decade we need way more from. I found myself shocked by the things she went through while also being incredibly proud of her, and thinking about the way her incident would have been treated in the modern era. Highly recommend.
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The concept and premise of this story are promising: a young teen grappling with her religion, her family relationships, her school, and her changing worldview as she reads Malcolm X's autobiography. However, I found the writing too choppy to get into the story. It at times felt superficial, like we were glazing over what mattered, and at other times felt like the writing was heavy-handed. I'm sure this could be very enjoyable for many readers and an introduction to an influential figure, but this didn't work for me.
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This book is marketed as Teens and YA but it reads for a much younger crowd- I would say maybe early middle schoolers though the protagonist is in 8th grade. There were good moments, but ultimately I was sort of disappointed by this book. I thought that the pacing was off and that the dialogue was often awkward and didn't sound natural. Even at the beginning of the novel when the nun says the racist comments, I felt like these were over exaggerated and felt unrealistic. Though Roberta is passionate and fiery and I definitely think kids should read to have that kind of role model, I just expected a lot more from this book honestly.
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Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: Malcolm and Me: A Novel

Author: Robin Farmer

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5

Diversity: Black MC and characters

Recommended For...: anti-racist reading

Publication Date: November 17, 2020

Genre: MG Historical Fiction

Recommended Age: 13+ (race and racism, some discussion about divorce, religion, racist remarks made at the MC)

Publisher: SparkPress

Pages: 229

Synopsis: Philly native Roberta Forest is a precocious rebel with the soul of a poet. The thirteen-year-old is young, gifted, black, and Catholic—although she’s uncertain about the Catholic part after she calls Thomas Jefferson a hypocrite for enslaving people and her nun responds with a racist insult. Their ensuing fight makes Roberta question God and the important adults in her life, all of whom seem to see truth as gray when Roberta believes it’s black or white.

An upcoming essay contest, writing poetry, and reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X all help Roberta cope with the various difficulties she’s experiencing in her life, including her parent’s troubled marriage. But when she’s told she’s ineligible to compete in the school’s essay contest, her explosive reaction to the news leads to a confrontation with her mother, who shares some family truths Roberta isn’t ready for.

Set against the backdrop of Watergate and the post-civil rights movement era, Angel Dressed in Black is a gritty yet graceful examination of the anguish teens experience when their growing awareness of themselves and the world around them unravels their sense of security—a coming-of-age tale of truth-telling, faith, family, forgiveness, and social activism.

Review: I really liked this book overall. The book did well with the story and it was compelling and gripping from page one. The book talks about the 70s where we saw a lot of human rights change, but we can draw parallels between that time period and now. The book raised a lot of important questions and topics dealing with race and racism, and I definitely recommend it especially for younger teens and middle graders! 

The only things I didn’t like are that the writing was clearly middle grade, but it kinda marketed to be young adult. I think the writing could have been matured a bit, but I do like that the book is MG because every age group needs to learn about racism and how to be anti-racist.

Verdict: Highly recommend.
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Malcolm and Me is based off of an experience the author had in the sixth grade.  It's an impactful story that discusses issues of racism, religion and parental separation.  At first glance, the cover makes this look as if it's a YA book, but it's really geared toward middle grade, those kids who are interested in more meaty topics with engaging characters.  Roberta is a talented, strong minded girl, who's very proud of being black.  Sister Elizabeth see's her as being defiant, willful or rebellious, someone in need of discipline.  Even Roberta's mother calls her mouthy and they both try to punish her, hoping it will bring her under control.  I really liked Roberta, the way she stands up for what she believes in.   She is instrumental in getting the school to reevaluate some of their practices.  The events that transpire are seen through Roberta's perspective, providing a glimpse of what it is like to be a teenage girl of color during the time period of hot pants, ten speed bikes, Mission Impossible and Kool-Aid.  I really felt sorry for Roberta as she began to question her faith in God, wondering whether the Catholic school was the right place for her.  Her sadness over her parents arguing was also palpable.  I'd pair Malcolm and Me with Blended by Sharon Draper or maybe The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert.  A lovely #ownvoices story that draws inspiration from the authors own lived experience.   **A huge thank you to SparkPress and NetGalley for the E-ARC **
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Amazingly executed...Robin Farmer captures that pivotal moment when life and your thought process changes. As a former catholic school girl and black woman, I distinctly remember those moments that reminded me I was the minority in the classes. Roberta, was unapologetic and insightful but young...and that’s a struggle for many young black girls - knowing that you must stand for yourself, and simultaneously understand that not every moment requires the effort. 

The Forest family was in turmoil, and I love the subtle content on some many topics that are frequent in the black family - the differences in how mothers (black mothers particularly) treat there sons vs. their daughters,  family being accomplices to infidelity, and even colorism. Mrs, Farmer deserves the five stars I’m giving this book and I’m appreciative of her transparency as it relates to her personal experiences reflected in the book. I’d be interested to see her future works.
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Thanks to SparkPress and NetGalley for providing me an early copy of this book to review! If you’re looking for middle grade books dealing with race, this is an excellent book to pick up. Roberta struggles with a lot of big picture ideas that would spark discussion between kids and parents or teachers. A lot of Roberta’s struggles from the 1970s unfortunately are still relatable to today.

