Every reader has that one author that seems to be writing books just for them. For me, Akemi Dawn Bowman is that author. Starfish and Summer Bird Blue felt so personal to me as a biracial Asian reader who spent so long looking for characters like me in YA–not to mention how authentically her books have handled mental health and identity.
Watch Us Rise is a love letter to the space where art and activism intersect. Jasmine and Chelsea are both artists—Jasmine an actress and Chelsea a poet—who are disgusted by the racism and sexism that even their progressive, social justice focused high school is rife with. The blog that the two girls create to showcase poetry and other works about feminism quickly takes on a life of its own. The movement spans to a range of different art forms and voices, which ignites tensions within their school. This novel reminds us that there is so much work to be done; both Chelsea and Jasmine note how social change is widely celebrated despite the fact that racism and sexism are still huge issues, even in social justice circles.