WATCH US RISE is like a young feminist’s manual for intersectional thinking. Written from two points of view, protagonists Chelsea and Jasmine are both young feminists exploring public advocacy for the first time. They create a school club called Write Like a Girl, which is shut down by the principal of their supposedly woke high school. As they explore different avenues to combat the interpersonal and institutional sexism they experience, they are also confronted by the different ways their own identities—age, weight, race, and more—contribute to this experience. The book is woven together with art, featuring poetry by Ellen Hagan.
While at times I found it to be didactic, I think that may have been coming from a place of discomfort. I found myself being challenged by the earnestness of the young women in contrast with the adult characters telling them they would understand these issues better when they grew up. I saw too much of myself in those adults.
And yet, I also recognized so much of myself—past and present—in the young women’s frustrations and challenges. They grappled with what it means to be a feminist in ways beyond the obvious discrimination they faced at school. What does it mean to be a feminist who is also interested in fashion and beauty? What does it mean to be a feminist who also has a huge crush on a boy who treats you like dirt? What happens when you—the feminist—don’t even notice or acknowledge some facet of another woman’s identity?
All of these issues, and many more, are comprehensively explored. There’s also love, grief, heartache, intergenerational relationships, and so much art. I recommend WATCH US RISE to young reader-activists who are ready for a challenge and ready to challenge others.