Watch Us Rise

Watch Us Rise
Written by Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan
Contemporary, Feminism, Poetry
Published March 4th 2019
368 Pages
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
Add to Goodreads
★★★☆
Jasmine and Chelsea are best friends on a mission. Sick of the way that young women are treated even at their progressive New York City high school, they decide to start a Women's Rights Club. One problem, no one shows up. That hardly stops them. They start posting everything from videos of Chelsea performing her poetry to Jasmine's response to being reduced to a racist and sexist stereotype in the school's theatre department. And soon, they've gone viral, creating a platform they never could've predicted.

With such positive support, the Women's Rights Club is also targeted by trolls. But Jasmine and Chelsea won't let their voices or those of the other young women in their city be silenced. They'll risk everything to be heard and effect change. But at what cost?
Amsterdam Heights High School is considered a liberal arts college, a progressive institution that encourages students to experience the world through artistic activism. Students Jasmine and Chelsea are tired of female students being reduced to stereotypes, forbidden to create conversations around the patriarchy, experiencing prejudice, racism and body shaming.

Jasmine Grey is an artivist and a black young woman raised in Harlem, using her stage presence to create and inspire. Chelsea Spencer creates poetry to raise awareness of the expectations placed on women, how they are perceived and often regarded as fragile and vulnerable members of a patriarchal society. Jasmine and Chelsea are founders of Write Like A Girl, a women's rights movement that encourages female students to share their experiences through solidarity and challenge Amsterdam Heights High School in creating an impartial, tolerant and inclusive environment for all students, especially female students and through an online blog, their artivism begins to inspire and empower a feminist movement.

Jasmine is passionate about black women being heard. As a voluptuous young black woman, she's aware of her body, aware of how society views those who aren't white and slender, our bodies dismissed and degraded. Within the August Wilson Acting Ensemble, Jasmine is typecast as the loud, sassy character who is considering weight loss, despite protesting her aversion of occupying roles that the industry has stereotyped for black women and women who are plus sized. I applauded Jasmine's character for her bravery and fortitude to challenge the authority of the Amsterdam Heights High School faculty, especially considering her personal circumstances.

Chelsea unfortunately was incredibly superficial and although she attempts to advocate through her poetry, her character needed guidance, especially as to not appear judgemental of females who do not conform to her feminist ideals. Choosing traditional roles such as the homemaker or primary caregiver of children as an example. As women, we're often instinctively the peacemakers, we guide others and educate, we're nurturers and caregivers. We liberate, we're scientists and mathematicians, we're women supporting all women but now with accessible online resources and spaces for women to openly discuss equality, without the concern of conversations being derailed or diminished. 

Within the dialogue, Chelsea also uses the term womyn and as she describes, so I don't have to include the word man which is harmful as it excludes transwomen and  also often uses the term womanist. Previously feminism movements have excluded black women and therefore womanist was representative of black women. Unfortunately it was introduced into the narrative and used exclusively by Chelsea who is a young white woman.

Unfortunately it didn't discuss intersectionality and the marginalisation of queer women, women with disabilities or transwomen. Characters Jasmine and Chelsea are beginning their journey as activists, fuelled by inspirational women who forged pathways for the next generation of feminists. Watch Us Rise is a great resource for young women as an introduction to feminism.

Buddy read with the wonderful Little Miss Star. Please check out her review here

24 comments

  1. Such a missed opportunity not including other marginalization, I'm actually surprised! Did you feel that the writers wrote well together? It almost sounds like two different books.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As individual authors, I know having read Renee Watson's previous books what an incredible author she is. I loved Jasmine and felt her character carried the narrative. I thought Chelsea needed guidance with her advocacy. She was fixated on writing poems about beauty and bodies but seemed oblivious that Jasmine was a plus sized girl who was discriminated against, even going as far as having a shirt printed for Jasmine that wasn't in plus sizes. Her advocacy felt shallow. Still well worth the read though.

