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Anger Is a Gift: 09/29/18
Anger Is a Gift by Mark Oshiro is YA fiction set in Oakland, California. Six years earlier Moss's father was murdered by OPD, having mistaken him for someone else. Now a sophomore in high school, he's finding himself in a school that wants to treat him like a criminal with random locker searches, metal detectors and OPD roaming the hallways.
The book opens with Moss and friends riding BART to West Oakland. On the train, Moss flirts with a cute boy about his age. Then their train is stopped due to police activity at the station. They are eventually let off the train and Moss ends up having a panic attack.
It seemed unlikely that BART would let anyone off the train if there was police activity. Typically what happens is the train is allowed to roll to the next station and riders can either get off at the next station and wait until it's okay to ride back or if it's a long time thing, BART sets up a bus bridge between the stations.
For this book, I decided to take this first scene with a grain of salt.
Most of the scenes, though, take place at Moss's high school, West Oakland High School. Wait, what? West Oakland is a BART station, the end of the maze as I80 becomes the Bay Bridge. Other than that it's shipping and train yards. Besides on small condo complex, there is no housing in West Oakland.
As the book unfolds, the high school's failings continue to be introduced. It doesn't have money for working lockers or new textbooks, but it does have money for a police officer and for metal detectors at the front door.
Do drive home the point that Black and Hispanic neighborhoods are treated differently than White neighborhoods, Moss is given a friend who until recently went to the same school as him but now because of how the catchments are drawn, goes to wealthy Piedmont High School. Moss is shown riding his bike along Broadway to the Piedmont "neighborhood."
There are two HUGE things wrong with this set up and both are related to geography. First and foremost, Broadway doesn't end in West Oakland; it ends at Jack London Square. Second, Piedmont, while completely surrounded by Oakland is like West Berlin before German reunification. Piedmont is its own city with its own school district. It is literally impossible for Moss's friend to have gone to an OUSD school if she has lived her entire life in Piedmont.
Now let's look at Moss. If he lives on Broadway near the western terminus, he either lives near or in Oakland's China town. While the author makes a point of including a diverse group of friends — including numerous queer characters, various abled, and a wide arrange of Hispanic characters, there are no Chinese Americans.
The omission of Chinese Americans like so many of the other odd details in this book makes me believe that the author didn't do his homework. The author in his bio mentions living in Oakland briefly, but his roots are Los Angeles. I have to ask why he didn't set this story in Los Angeles where they do in fact use metal detectors in high schools?
Oakland Unified maintains its own police force. Their brief statement on that is on their website. A list of contacts is also provided here. They also have a way for the public to register complaints with treatment by the school police.
Mark Oshiro's depiction of Oakland bears little resemblance to actual Oakland. It reads like cherry picked details from Los Angeles relabeled as Oakland.
That's not to say Oakland is a perfect city. It has its problems stemming from gentrification, lack of funding due to California's screwed up property tax laws, and sky rocketing home and rental prices. This book, does not reflect any of Oakland's actual problems.