Fourteen-year-old Kaz Adams just wants to read comic books and spend every day with Aisha Warren. And maybe get up the nerve to ask her out, if Kaz turns out to be a gender that Aisha’s into.
Kaz had always expected to be targeted for gender nonconformity, but loving Aisha opens Kaz’s eyes to the prevalence of racism in their town. Trouble is, none of the other white people are seeing it, even when Kaz points it out. By the time they reach sophomore year, Aisha is fighting on all fronts and their school system is crushing her.
Kaz’s gender expression was something the two of them could tackle together in private. The issues Aisha is up against are different and there’s no place they can hide. Kaz can’t magically undo centuries of systemic racism—but must find a way to change minds at school and among their friends before Kaz loses the sweetest, smartest, comic-book-reading girl in the world.
FROM THE AUTHOR
"What do you do if the people around you are hurting someone you love, but won’t even question what they’re doing?
I’ve seen a lot of anti-gay and anti-trans bias, having worked in corporate America for most of my adult life. I hadn’t been nearly as good at spotting implicit racism until it was right in my face.
In the Silences grew out of a series of incidents in my workplace. Over the course of a year, I saw how my friend Ha’Londra, as a black woman, was treated worse than the white women in our office.
At first, because I’m not the most woke white person, I thought it was weird office politics. I tried to make changes and kept getting shut down, even though I had a lot of seniority at that company. That showed me how pervasive the implicit bias was.
As my attempts to talk to other white people and change the situation continued to not work—even when I got louder and more blunt about it—I became curious about what would be more effective. To figure that out, I wrote a book.
What if that same pervasive but invisible (to the white people) racism was happening in a school system? What if a white main character loved a black girl and had to learn how to be an effective ally? What does it take to be powerful white ally who is also respectful and humble in the face of people of color’s much greater knowledge and experience about racism in the US?"
In the Silences really explores the day-to-day of microaggressions and unrelenting racism, particularly anti-black racism. Kaz is the point of view character, so we see Aisha’s experiences through their eyes. Kaz is slowly awakened to the daily, sometimes subtle and sometimes blatant discrimination that their best friend faces. I especially liked the attention the story pays to stereotype threat, and how often Aisha is placed in impossible situations, where she must devote so much mental energy to navigating others’ racist perceptions of her, leaving her little room to do anything else.
At the same time as they are learning about race, Kaz is exploring their gender, and beginning to accept being non-binary and what that means. Aisha and Kaz are able to find commonality in their identities being erased, but they also recognize their very different experiences and work to become allies for each other. They look out for each other, and they put in the work of trying to understand each other.
Alex L. - In the Silences by Rachel Gold is a young adult novel centering around Kaz Adams, a genderqueer teen trying to navigate growing up in a world that seems increasingly off-kilter.
I really loved this book. I loved the way Kaz narrated everything; the tone and style is very engaging. Gold largely manages to avoid being didactic or preachy, and she never favors the message over the story. And what an important story it is. It’s a wonderful exploration of gender, race, sexuality, and the various ways they intersect; it’s a story with specific, well-realized characters that are going through particular struggles, but also ones universal to growing up.
I was glued to this from start to finish. I wish I had had this book as a teenager, but it still resonated deeply with me. Highly recommended.
Maggie S. - So much accurate representation of various aspects of the LGBT community all in one book! Bravo to the author for clearly knowing what she was talking about.
R. Swier - In the Silences was one of the best YA books I have recently read. The information and messages contained within this book are important and should be in all school libraries/classrooms to be read and discussed. Highly recommended!
Lex Kent’s Reviews - In this book Gold takes on race, gender, and sexuality. Each time I read one of her books I walk away feeling like I learned something new which I always appreciate. This is one of those books that definitely messed with my emotions. I went from crying one minute, to being so mad I was steaming the next. And while some of this book was hard to read because you know it’s a fiction book based on facts, there was still plenty of uplifting moments. This is one of those YA books that should really be in school libraries but is also a book adults should read. Like I mentioned before I think Gold writes books that are important. She knows how to leave an impact on you while getting your mind working. That is the sign of a good book and a good author in my opinion.
Emma A. - A really well executed YA novel with depth and feeling that touches many diverse topics but manages to give a coherent and strong message to young people and adults alike. The characters are beautifully written, the plot interesting, the young romance sweet, the family dynamics amazingly well done. Read it! It's more than well worth your time. Highly recommended.
Kade G. - I adore this author for correctly representing so many factors of the LGBT community. This is a fantastic YA read.
La Jolla - In the Silences was an excellent book! It’s a great story that I’d definitely recommend to other YA readers.
Christy D. - This book was amazing. It was great reading a book about a teen who is confused about their gender and reading about how their friends and some members of their family accepted it. This would have been the kind of book I read when I was a teenager because I didn't know my own gender as well, but I am happy that there are more books like this. I also enjoyed the race aspect of the book as well. Kaz is learning about how racism affects Americans and what can be done to stop it. There are great resources in the back of the book if readers want to continue reading about it. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed it and I hope other books will come out about gender and racism.
Michelle F. - I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It dealt with topics that I did not know a lot about. It deals with race, gender and sexuality. I feel as though I have learned a lot from reading this book and for that reason alone I feel like it should be available for every young adult to read and educate themselves on the difficulties others are going through at this time. It is a sweet G rated young adult novel and I think it is one that everyone should read.
Annette J. - A powerful and important young adult book that examines gender, sexuality and race and how they intersect.
This is the story of Kaz and Aisha who become best friends over their mutual love of comic books and dogs. As they begin to wonder if the friendship is something more, Kaz realises that things may be more complicated than either of them imagined. Aisha has been out to her family for years, and they accept her completely but Kaz not only has to figure out changing feelings for Aisha, but also if she is a boy, a girl or something else entirely, since it seems to change almost every day. If that is not enough, she has started to notice that Aisha being black sometimes means she is treated differently, and so she begins to confront her own internal biases and try to make the world a better and safer place for the girl she loves, starting with school.
At the heart of this book is a really strong and sweet romance between Kaz and AIsha, based on friendship, trust, acceptance and attraction, but the journey to that romance is not an easy one for either of them and I loved how willing they were to fight for it and for each other. Clearly the book is not all sweetness and light, there are some truly hard hitting moments, and I admire the author for the way she handles them. It is a very thought provoking book, not just for the young adults it is aimed at, but for the grown adults too, and one that I would recommend wholeheartedly. Any book that could provoke the emotions this one did while I was reading is sure to stay with me for some time.