      Delete
  2. Ironic how Chelsea is against the stereotyping of women and yet it sounds like she does just that when it comes to her views on women who make the choice to be homemakers or full-time mothers. Seems like she would have been more open-minded and accepting of all women and their choices.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In one particular scene with Chelsea, she's talking to a female teacher in which the teacher remarks about needing to go home and start cooking dinner. Chelsea jumped to the conclusion that the teacher was almost forced into a traditional role of cooking for her husband, when her teacher replies that she is in a female relationship and cooking for her wife. Sadly it was the only mention of a queer female relationship until the very end of the book so it isn't as intersectional as I would have hoped.

      Delete
  3. Thank you for reading this with me, Kelly!
    Your review is so thoughtful and eloquent. It is a shame that the book wasn't as inclusive as it could have been.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was an absolute pleasure and I can't wait for our next buddy read! I was disappointed that it wasn't actively inclusive. I think it's easy to only campaign for those rights that effect us personally and with both characters, that seemed to be the case. It was a learning curve for both characters but it would have been wonderful to see other females included within their advocacy including queer characters, transwomen, female characters with a disability, mental illness or neurodiverse characters.

      Delete
  4. Amazing review, Kelly! I've never heard of this book before, but I'm adding this to my TBR now. Jasmine sounds like a fantastic character, and I'm glad to hear that there are dialogues created within the book- like the use of term womyn (which, I just discovered now) and how to support all females without being judgmental of their choices. While it still has some flaws, this book sounds like an important read. I can't wait to read this!

    Tasya // The Literary Huntress

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's still a wonderful read despite those few negatives, I think you'll really enjoy this one Tasya, I'd love to see what you think of it!

      Delete
  5. Thanks for sharing. I think I'd definitely like Jasmine the best. I wish it had been a bit more inclusive, but it does seem like a good starting point for people if they don't know much about feminism or activism.

    Best,
    Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It wasn't deliberately exclusionary but would have been great to see a few side characters with marginalisations adding voices to the movement. Still a great read nonetheless Lauren, I think you'll enjoy this one.

      Delete
  6. Interesting, I so hear you on your feedback here. I hadn't heard of this one, but sounds like maybe it needed a little more work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think had the main focus been on Jasmine and other female voices been included, it would have been a brilliant read. I think Chelsea's character just needed more guidance which would have also been great for the audience too as a teaching moment about intersectionality.

      Delete
  7. I loved Jasmine, but Chelsea's character rubbed me the wrong way, over and over again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hear you there Samantha, I felt the same way about her. I know she was young and learning but she was incredibly judgemental but oblivious to the challenges that Jasmine faced.

      Delete
  8. Aw it sucks that this wasn't much better. It does look like it would and it sounds great :/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was entertaining but with just a few issues, still well worth the read and a great introduction to feminism and women's equality.

      Delete
  9. Sounds like there are some definite positives to this book, but it maybe missed the mark. Thanks for your review!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's definitely the case Nicole but worth giving it a read nevertheless, there's lots of resources included and also inspirational women to discover.

      Delete
  10. I think it's ok to see two different characters at different points on their advocacy or get it wrong but it doesn't sound like Chelsea learns or grows? And I think that's the key.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It felt as though she didn't particularly and couldn't agree more. I think it's important to show growth and the willingness to learn and be open to the experience of others. I still really enjoyed it nonetheless and it really cemented by love for Renee Watson novels. She's such a wonderfully prolific author.

      Delete
  11. Beautiful review Kelly. It sounds like this book could have been so wonderful, but it didn’t quite get there.

    XOXO Sarah.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was almost there Sarah but still such wonderful messages of empowerment and equality.

      Delete
  12. I think that the whole theme is too vast in general to cover everything we have experiencing in the world so far, but we could say that it's good effort right?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was Ailyn! It's a wonderful introduction to feminism and women's rights, I think you would really enjoy this one and would love to see what you think of it!

      Delete

© Diva Booknerd. Design by Fearne.