#wndb Dime by E.R. Frank is about a fourteen year old girl who falls into prostitution after being recruited by a pimp. She’s quiet and loves books. She’s smart, but doesn’t do very well in school.

We’re never told exactly what she looks like other than she’s a young girl. The most overwhelming characteristic we learn is her crushing loneliness. Her foster mother is a bit of a drunk, mean, and using her as more of a helper for the younger foster children in the home. When the mother puts her out in the cold for some silly infraction an older girl invites her to stay with her and her boyfriend. Feeling like she’s being saved the boyfriend dotes on her, buying her clothes and making sure she’s fed and she’s enamored. Starved for love it isn’t long before things turn dark and then darker still.

It is simple. This novel needs to be read.

The psychological manipulation is spelled out so clearly that sometimes it feels as if you’re reading a camp manual on how to avoid pimps in the wild. Sex is woven throughout almost every page, but it is never graphic.Told in a non-linear timeline we see the wreckage before the train wreck happens, so there is no hope that our main character will avoid the pain and suffering the reader sees coming. This book is not hopeful, it is raw. This book is real and its necessary. Girls who end up being trafficked are recruited in middle school, sometimes in elementary school. Their childhoods end early and society forgets them. Dime’s story is the story of girls in our neighborhoods, in our kids classes and she deserves to have us care.

With that being said….

I am conflicted about recommending it for the Peach Book Award. It’s a great book, yes, but with so little representations of black girls in YA, am I comfortable with the only one being that of a teenage sexual trafficking victim? Where are the funny contemporary fiction books with a black girl falling in love or out of love? There are some out there, but they are rarely given the hardcover big publisher push. Why isn’t Stephanie Perry Moore as famous as Sarah Dessen? Where are the sci-fi epics with girls of color? They do exist, The Summer Prince is a great one, but they are few and far between. It’s because representations are so few I am hesitant about putting this book in the hands of tons of white children across the state who have only the news (see Mckinney), YouTube fight videos, BET (see any 2Chainz video) and Blackish commercials to help them make an “accurate” of young black girlhood. What we don’t want and cannot afford is for people to say “that’s so sad” and then go an about their day. That is what has allowed the ghetto to become more dangerous than the Gaza strip in some cities. People begin to believe that the misery inflicted on certain peoples is deserved when it is seemingly endless. And what of black girls themselves? What does it do to a young reader waiting to see themselves and when you finally do it’s as a slave in the endless parade of historical novels and American Girl dolls or as a prostitute?

What say you? Is no representation better than a single unfavorable one?

One Comment

  1. Charles

    The problem with all novelists of color is how much of the truth should s/he tell. This book needs to be read; it represents a slice of the African American experience, not the nice and neat where the heroine triumphs in the end, We need to kknow the world is not a very nice place for some people. It may help one girl to realize that even kindness has a price that is sometime to high to pay.

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