Calling My Name by Liara Tamani (review)
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Reviewed by
Tamani, Liara Calling My Name. Greenwillow/HarperCollins, 2017 [320p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-06-265686-5 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-06-265688-9 $9.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 8-12

This episodic novel follows Taja as she grows from middle school to high school graduation in Houston in the 1990s. The daughter of conservative, churchgoing African-American parents, devout Taja has religious questions she feels she’d be wrong to ask, and she’s troubled by the hypocritical difference between the attitudes towards male and female sexuality. Even when she finds love with boyfriend Andre, she’s conflicted between her physical and spiritual desires—and between his wish to keep her with him and her plans to spread her wings and fly come college time. Each chapter is really just a quick, fluid impression of an event or moment, usually only four or five pages long, and sometimes it touches on a plot point that gets picked up later (Taja’s dad loses his job and then finds new work as a skilled fencebuilder and carpenter) but sometimes it’s a detail for that moment alone. While pop-culture elements peg the story to its time, Taja’s emotional growth and ambivalence will be easily recognizable to many contemporary readers, and her story will encourage them to reflect on their own conflicts.

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