Rummanah Aasi
 Donte wishes he were invisible. As one of the few black boys at Middlefield Prep, he feels as if he is constantly swimming in whiteness. Most of the students don't look like him. They don't like him either. Dubbed the "Black Brother," Donte's teachers and classmates make it clear they wish he were more like his lighter skinned brother, Trey. Quiet, obedient.

When an incident with "King" Alan leads to Donte's arrest and suspension, he knows the only way to get even is to beat the king of the school at his own game: fencing. With the help of a former Olympic fencer, Donte embarks on a journey to carve out a spot on Middlefield Prep's fencing team and maybe learn something about himself along the way.

Review: With Black Brother, Black Brother Rhodes elevates a sports novel with a message to tackle on timely and important issues such as systemic racism, colorism, and bullying. Donte is having a difficult time adjusting to life at Middlefield Prep as being one of the only black boys in a predominately white school. Donte and his brother Trey are biracial (black and white) though Donte is the darker of the two and is constantly bullied and taunted with being called "Black Brother, Black Brother". His brother Trey is white passing and thus passes through school with ease. 
     Donte's bullying is relentless and he undergoes a cyclic inner turmoil of yearning to be invisible, shame, confusion, and anger. On a day when Donte could not take the bullying anymore, he throws down his backpack in class in anger and he is then swiftly arrested by police and charged. The book actually opens with Donte awaiting judgement for his "crime". Thankfully, his crime is dismissed as Rhodes points out Donte's privilege in being well off, and how the court is willing to treat him differently after seeing his white father and white-passing brother. 
  We soon see Donte driven to beat his bully, Alan, the captain of the school fencing team at his own game, but learning how to fence evolves to a deeper longing for Donte to claim something for himself. This quest sets Donte and Trey off on a mission to find Mr. Jones, a black former Olympic fencer and Boston Boys and Girls Club employee, who agrees to teach them how to fence. Along the way, Donte makes friends, becomes an excellent fencer, and finds his place in the Boston area. 
  Donte's story is a good primer for younger readers on microaggressions. I appreciated how direct and honest Rhodes is in the depiction of how differently Donte and Trey are treated. I actually liked that the book began with the mistreatment of Donte and then smoothly transitioned with his fencing journey. Learning of the back story and discrimination of Mr. Jones brought these two plot lines quite nicely. The depiction of Donte's confidence growing with each lesson and as he makes friends at the Boys and Girls Club is also welcoming and exciting, showing hope for the future. As a reader who generally has a hard time reading the same sport story over and over again, it is nice to have one that has a strong social message along with the excitement of a sport that is often not written about. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are scenes of bullying. Recommended for Grades 5 and up.

If you like this book try: Track series by Jason Reynolds
1 Response
  1. Wow, this sounds really good with strong messages and a good storyline.

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