Giving Black boys space to exhale in Love Is a Revolution, a guest post by Renée Watson
My brother is not ashamed to cry. He left home to serve in the marines just after he graduated from high school. Whenever he’d come home to visit, he doted on me, his baby sister. Each minute of our time together was full of immense laughter, suffocating hugs, and long conversations that always ended with I love you. When it was time for him to leave, without fail, there would be tears. From me, from my mother, from my three sisters, and then from my brother himself. This towering, athletic marine would dissolve into a puddle because he loved his mother and sisters so much that he didn’t want to leave.
When writing Love Is a Revolution, I brought my brother’s tenderness to the page as well as the personalities of so many of the Black boys and men I know who love their mommas, sisters, friends, and girlfriends without reservation. When Nala, the main character in the book, meets Tye for the first time, she is drawn to his good looks. But in the first thirty minutes of the talent show he is hosting, Nala sees his thoughtfulness and compassion by the way he interacts with his peers. The more she hangs out with Tye, she learns that he is serious about activism; that he hopes to make his mother proud; and that he is determined to be the change he wants to see in the world. But Tye is not perfect. Sometimes, he can be a little self-righteous. His rules about recycling are overbearing and his motivational encouragement sometimes comes across as condescending. Nala is attracted to Tye’s maturity, but she also wishes he could loosen up a bit and just enjoy summertime in Harlem.
I know teen boys like Tye. Young men who are earnest, responsible, kind, and thoughtful—and when given the opportunity, will open up and be vulnerable. Black boys, like Tye, who have been given The Talk and carry the heavy burden of walking while Black, running while Black, going to the corner store…gas station…neighborhood park while Black. Tye is the teenager full of promise who is watching the news, seeing unarmed Black boys who look like him shot dead by police officers and self-proclaimed neighborhood watchmen. There is a moment when Tye admits that part of the reason why he is so serious all of the time is because he knows that for Black boys, there’s not a lot of room for error. He feels the pressure from his mother, from his teachers, and from society to be one of the good ones.
Tye falls in love with Nala because with her, he can just be. Nala appreciates his intelligence but is not surprised by it. She loves that he is involved in their community, that he volunteers, and that he wants to do good in the world, but she doesn’t treat him like he’s an exception to a rule. She’s attracted to his charisma and style but is also aware of his shortcomings. Nala sees Tye. She doesn’t see him through the prism of stereotypes or high, unrealistic expectations. She knows that he is not monster nor messiah.
Tye is inspired by the young men I’ve taught over the years—the boys who stayed after school for the poetry slam class, always ready with a new verse to share, the boys who were too shy to approach their crush, and the boys who were proud to call themselves feminists. Who were and are striving to understand more and more about how to show up for the women in their lives.
I wanted to make sure that in the pages of Love Is a Revolution, Black boys could have a space to exhale. I wanted Tye to have a summer filled with soft kisses and summer excursions. I wanted Tye to laugh the kind of laugh that would make his belly hurt. At a basketball tournament, when Nala takes his hand, pulls him up and says, “Dance with me,” there is a moment when he lets go of what he is supposed to be or how he is supposed to act. He dances and he is free. He is in love.
Love Is a Revolution is a love story not only about romantic love—but also about falling in love with yourself and taking care of yourself. The spotlight is on Nala, but Tye is there too, learning that it’s okay to be vulnerable, that laughter is healing, that joy is a shield.
Meet the author
Renée Watson is a New York Times bestselling author. Her novel, Piecing Me Together, received a Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Award. Her books include Love Is a Revolution, Ways to Make Sunshine, Some Places More Than Others, This Side of Home, What Momma Left Me, Betty Before X, cowritten with Ilyasah Shabazz, and Watch Us Rise, cowritten with Ellen Hagan, as well as two acclaimed picture books: A Place Where Hurricanes Happen and Harlem’s Little Blackbird, which was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. Renée splits her time between Portland and New York City.
reneewatson.net ‧ @harlemportland (Instagram) ‧ @reneewauthor (Twitter)
About LOVE IS A REVOLUTION
From New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Renée Watson comes a love story about not only a romantic relationship but how a girl finds herself and falls in love with who she really is.
When Nala Robertson reluctantly agrees to attend an open mic night for her cousin-sister-friend Imani’s birthday, she finds herself falling in instant love with Tye Brown, the MC. He’s perfect, except . . . Tye is an activist and is spending the summer putting on events for the community when Nala would rather watch movies and try out the new seasonal flavors at the local creamery. In order to impress Tye, Nala tells a few tiny lies to have enough in common with him. As they spend more time together, sharing more of themselves, some of those lies get harder to keep up. As Nala falls deeper into keeping up her lies and into love, she’ll learn all the ways love is hard, and how self-love is revolutionary.
In Love Is a Revolution, plus size girls are beautiful and get the attention of the hot guys, the popular girl clique is not shallow but has strong convictions and substance, and the ultimate love story is not only about romance but about how to show radical love to the people in your life, including to yourself.
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 02/02/2021
Age Range: 13 – 17 Years
Filed under: Uncategorized
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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