Book Preview: The Skin I'm In

The Skin I’m In by Sharon G. Flake (Amazon Link)

wasn’t sure I’d like this novel when it was recommended to me. Interestingly, I might have been the one to add it to the list of books we ordered with the grant we received last year. The Skin I’m In was the winner of the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent in 1998 and is on a YALSA book list.

One of the reviews in Publisher’s Weekly said that the “novel will hit home.” and it definitely did that. I was drawn in immediately by the dialect the first person narrator, Maleeka, used. Possibly because it’s a dialect that I use when I speak with my cousins back home. And yet, the writing she does for her English class’s extra project is written in a Standard American English dialect.

In my sociolinguistics class last semester, we talked about how student have a problem understanding the concept of register when speaking. Because for some, the language they use with their parents is the same as the language they use with their peers. Showing the difference between the two using a character in a novel (which I may very well read aloud) to show the difference might be beneficial.

The main thematic idea is understanding who you are and what you stand for. The new teacher, Ms. Saunders, seems more confident then she really is, Maleeka struggles within a gang-type situation, and Charlese, a main antagonist, only changes who she is in an effort to keep out of trouble.

The question I posed yesterday when I began this book, one that I will use to begin my self-identity unit in the fall, was this:

What does your face say to the world?

Then again, should we really be preoccupied with seeing ourselves through other’s eyes?

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