Monday, December 6, 2010

Maxine Banks Is Getting Married

Long ago I read Lori Aurelia Williams' book, How Kambia Elaine Flew In From Neptune and enjoyed it. I requested Maxine Banks be purchased by the library after reading a few positive things about this one.
At first I wasn't sure what to think. Maxine is just seventeen and wanting to get married. She has had a long time boyfriend, Brian, who seems like a nice, responsible young man. Her mother is more concerned with her boyfriend than Maxine, at least that is how Maxine feels. As Maxine spoke, I could see so many of my young African American girls speaking just as she does. Williams has their language down pat.
While this book is about a teen marriage, it is also about much more. It becomes obvious early on that Maxine and Brian are not ready for marriage. For Maxine it is an escape from her mother and her mother's boyfriend. She fakes a pregnancy in order for her mother and Brian's parents to agree to the two of them getting married. But once they are, Brian is busy working trying to earn money. At first this seems virtuous and responsible, until it is revealed that Brian is actually involved with Shel, the teen age girl who has had her sister hire him for odd jobs. Now the two girls are involved in a dispute over their man.

Again, while reading I was struck by how right Williams has this story. This is a story that has been played and replayed countless times. There is one reference to the movie Waiting to Exhale where Angela Bassett sets fire to her husband's possessions that I found a good visual description of what these girls may be like as grown women.

Maxine's marriage is one plotline, but while Brian and Maxine's marriage flounders, Maxine is asked by Brian's dad to watch over his troubled middle school niece. Demonee is more than Maxine can - or should - handle. While she tries to help her out, Demonee suffers from many things that Maxine (as only a teenager herself) cannot fix.

As the book concludes Maxine is left to make some decisions about her future. Brian comes around looking to get back with her. While I knew how I wanted this story to end, I wasn't sure Maxine was going to make the decision I hoped for.

However, I was very impressed (and maybe even surprised) with the way this story ended. Maxine Banks Is Getting Married left me with several things to be happy about. Happy that Maxine is a strong African American teenager that made some good decisions by book's end. Happy that readers will be be able to identify with this young girl and perhaps see something of themselves in her. Happy that Williams did such a good job of creating a realistic and spot on depiction of an African American community. It's been a long time since I have read a book with such good African American teens for my students (as they leave elementary school and move on to middle and high school) to relate to.


The Golden Eagle said...

It sounds like a good book--and a realistic one at that, which doesn't always happen.

Peaceful Reader said...

This is a great review and I love the cover of the book. I'll have to look for it at the library now!