Watch Us Rise – Review

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In the last few days of June, I read Watch Us Rise as a buddy-read with the incredibly kind and wonderful Kelly (divabooknerd). You can find her review here.

This is the first time I’ve done a proper buddy-read with someone, and it was a fun experience.

The book, however, was not as great as I was expecting it to be.

I had heard a lot of amazing things about this book, but it was only when I took to Goodreads that I realised there were more people who thought the way that I did about this book.

Let’s just get into it.

!!There are spoilers below the cut, so consider yourself warned!!

Synopsis:

A stirring and unputdownable read about what it means to be a woman today. Perfect for fans of Moxie and The Hate U Give.

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?

(In regards to the synopsis from Goodreads: Now I read both Moxie and The Hate U Give and I thought both books were phenomenal.)

This book promised to be an amazing feminist book filled with diverse characters and great representation.

But it just didn’t meet my expectations and hopes.

If you browse Goodreads, you’ll see many people commenting on Chelsea’s character (one of our two MCs) and how she’s just a boring white average teen girl. And whilst I don’t specifically disagree with that, I do have my own views, too.

Chelsea, to me, felt really flat. She seemed to lack and aspirations, hopes, dreams, and goals. She read only as a feminist fact reciter. She could pull feminist trivia out of her head at the snap of her fingers, which is cool, and all, but rather lacking of a personality.

Jasmine, our other MC, felt a bit more developed. She had clear aspirations, hopes, and dreams, and I liked that about her. She was our ‘diverse’ character with being black and fat. And unapologetic about both. Which I loved. She had some fantastic points brought up about fatness and beauty and how you can and are able to be both, not in spite of each other, too.

(I will say how utterly disappointed I was in Chelsea for not even considering that her fat “best friend” wouldn’t fit into the t-shirts she ordered. It wasn’t even a blip on her radar that she wasn’t being inclusive with the sizes. But Chelsea’s smack down by Jasmine was very well deserved.)

Now onto the story itself.

This story severely lacked actual intersectional representation.

While I know that the girls are teenagers, and teenagers are generally self-centred and only really think of themselves and how they’re impacted by being a woman, the authors are grown adults who should know better.

The only ‘intersectional’ parts of their feminism were white and black cis women.

There was zero representation for queer women, for trans women, for disabled women, and for non-neurotypical women. Zero. I just need to reiterate that.

Their feminism was only about cis-women, and it read quite TERF-y to me at times (trans exclusionary radical feminist).

It made me mad in quite a few places that there was not even a breath of inclusion until chapter 35 when, in their list of ‘demands’ to the school, there is this:

3) We demand an inclusive curriculum that honors and includes the voices of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of color) and LGBTQIA+ communities.

That is a direct quote.

That is the first mention of LGBTQIA+ people in this entire book (despite being told their club supervisor, Ms Lucas is gay but that was promptly ignored because it didn’t suit the characters’ ‘feminist’ mindset – because how could you be gay and a feminist? Sigh).

Several times Jasmine and Chelsea were told to think about other people, not just themselves, to broaden their minds about feminism and to be more intersectional, but just like the characters, the authors seemed to just conveniently forget about this until it suited their narrative.

There are some other points besides their severe lack of actual intersectional feminism that I want to bring up, too.
The “romances”.

Both felt so very forced and so unnatural to me.

Chelsea and Jasmine had more chemistry than Jasmine/Isaac or Chelsea/James did. Chelsea was a bit too obsessed with James and it was quite disturbing to me at points throughout the book. She didn’t seem to care that he had a girlfriend, which she very well knew about, until he was absolutely, positively going to make a move on her. Then she decided that she cared.

Isaac read more like a brother to me, so seeing him being a romantic interest for Jasmine made me cringe.
And my last ‘negative’ point: Jasmine’s father’s cancer storyline.

This felt like if it had been completely removed from the story, it would not have impacted the story any differently.

I feel like it was shoved in there and because of that, it felt stilted to me, like it was there just because.

Now for the ‘positives’.
I adored the poetry in this.

The poetry was really great. And the blog posts were also awesome. As were the spotlight posts highlighting feminists for other people to research and look up.

All in all. I was severely disappointed by this book.

It was very hyped up for me, and I was expecting more, which probably didn’t help when I went into it with that mindset.

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Have you read Watch Us Rise? If so, what were your thoughts?

8 thoughts on “Watch Us Rise – Review

  1. Oh gosh yes! I absolutely agree with practically everything, apart from the poetry from Chelsea. I just didn’t buy it coming from an attractive slim white girl that she raged against beauty standards while shopping at her teeny teen stores without a second thought for her curvaceous best friend. There were two things I picked up on while we were reading and I suspected they may have been misused words, for a better term. The term womyn, I’d heard that before mentioned on Twitter as being hurtful to transwomen, it’s typically used by ciswomen to exclude transwomen from their white feminism. Chelsea made a point of wanting to use the term womyn as to not include men in the title.

    Another was womanism, which I knew was phrased by the author who wrote The Color Purple I think it was and it was created for the black feminist movement, as white women weren’t intersectional and excluded black women in their advocacy. Chelsea often used the term but not Jasmine, as a black character. The term wasn’t explained either, so most audiences outside of the US may not have even heard of the terms before. I liked Jasmine though and couldn’t agree more, she was the saving grace of Watch Us Rise. This is my third Renee Watson book and I think she’s a brilliant author who writes strong, black female characters so I hope you’ll try one of her previous books.

    Brilliant review Star, absolutely loved it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Kelly!
      Yeah, I thought the way Chelsea remarked about ‘womyn’ was a bit too much. It definitely reads, and sounds, exclusionary. And I’m not about that.

      Ooh, I didn’t know that womanism was by the author of The Colour Purple, so that makes me annoyed at Chelsea even more for using that.

      Thanks again for buddy reading this with me! ♥

      Like

  2. 100% this!! i enjoyed jasmine’s character a lot and the fat rep but the fact this was about ‘feminism’ and there was barely any mention of queer women – especially after that godawful scene with her teacher & the use of TERFish language – and not a single mention of disabled women was incredibly frustrating. this is not true intersectional feminism and to see it being praised so widely in the community w/o nuanced criticism is disappointing.

    i’d highly recommend renee watson’s piecing me together though, if you haven’t already read it 😊💛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It makes me feel so relieved that I’m not the only one who thought so.
      The TERFish language continually made me flinch. And the lack of inclusion made me incredibly sad, too.

      I haven’t read Piecing Me Together yet, but I hope to get a copy soon-ish. 💜

      Like

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