The Latte Rebellion by Sarah Jamila Stevenson 2011
IQ "'Because you're brown and they can't tell what you are.' Miranda picked at her cheese sandwich. 'You know, this is why the Latte Rebellion is a good thing. It'll open people's eyes. I mean, it's not like we just automatically identify with whichever group we look the most like.'
'Yeah.' I [Asha] nodded. 'Not to mention, ethnicity isn't anybody's whole anyway.'" pg. 158
Asha and Carey would love to have a best friend post-graduation trip to London. In order to raise the money, they decide to sell t-shirts that praise being mixed-race (or bicultural, what have you), they dub it the 'Latte Rebellion.' The girls expected to make some money, but they didn't expect people to actually get excited about their cause and turn it into a nationwide student social movement. Asha is both apprehensive and excited about this, but the Latte Rebellion is starting to mess with Asha's life. Her grades start slipping and she and Carey are fighting more and more. Before she can say 'latte', the peaceful Latte Rebellion turns violent and charges of terrorism are being thrown around. Does Asha believe in the Latte Rebellion enough to disprove the charges and fight to keep the group alive?
I don't usually mind slow starts in contemporary novels and this one was no exception. I liked getting the backstory and feeling completely immersed in Asha's world, I was satisfied with the little everyday details. I would warn you though that it takes awhile for the actual rebellion to start but stick with the book. I was a bit peeved at how some characters emerged for a chapter and then faded away, only to be called again a few chapters later. Thad and Bridget were both brought into the story but then they just disappear, Asha doesn't give them another thought. The biggest problem to me were the awkward transitions. Just when a chapter was starting to get really good, the story would stick to the present where Asha was in the middle of a school board hearing on her possible expulsion (her school viewed the Latte Rebellion as a terrorist group). Then just when the hearing started to get interesting, the story would change to the past events leading up to the hearing. Sometimes it seemed like the hearing was rushed, for example, I almost missed the decision the school board made because it was rushed over.
The most fascinating point to me was that Asha (half-Indian, a quarter Mexican and a quarter Irish) and Carey (half Chinese, half European) resent being forced to pick a side or idenitfy with what they are the most. I admit I'm guilty of thinking that way. I'm bicultural but I've definitely thought at times that if you if have more than three different cultural backgrounds, you can list them all but if you join a club, join them all or pick the one you identify most with. I get ticked when people do the whole '10% Irish, 10% Scottish, 15% Swedish, 2 % Cherokee' etc. Just pick your top two! However this book showed me that it's not that simple. I shared Asha, Carey and Thad's frustration at the lack of understanding/options for multicultural people. Just today I was registering for the SAT and I could only pick one race or chose to be 'other.' I ended up selecting Black but I was peeved that there wasn't a way for me to pick Black AND Latina. Real-life moment right there. I love that Asha starts The Latte Rebellion for purely selfish reasons. She wants to travel and needs the money so why not open a business that would appeal to certain people? That's what entrepreneurs do all the time and I thought it made the book even more fun. Asha starts off self-absorbed and a bit clueless but that makes the end result even better. I also really liked that the book showed why the term 'latte' is so appropriate for multicultural/multiracial people and that the school thought of the group as a terrorist movement. As if. Gotta love school bureaucracy.
*Please be warned the next paragraph will contain some lame coffee puns/jokes*
The Latte Rebellion is filled to the brim with coffee for thought ranging from how multicultural people are viewed in the world (should we have to choose what culture we identify the most with, how do we do that?), prejudice (Asha is called a 'towel head'. Wow), race and the college process (and it was nice to read a book about a senior who is stressing out about college because the process sounds SCARY people) and friendships drifting apart. We aren't meant to be best friends with the same people all our lives. It's nice if that happens but it's a rarity. I loved Miranda (fight the power!) and even though I didn't see much of him, I was a big fan of Thad. But then again, I'm a complete sucker for a guy who has a sense of humor and yet still wants to save the world (and manage to make enough to get by). The rough transitions and disappearing characters made this book a bit hard to swallow but there is a great balance between hilarity and seriousness that brings out the sweet flavor. The parents have a role and they aren't a complete caricature of overbearing-must-get-good-grades kind of parents. I sipped a vanilla latte while reading this book. It was my first latte and while I'm not a fan, I've been told to try chai lattes and a gingerbread latte. So we shall see if I become a latte fan. I applaud the author for keeping up the latte metaphor throughout the whole book, it could be a bit silly at times but who doesn't like a little silliness? A stirring novel. Oh and I love the cover, the symbol of the Latte Rebellion in the coffee (which is a coffee cup with steam rising to to from the shape of a hammer and sickle) along with the coffee rings, napkins and a cartoon drawing are perfect for the cover.
PS Doret and I want T-shirts that say "Ask not what Brown can do for you. Ask what you can do for Brown." (this slogan could also apply to Brown University which makes it rock even more) <3
PPSS I'm buying a mug. You can also buy a shirt. $1 of each purchase goes to Reading is Fundamental. Social justice for the win. You're welcome
PPPSSS I can't decide, now I really want a shirt. Hmm. Oh and please read my interview with the author!