Sunday, December 18, 2022

Sincerely Sicily

Burgess, Tamika. Sincerely Sicily
January 3, 2023 by HarperCollins
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus
When the new Shirley Chisholm Middle School opens in her neighborhood, Sicily is dismayed that she will have to attend, especially since her best friends will be attending Ravenwood Middle School. She even tries to get her parents to open enroll her, but they can't swing driving her twenty minutes across town, and don't think it's a good idea for her abuela to do it, either. Sicily is even angrier when she finds out she has to wear an ugly khaki and orange uniform, and doesn't like the new, modern gray building. She is lucky that she meets Reyna early on, and gets along with her. When her teacher assigns a family culture project, Sicily is proud to tell her classmates about her Black Panamanian ancestry. She brings in food as well as her pollera, which unfortunately gets ruined by red punch. Her classmates are very confused about how she can be from Panama since she is Black, something her brother Enrique also mentions. While Sicily is hurting from this fallout, her abuela says very unkind things about Sicily's braids, calling them "ghetto" and "low class". Sicily's mother tells her father that his mother is no longer welcome in the house, even though she is dealing with the death of her husband and worsening arthritis. Sicily also misses her abuelo, and has not been journaling since his death. She is trying to get on the school literary magazine, which is run by the evil Erin Masterson, who doesn't seem to like Sicily. Reyna's cousin Michael, who is staying with her family while his parents and sister are in the Philippines for a year for work, is also interested in writing, and Sicily thinks he is kind of cute. Sicily feels bad that her grandmother can't acceppt her braids, and starts to write an article for the magazine about Black Panamanians in order to educate her classmates. She learns a lot about the Afro-Latinx community, but will she be able to share it with her abuela and repair their relationship?
Strengths: Sicily attends a very diverse school, and her teacher gives a lot of leeway with the family culture project; luckily, this was NOT a family tree endeavor! I appreciated that even though she didn't want to leave her friends, she was able to keep in touch with them and also make a new friend in Reyna. The family dynamics were interesting, and just go to show that the generation gap happens in many cultures. The writing about Black Panamanians was interesting; the only other book I can think of that involves Panama at all is Engle's 2014 Silver People, or maybe Krishnaswami's 2017 Step up to the Plate, Maria Singh (which talks a bit about Indians who left India after the Partition and went to build the canal).
Weaknesses: I had about as much sympathy for Sicily's objection to being at a new school as her parents did, but younger readers will be more sympathetic. I would have liked a bit more information about how the abuela got the punch stain out of the pollera!
What I really think: This was an interesting book that will be a hit with readers who enjoy books that have a lot of friend and family drama, and also some cultural connections.

Ms. Yingling

1 comment:

  1. This intrigues me on so many levels - besides the obvious family drama. New school, new opportunities, but yet missing the connection with old friends. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about this book.