Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein
Published by Disney-Hyperion
From the publisher:
Emilia and Teo’s lives changed in a fiery, terrifying instant when a bird strike brought down the plane their stunt pilot mothers were flying. Teo’s mother died immediately, but Em’s survived, determined to raise Teo according to his late mother’s wishes-in a place where he won’t be discriminated against because of the color of his skin. But in 1930s America, a white woman raising a black adoptive son alongside a white daughter is too often seen as a threat.
Seeking a home where her children won’t be held back by ethnicity or gender, Rhoda brings Em and Teo to Ethiopia, and all three fall in love with the beautiful, peaceful country. But that peace is shattered by the threat of war with Italy, and teenage Em and Teo are drawn into the conflict. Will their devotion to their country, its culture and people, and each other be their downfall or their salvation?
Elizabeth Wein has done it again. Like Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire, Black Dove, White Raven is an incredible book that mixes history with YA with ALL THE FEELS. There’s so much to love about this novel that I am not even sure where to start.
First, this novel brought to light for me a conflict in history, the war between Italy and Ethiopia, that I had no idea was even a thing that happened. Honestly, I love books that make me feel ignorant about the world – not because I feel bad about myself for not having the knowledge (which does also happen), but that it reminds me that there’s SO much I don’t know, and that I should keep seeking out books and authors that will continue to challenge me and teach me new things. Which this book did, in spades. I learned a lot about this time in Ethiopia’s history, and I’d highly recommend this novel as a good choice for those who want diversity in their reading experiences, combined with amazing characters and relationships.
Speaking of the characters – the characters! Elizabeth Wein just writes friendship so amazingly well, I have to tell you. Emilia and Teo grow up as siblings after Teo’s mother, Delia, dies, but in addition to brother and sister, they are best friends. These two would absolutely do anything for one another, and this pure, loving, uncomplicated friendship is, in my opinion, the heart of this story. There’s also the friendship between their mothers – when Delia dies, Rhoda goes into a deep depression, shutting out everything and everybody, barely taking care of her own children. While this is incredibly heart-breaking, it’s also indicative of the deep and true friendship these two women shared. The things they did together – breaking down sexist and racist stereotypes about what women of color can and should do, embarking on incredibly difficult barnstorming maneuvers, engaging in intensely dangerous situations, raising children together – only served to strengthen their bond. So much so that when Teo’s mom dies, Rhoda knows that the only thing she can do is live out Delia’s dream for her son and bring him back to his father’s homeland, Ethiopia. The goal is to get him out of racist America and give him an opportunity for a life free from oppression.
While at first their life in Ethiopia seems idyllic and, frankly, perfect, it spirals out of control a few years later when the war with Italy starts. When I tell you that I learned so much in this book, I’m not kidding. Did you know that there were slaves in Ethiopia, too? As recently as 1930? I certainly did not. Anyway. The book escalates at a rapid pace in the last 100 pages or so as Teo ends up involved in the war, the three of them get separated, and awful things happen. And in typical Wein fashion, readers’ hearts are broken and tears ensure (at least in my case).
I’m realizing now how much I rambled here and how and messy this “review” was but I don’t even care. Read this book. Black Dove, White Raven is incredible for so many reasons.