This is one of those books that can work as a window for those that don’t know these experiences, like me. But it also offers representation that still needs work in the middle grade realm of literature. Roberta’s voice was one of the strongest aspects of this book. She’s only 13, but she’s not afraid to stand up for her beliefs and to call people out when their behavior is problematic. We need more people like her in the world.

As a character reader, I really enjoyed this aspect of the book. Not only was Roberta well fleshed out, but we get to see rounded side characters too, especially Roberta’s family. Though she clashes with her mom a lot, there’s a lot of growing that happens there. It felt so realistic and natural, which isn’t always the case in middle grade books.

The story is engaging and the writing overall is really well done. While at times, the story feels a little slow, there are a lot of great reasons to pick this one up. Roberta can be an inspiration to anyone who reads this book.
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Malcolm and Me may well be set in 1973/74  but its subject matter is as relevant now as it would have been then. There is cultural issues, racism, displacement.. I could go on but I truly believe that this is a book that everyone should read at least once in their lives.

Robin Farmer's fiction is based on some factual events that happened to her and its that knowledge of how it must have felt to be a black teenager in seventies Philadelphia during the tenuous presidency of Richard Nixon that had me regularly reading out paragraphs of the book outloud to my husband. 

I cannot for one second as a white female,  imagine the way both the author and Roberta feels, nor can I fully understand what it must be like to be a person of colour living in America. But this book gave me a glimpse of how hard it must have been to be surrounded by people who cannot see past the colour of your skin. 

Farmer's writing is phenomenal and there are incidents in the book that left me laughing, but there are so many more that left me thoughtful. Roberta is a rebellious teenager whose thoughts are expressed as poetry in her diary because voicing them causes increased confrontation. We witness a turning point in her life when during a class discussion, Roberta describes the third United States President, Thomas Jefferson as being a hypocrite because whilst stating all men are equal? Jefferson is a slave owner and slaves were seen as 3/4 of a person.

Her words cause discord and the nun who teaches Roberta's class reacts with a racist insult.

From there, Roberta's world falls apart and the heartbreaking story is brilliantly told from her perspective. She sees a similarity to her situation with those faced by the late Malcolm X when reading his autobiography and finds strength in his actions to stand up for what she sees as being right. That she be regarded as something more than the colour of her skin.

It is a conversation between Roberta and her father that reduced me to tears however and made me truly believe that this book should be in every school. 

"Tell your class mates that the Panthers ten point program will be as meaningful fifty years from now, as it is today..."

"In fifty years, I'll be an old lady daddy, we won't need it" I say

"Let's hope not. As a betting man, those are odds I would not take."


Read Malcolm and Me, have your children read it to because this is a book that should be read by everybody.
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Robin Farmer's new novel 'Malcom and Me' is an honest examination of a teenager grappling with issues of racial prejudice, religion and her own identity. Roberta is one of the few black girls in her year group at Catholic school, high flying and intelligent with dreams of being a writer. When an incident in class, a clash between Roberta's recently fuelled urge to speak out against racism versus her teacher's prejudicial beliefs, causes Roberta to be suspended from school, she becomes increasingly inspired to act on her outrage. Roberta is further driven by her reading of Malcom X's autobiography and emerging family issues in her previously harmonious home setting,

Farmer's novel struck me because of my search for books on racial division appropriate for young teenagers. It doesn't pack the violent and gritty punch of some other young adult books on the same topic (Such as 'Dear Martin', 'The Black Kids' and 'The Hate U Give') but it deals with the issues in a way which would aid the understanding of my younger teenage students at the same stage of their childhood as the strong and powerful Roberta. The setting of the 1970s and the backdrop of the Catholic school add further layers to Roberta's action against racism and introspection throughout the novel. A really interesting read.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher who provided an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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3.75 ✨

“My brokenness creates a hatred so deep I dive into it. Hope I don’t drown. Some days, I see nothing but gray. I feel scared a lot, too. To mask it, I get angry.”

This book is so heavy. Our main character Roberta is simply trying to understand life as a Black teen growing up in the 70’s. She’s looking for every opportunity to learn and grow but at every turn she’s left broken. 

She’s constantly harassed at school by a passive aggressive and racist nun for simply questioning what’s being taught. Her peers often join in on the harassment and rarely get scolded for continuing the trauma. Roberta’s one way to deal with this trauma is through her beautiful poems. 

When she looks to her parents for guidance and support the response she receives in split. Her hardworking, kind of militant, father uses diverse literature, movies & music to educate Roberta about the beauty of being Black. On the opposite hand we have her religious mother who wants to stifle Roberta’s curiosity all in the name of desegregation. But these observations are very surface level and Roberta quickly finds out just how difficult it is to be a parent let alone an adult. 

The story is a little slow for me and I think that’s just a personal preference. At times, I struggled to continue reading because I had trouble understanding the purpose. This story is simply following Roberta as she engages with multiple situations of family grief and growing pains, racism, friendship, questioning her religion and her simply coming of age.

Thank you to SparkPress and NetGalley for an early eARC of this book. I’m grateful for the opportunity to review it. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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