Today’s review covers a book I am very excited to share: The Means That Make Us Strangers by Christine Kindberg! This is an excellent book, and I can’t wait to see others reading it so I can talk about it more in-depth. For now, here’s my review.
Author: Christine Kindberg
Genre: YA recent historical fiction (1960s)
Goodreads Blurb: Home is where your people are. But who are your people?
Adelaide has lived her whole life in rural Ethiopia as the white American daughter of an anthropologist. Then her family moves to South Carolina, in 1964. Adelaide vows to find her way back to Ethiopia, marry Maicaah, and become part of the village for real. But until she turns eighteen, Adelaide must adjust to this strange, white place that everyone tells her is home. Then Adelaide becomes friends with the five African-American students who sued for admission into the white high school. Even as she navigates her family’s expectations and her mother’s depression, Adelaide starts to enjoy her new friendships, the chance to learn new things, and the time she spends with a blond football player. Life in Greenville becomes interesting, and home becomes a much more complex equation.
Adelaide must finally choose where she belongs: the Ethiopian village where she grew up, to which she promised to return? Or this place where she’s become part of something bigger than herself?
The Means That Make Us Strangers is a straightforward story about a girl searching for her place in the world and fighting against racism, especially complacent racism. This book is entertaining and engaging, addressing serious issues without getting bogged down in complicated philosophical arguments. Kindberg speaks through her teenage protagonist to show how simply wrong racism is. In addition to the concept and portrayal, the writing style is also simple, which should appeal to younger YA readers. This makes the topic extremely accessible and the themes obvious.
Despite the fact that the message of the book is so straightforward, the way Kindberg gets there is highly unusual. We start out in Ethiopia, travel with the protagonist and her family to North Carolina, and eventually end up back in Ethiopia with the knowledge that there are more adventures in store. Adelaide is a wonderful protagonist; her mistakes are realistic, her emotions relatable, and none of her decisions or reactions are unreasonably dramatic. She loves her family but struggles to understand them. When she is transplanted from the culture she knows to one which is supposed to be “home” because of her family’s heritage, she balks, eventually working towards a way of life combining both cultures. Her journey is interesting, and while it is definitely YA, I believe it will appeal to fans of any recent historical fiction, not just YA. I also really liked how understated the romance is. Yes, in a way there is a love triangle, but it is so subtle and only introduced in ways that actually contribute significantly to the story. I really appreciate this.
This is a very good book. I ought to have more to say about it, but the simplicity of the book speaks for itself. It is easy to read, deals with an important issue, and has a strong anti-racist message and supporting theme of comforting those who are still looking for their place in the world.
Do you have a favorite book which deals with a heavy topic but is still fun to read? Let’s talk about it in the comments!
Until the next chapter,
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this ebook from the author. All opinions expressed are true and solely my own.