Sunday, February 3, 2013

Review Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman (Noughts & Crosses #1)

Before I begin to review this book, I feel that it's important to disclose that I chose to read it simply because each time a conversation has begun about the negativity of discrimination flips, Noughts & Crosses has been referred to repeatedly.

In the world that Blackman has created, Noughts (read: White people) are institutionally oppressed by Crosses (read: Black people). At one point, Noughts were enslaved by Crosses and now, Blackman's society is at the stage Jim Crow segregation, with Noughts fighting violently for inclusion. This is the world into which Sephy, a Cross and Callum a Nought have been born.  They become friends as children, when Callum's mother is employed by Sephy's family as a nanny/maid. When Callum's mother loses her job, the two are told that they can no longer interact but Callum and Sephy continue to sneak away to spend time together, determined to preserve their friendship.

When Callum is one of the few Noughts chosen to integrate into Sephy's Cross school, she is excited about the chance to spend more time with her best friend and to show him around the campus. Sephy has no idea that this will wipe away the last bit of innocence she possess about her racial privilege and the oppression Callum faces as a Nought man. The two struggle to maintain a relationship, even as the pressures from the outside world seem determined to rip them apart.  Can Sephy and Callum overcome the odds?

This is a typical discrimination flip, in that Blackman has taken real historical events like slavery and Jim Crow and placed White people on the receiving end of oppression.  Because Blackman is a woman of colour, she is able to discuss these issues from a position of expertise and therefore imparts a strong sense of realism to her story.  For instance, the scene in which Callum talks about how Noughts have been erased from history and how this is a purposeful act, to suggest that Noughts have not significantly contributed to society, is something that minority students continue to face today.

finish reading here