Finding My Place by Traci L. Jones

Tiphanie Jayne Baker tries to straddle two worlds, her new one in Brent Hills, Colorado, and the one she left behind in Denver. For a while none of the students at her new high school talk to her except Jackie Sue, and she spends most of their initial time together teaching Jackie Sue about race relations. For example, after Tiphanie meets Bradley, the only other black person at the school, Jackie Sue assumes they have things in common and will be a couple. To that, Tiphanie hurls a barrage of questions, including “Are you saying that I could point to any white dude in here and bam! You two would be a couple?” Jackie Sue quickly gets the picture.

Though Jackie Sue is nice, Tiphanie hangs on to her mostly because she’s lonely, and she notices that Jackie Sue might not be fully committed either when she refuses to defend her when Clay Murphy tells her, “Why don’t you go back to the motherland?”

Before long, Tiphanie realizes that her new friend may be too consumed by her own complex problems and needs to come to her rescue.

The book goes from October 1975 to Tiphanie’s fifteenth birthday in May 1976, and it is peppered with her parent’s lectures. You know the ones: “The Talented Tenth Lecture,” “The Company You Keep Lecture,” “The Lay Down with Dogs Lecture,” and “The Keep up the Good Work Lecture.”

Readers who like Jacqueline Woodson’s I Hadn’t Meant to Tell You This and Lena or Allison Whittenberg’s Sweet Thang and Hollywood and Maine will like Finding My Place .

Full disclosure: I asked the publisher to send me a copy of this book, and they did. Thanks, FSG.