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A Long Pitch Home: 12/07/16
A Long Pitch Home by Natalie Dias Lorenzi is the story of a Pakistani boy trying to fit in now that he and his family have moved to Virginia. He was a champion cricketer and now is trying to learn baseball. Along with the trouble of the games being so frustratingly different, he's also upset that the star player is a girl!
In the last couple of years there has been a trend in middle grade fiction — stories about immigrant children trying to fit in their American schools. The stories either focus on how weird English is — so that even if you learn English in school, you'll still have trouble when moving countries, or they focus on sports because American sports are so different from the rest of the world's.
This one, like Kiki and Jacques, takes the sports angle. In Kiki and Jacques, at least the sport was one that's basically the same in both countries: football / soccer. This time, though, it's cricket. Cricket and baseball, except for the pitching a ball and the batting of a ball, are the exact opposites of each other.
Before we even get to the sexism of this book, let's look at this set up. Boy who is from Pakistan and loves to play cricket is suddenly stuck playing baseball because that's all that's available in backwards Virginia.
Yes, baseball is the "national pastime" but that doesn't mean cricket isn't available. There are cricket pitches in Virginia. Mind you the leagues are smaller but it would still be possible for Bilal to continue playing the game he loves.
Now onto the part that bugs the most — Jordan. Or rather, Bilal's reaction to her. As a kid the only team sport I wanted to be part of was a little league baseball. Back then it was a lot hard (nearly impossible) for girls to get onto baseball teams. Girls were expected to play softball lest they get hurt. BARF.
That unfortunate split still exists but it is easier for the baseball loving girls to get onto little league teams. Since the other team members — the Americans — are written as being okay with her on the team, Bilal's reaction is there just to show how much he has to learn about gender equality. Basically it's the story of backwards, sexist boy learns a valuable lesson while playing baseball in America.
My point is that sexism exists in both countries. Realistically Jordan would be facing it from her native Virginians well before Bilal joins the team.
In looking at the structure of this story, I think A Long Pitch Home should have picked either baseball or sexism rather than trying to do both. Imagine if Bilal was super excited to find a cricket team near his new home. Imagine going into it with lots of expectations and then being shocked to see a girl on the team!