Title: Piecing Me Together
Author: Renee Watson
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publication Date: February 14, 2017
Do you all see this cover? It is absolutely gorgeous isn't it?
I couldn't pass up the chance to be on a blog tour for a book with such an amazing cover. It just screams READ ME!
So today I happily bring you an excerpt from this gorgeous book! Check it out!
When I learned the Spanish word for succeed, I thought it was kind of ironic that the word exit is embedded in it. Like the universe was telling me that in order for me to make something of this life, I’d have to leave home, my neighborhood, my friends.
And maybe I’ve already started. For the past two years I’ve attended St. Francis High School on the other side of town, away from everything and everyone I love. Tomorrow is the first day of junior year, and you’d think it was my first day as a freshman, the way my stomach is turning. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to being at St. Francis while the rest of my friends are at Northside. I begged Mom to let me got to my neighborhood high school, but she just kept telling me, “Jade, honey, this is a good opportunity.” One I couldn’t’ pass up. It’s the best private school in Portland, which means it’s mostly white, which means it’s expensive. I didn’t want to get my hopes up. What was the point of applying if, once I got accepted, Mom wouldn’t be able to afford for me to go?
But Mom had done her research. She knew St. Francis offered financial aid. So I applied, and once I got accepted, I received a full scholarship, so I kind of had to go.
So here I am, trying to pick out something to wear that doesn’t look like I’m trying too hard to impress or that I don’t care about how I look. St. Francis doesn’t have uniforms, and even though everyone says it doesn’t matter how you look on the outside, it does. Especially at St. Francis. I bought clothes with the money I made from working as a tutor at the rec center over the summer. I offered Mom some of the money I earned, to help with the bills or at least the groceries, but she wasn’t having any of that. She told me to spend it on my school clothes and supplies. I saved some of it, though. Just in case.
Mom comes into my room without knocking, like always. “I won’t be here tomorrow morning when you leave for school,” she says. She seems sad about this, but I don’t think it’s a big deal. “You won’t see much of me this week. I’m working extra hours.”
Mom used to work as a housekeeper at Emanuel Hospital, but she got fired because she was caught stealing supplies. She sometimes brought home blankets and the small lotions that are given to patients. Snacks, too, like saltine crackers, juice boxes. Then one of her coworkers reported her. Now Mom works for her friend’s mother, Ms. Louise, a rich old lady who can’t do much for herself. Mom makes Ms. Louis breakfast, lunch, and dinner, givers her baths, and takes her to doctors’ appointments. She cleans up the accidents Ms. Louis sometimes has when she can’t make it to the bathroom. Ms. Louise’s daughter comes at night, but sometimes she has a business trip to go on, so Mom stays.
I know Mom isn’t here just to tell me her schedule for the week, because it’s posted on the fridge. That’s how we communicate. We write our schedules on the dry-erase board and use it to let each other know what we’re up to. I close my closet, turn around, look at her, and wait. I know what’s coming. Every year since I started at St. Francis, Mom comes to my room the night before school and starts to give me the Talk. Tonight she’s taking a while to get to it, but I know it’s coming. She asks questions she already knows the answers to—have I registered to take the SATs yet, and am I still going to tutor at the rec, now that school had started?—and then she says, “Jade, are you going to make some friends this year?”
Here it is. The Talk.
“Yes, really. You need some friends.”
“I have Lee Lee.”
“You need friends who go to St. Francis. You’ve been there for two years. How is it that you haven’t made any new friends?”
“Well, at least I haven’t made enemies,” I say.
“I have friends there, Mom. They’re just not my best friends. It’s not like I got to school and sit all by myself in the cafeteria. I’m fine,” I tell her.
“Are you sure?” mom asks. “Because I swear, it’s like if you are Lee Lee aren’t joined together at the hip, you act like you can’t survive.”
Mom doesn’t understand that I want to have Lee Lee to look at when something funny happens—something that’s only funny to us. Our eyes have a way of finding each other no matter where we are in a room so we can give each other a look. A look that says, Did you see that? But at St. Francis, I don’t’ have anyone to share that look with. Most things that seem ridiculous to me are normal there. Like when my humanities teacher asked, “Who are the invisible people in our community? Who are the people we, as a society, take for granted?”
Some girl in my class said her housekeeper.
It wasn’t that I didn’t think she took her housekeeper for granted; it was that I couldn’t believe she had one. And then so many of my classmates nodded, like they could all relate. I actually looked across the room at the only other black girl in the class, and she was raising her hand, saying, “She took my answer,” and so I knew we’d probably never make eye contact about anything. And I realized how different I am from everyone else at St. Francis. Not only because I’m black and almost everyone else is white, but because their mothers are the kind of people who hire housekeepers, and my mother is the kind of person who works as one.
Lee Lee would get that. She’d look at me, and we’d have a whole conversation with only our eyes. But now I have to wait till I get home from school to fill her in on the crazy things these rich people say and do.
Mom keeps on with her talk. “I really wish you’d make at least one friend—a close friend—this year at your school,” she says. Then she says good night to me and walks into the hallway, where she turns and says, “Almost forgot to remind you—did you see my note on the fridge? You have a meeting with Mrs. Parker during lunch tomorrow.”
“On the first day of school? About what?”
Mom shrugs. “She didn’t give me details. Must be about the study abroad program,” she says with smile.
“You think so?” For the first time in—well, for the first time every—I am excited to talk to Mrs. Parker. This is the year that teachers select students to volunteer in a foreign country and do service learning projects. That was the thing that made me want to attend St. Francis. Well, that and the scholarship. When we met with Mrs. Parker, my guidance counselor, I think she could tell I was not feeling going to school away from my friends. But she knew from my application essay that I wanted to take Spanish and that I wanted to travel, so she said, “Jade, St. Francis provides opportunities for our students to travel the world.” She had me at that. Of course, she didn’t tell me I’d have to wait until I was a junior.
Mrs. Parker always had some kind of opportunity to tell me about. Freshman year it was an essay writing class that happened after school. Sophomore year it was the free SAT prep class that met on Saturday mornings. Saturday mornings. She likes to take me downtown to the Arlene Schnitzer Hall whenever there’s a speaker or poet in town, telling me I should hear so-and-so because kids in other cities in Oregon don’t get these kind of opportunities. I know Mrs. Parker is looking out for me—that she promised Mom she’d make sure I’d have a successful four years at St. Francis—but sometimes I wish I could say, Oh, no, thank you, Mrs. Parker. I have enough opportunities. My life is full of opportunities. Give an opportunity to someone else.But girls like me, with coal skin and hula-hoop hips, whose mommas barely make enough money to keep food in the house, have to take opportunities every chance we get.
This excerpt was provided by the publisher for my use on the blog tour.
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