BOOK RECOMMENDATION: THE TRYOUT BY CHRISTINA SOONTORNVAT
“Stand tall. Be loud. If you can make it through this, you can make it through anything”
This is a must-read middle-level graphic novel memoir hot off the press as it was released just this month. The Tryout follows the author’s story of growing up as an Asian American in a small Texas town. With essential themes of racism, failure and friendship, Christina retells the memories of navigating the social scene of middle school, the pressures put on a friendship and the relatable tale of trying to fit in.
In her author’s note, Christina talks about the hesitation to include how it felt to deal with racism and her identity as an Asian American. She notes other discrimination that happened and how she had “accepted and internalized that that’s just the way things were.” With that reflection, she also acknowledges that sharing these stories is how we bring change. Readers see the racism disguised as jokes, mispronunciations, exclusion and obvious name-calling.
The story centers around Christina and Megan’s friendship which was formed from shared experiences being minorities in a predominantly white town. They are both drawn into the social status of cheerleading and tryout for the squad together. The pressures of the upcoming cuts cause some conflict that is handled well and both girls experience growth and newfound confidence in the process.
Readers are left with a description of growing up in Texas where Christina refers to the town as merely the setting and goes on to share the spotlight of her story – the characters. Every middle schooler should read about her experience and see themselves in the characters, images and emotions.