ARC Review: Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan

watch us rise

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Jasmine and Chelsea are sick of the way women are treated even at their progressive NYC high school, so they decide to start a Women’s Rights Club. They post everything online—poems, essays, videos of Chelsea performing her poetry, and Jasmine’s response to the racial macroaggressions she experiences—and soon they go viral. But with such positive support, the club is also targeted by online trolls. When things escalate, the principal shuts the club down. Jasmine and Chelsea will risk everything for their voices—and those of other young women—to be heard.

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Wow just wow !!! I knew from the blurb that this was going to be a very interesting book on intersectional feminism but the way it’s written in the form of poems, essays, quotes, art etc just blew me away. It made me think, rage, reflect, feel joy and also sadness. It’s been a great reading experience but I definitely don’t know if I can properly express my thoughts in this review.

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Jasmine and Chelsea are two great realistic portrayals of teens who have a lots of thoughts and ideas, want to find a voice and express themselves but quickly learn that it’s not always easy, even at their very progressive New York high school. Jasmine is a big black girl actress and writer, Chelsea is a white girl poet ; their best friend Nadine is a Japanese Lebanese designer and Issac is a Peurto Rican artist and an ally to their cause. They are all encouraged especially by Jasmine’s dad who calls them “art-tivists” – people who can use their art to bring change and I loved the support he gave. Jasmine felt very relatable to me, mostly because I could feel everything she felt when she had to deal with conversations around her weight. She also came across as very thoughtful, even when dealing with the obstacles they face, along with her father’s terminal cancer diagnosis and the subsequent grief over her loss. On the other hand, Chelsea is very passionate about her ideas and doesn’t like to be stifled, so she can sometimes come across as rude/ stirring up the pot unnecessarily – however, I could also understand where she was coming from and she just needed a proper channel for her to voice her rage. But these two girls are not just feminists, they are also teenagers and I thought it was very realistically depicted. They have crushes, can get overwhelmed, have to deal with their feelings for boys and family issues; all the while wanting to be activists and not knowing how to reconcile all their various issues.

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What I loved about this book is how it talks about broad issues but focuses on specifics that the girls face. The most relevant one I felt is the representation of women in the media, specifically women of color – how we are always subjected to the same old stereotypes which have racist origins, and how difficult it is to make people realize that stereotypes are harmful and affect so much of our thinking. The conversations about weight and how fat women are always represented as sad and needing to lose weight to be more happy; unable to find clothes in the usual sections because somehow, there has to be a separate but small plus size section ; how every movie and media and magazine reinforces the same old beauty standards which only leads to more self-esteem issues among young girls. There are also many many more conversations here about sexism and misogyny and sexual harassment and microaggressions and how even the Principal/ teachers of a progressive school can be tone deaf to certain issues that stem from intersectionality. Another thing I absolutely loved about this book is how it gives so much detail about historical women who have been great activists, their notable works and many more resources for young women and allies who want to make a change and want their voices heard in this day and age. There is so so much more in this book, I probably highlighted almost half of it, but I’m just not able to articulate how important this book felt to me.

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If you’ve enjoyed reading The Nowhere Girls or Moxie, then this book is definitely for you. I highly recommend this book to everyone – young and old, feminists and those who are unsure – this has something to ponder and think for everyone. It’ll give you a chance to reflect on your thoughts and actions of the past and how we can do better, how we can change the people or society around us in our own little ways. Just pick up this book and prepare to join the conversation.

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15 thoughts on “ARC Review: Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan

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  1. Awww this sounds like such a great story! I’ve read novels that have this plot but I never liked them. This one, however, partly because of your great review, sounds like it hits the nail on the head. Thank you for reviewing it and putting this novel on my radar!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ohh that’s so sweet of you.. thank you so much !!! And this book definitely gets atleast some intersectionality right and I highlighted the heck out of it because it has so many amazing lines and poems… Hope you’ll enjoy it too !!!

      Liked by 1 person

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