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BOOK REVIEW: That White Girl

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A modern-day euphemism for cocaine, That White Girl (Atria), in this case, reflects the real meaning of the phrase. Amber, a young white teenager with a penchant for the Denver street life, finds herself mixed into a whirlwind of an adolescence filled with graffiti, violence, and a “coveted” spot in the Denver set of the Crips aka the Rollin’ 30s. The author, Jennifer “JLove” Calderon, does her best not to present That White Girl as a generic tale of a silly white chick turned badass. Especially when the novel is loosely based on the story of her life. Her character Amber struggles with her home life, living with a single mother who works heinous hours and a brother with a drug problem, so she readily embraces the streets. Her mentor and childhood friend Juan introduces her to the Crips, where she has to show and prove by holding up a convenience store. While That White Girl may appear to be a (F)eminem saga at face value, it actually succeeds in telling the tale of both gang life and Hip-Hop through a brand new pair of eyes. When the novel can’t over-express Amber’s initial innocence to it all, her journal entries do the talking. Amber is submerged in the Hip-Hop culture—first being the token white girl to recite rap lyrics and then tagging “Corazon” with the Runnin’ the Streets Crew—with her voice evolving throughout the novel as she slowly uses Hip-Hop as a vessel for social commentary. The remarkable (and respectable) aspect of Amber’s life and JLove’s writing is that she hardly mixes discussions on her gang activity with her affiliation to the Hip-Hop culture.  Kudos to JLove for not perpetuating the stereotype that gangbangers love rap and vice versa. Later when Amber moves to LA to attend college, the novel concentrates more on the isms that were previously introduced, particularly racism and sexism. That White Girl does at times border on cheesy, with some slightly contrived dialogue. However, JLove never falters in developing Amber’s character in keeping her emotions honest through her innermost thoughts of longing to belong. Amber eventually realizes that what she loves, Hip-Hop, can be that saving grace for her in striving to eliminate societal differences. While the conclusion that Hip-Hop brings people together is awfully ambitious, That White Girl is a meaningful story of how one determined young lady reaches that revelation.

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