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Retaliation: A Novel by Yasmin Shiraz

Retaliation: A Novel

by Yasmin Shiraz

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Title: Retaliation
Author: Yasmin Shiraz
Publisher: Rolling Hills Press at Smashwords
Series: Retaliation # 1
Reviewed By: Arlena Dean
Rating: Five

"Retaliation" by Yasmin Shiraz

My Thoughts....

Wow, this was some story where 'Retaliation' is front and center in this urban YA read. Will the Odom family ever be the same after Tashera was 'brutally attacked by a group of HS girls.' It seems like their had already been problems in this family from her brother Kahlil who had been 'paralyzed
due to running with gangs.' What will happen when Tashera's mom and brother tries to take care of the situation that had happened? My, my how this dramatic story will take many turns through retaliation.

There will be so many twist and turns that one will find it hard to put down definitely keeping your attention all the way to the end of the story. I found this wasn't a happy story ... quite a sad one but in the end will Tashera find any happiness through all of this? Well, you will have to pick up this novel and see for yourself how well this storyline is brought out to the readers.

I liked how Tashera reach out to Yasmin [the author of this novel] who had spoke at one time at her school. It was indeed wonderful to see how that Tashera wanted out of her present situation and had someone to tell her trouble to that truly understood what she was going through.

"Retaliation" really brings out what can happen from one 'single act of violence' that did affect so many individuals in this community. Would I recommend? YES!

Thank you to the author for the gift of the read for my honest opinion of the read. ( )
  arlenadean | Aug 9, 2016 |
I think that everyone should pick up this book - it is such a realistic account of inner city living, violence and teenage angst and will hit any reader hard. Shiraz does a wonderful job with this book - it is told from multiple perspectives, all focusing around retaliation for an incident - all the ways people become involved and take it upon themselves to make things 'right'. It was a very deep contemporary read.

This author emailed me about Retaliation and from the very beginning I was interested. I went to college and grew up outside of DC in Northern Virginia and Towson, MD - but for explanation purposes when asked were I would live I would just say DC. However, my life and experiences were far from what those face in the inner cities as show by this very realistic account of city life and involvement.

In the book Tashera is brutally attacked by people that she doesn't even know and everyone in her family takes it upon themselves to provide her justice - only adding to the emotional agony in her life. The book was all about choices and how many can effect your life so deeply without you even knowing.

I really think everyone should grab this one and read it for themselves, it was violent, real, and overall a hard-hitting portrayal of life. ( )
  sszkutak | Jul 16, 2015 |
This could have been ripped right out of the headlines of today's newspaper. Tashera is a seventeen year old high school girl who is attacked while on her way home. She is jumped by three girls she goes to school with. She doesn't know why. Her mother is very angry. The streets have already claimed one child. Her son Kahlil was paralyzed while running with a gang. Her oldest son has gotten out and become a lawyer. The problem is that the violence doesn't stop here. They each find a way to retaliate for what was done to Tashera. This is a problem in a lot of inner city areas. The circle of violence just keeps going around and around. However, as realistic as this book is, it leaves you with a feeling that there is always hope. The author has even included conflict resolution tips at the end of the book. This would be an excellent book to be read aloud in the classroom. I have been lucky in my life and career to not have experienced this situation. However, last year I had a student who wrote a poem in which he expressed his biggest fear is dying in a drive-by shooting. This is something that happens often in his neighborhood. If this book can be used to give even one student hope then it is most definitely worth the read. It is a book I highly recommend. ( )
  skstiles612 | Mar 8, 2015 |
A Study in Rape Culture

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Goodreads' First Reads program. Trigger warning for extensive discussions of physical violence including rape. Also, this review contains minor spoilers.)

Seventeen-year-old Tashera Odom tries to keep to herself and out of trouble. She gets good grades, doesn't gossip or pick fights, eschews the clique culture, and braids hair on the side to save enough money for college. But as a student at Marion Barry High School in Washington, DC, escaping the violence that plagues her community is challenging at best. Tashera's neighborhood is home two two rival gangs: the Deuce Très (23rd Street) and Deuce Five (25th Street) crews. Violence is an "every day, every hour" occurrence, even for those who try to stay out of the fray.

One April afternoon, Tashera is jumped and viciously beaten by three girls while on her way home from school. Luckily, a bystander - a paramedic by the name of Ashe Thurgood - witnesses the attack and intervenes on Tash's behalf before the girls can inflict any permanent physical damage. Though she doesn't know her attackers, it's rather quickly established that the assault was masterminded by fellow classmates Jessica Barnes - the ex-girlfriend ("previous conquest" might be more apt) of Tash's boyfriend Ahmed Warner - and carried out by Jessica and her two best friends, DeCalia Thomas and Alexandra Kent.

Retaliation examines how this single act of violence affects Tashera, as well as those around her - and, in turn, the community as a whole. The assault has a ripple effect, causing waves of escalating violence as those closest to Shera retaliate against her attackers: Her mother, Sheila Odom, launches her own investigation; this quickly takes her to Calia's door, where she assaults Calia's mom Anita. Both women are arrested, resulting in a war between the Thomases and Odoms. Tashera's brother Khalil - a former Deuce Très member who was shot in the spine and paralyzed during a robbery some four years ago - falls back on his gang ties to seek his own form of revenge (an eye for an eye). Ahmed tries to trick Jessica into admitting her part in the assault on tape - but instead witnesses her abduction. Before the story ends, one girl will end up in jail; another, in the hospital; and the last, dead by her own hand.

Each of these acts of retaliation share one common element: none of Tashera's loved ones stop to consider what she wants. Indeed, when she begs her mother and brother to leave the situation be, both dismiss her out of hand. For Sheila, being a mother means protecting your children at all costs. To Khalil, this is a gang matter - a breach of rules and a matter of disrespect, since Tashera is supposed to be off-limits - even though the attack had nothing to do with gang activities (as the authorities initially fear).

Retaliation is a gripping, powerful look at the impact of violence on individuals and communities. While few of the characters (especially the adults) are particularly likable, Shiraz does a wonderful job of challenging her readers to see the situation through their eyes. For instance, while Sheila most certainly jumps the gun - she doesn't even give the police a day to conduct their investigation before taking matters into her own hands - her distrust in law enforcement stems from a lifetime of dealing with police mistreatment and malfeasance. (Seriously, just Google "police brutality." I'll wait.) Ultimately, it is only Ashe's personal connections in the police department, coupled with fear of further gang violence, that spurs the swift investigation and trial.

The author's decision to write herself into the story - in a critical way - is both unexpected and refreshing. Shiraz, who conducts youth workshops and lectures across the US, is the author of five books, including an empowerment series called "The Blueprint for My Girls." While not a true story, Retaliation is inspired by Shiraz's work; and as she struggles to come to terms with the violence done to her, Tashera finds herself corresponding with Shiraz, who lectured at Marion Barry earlier that year. She takes issue with Shiraz's advice, which seems out of touch: "My good morals didn't get me anything but jumped." Just what are kids to do when violence surrounds them? How can we expect them to escape when we've cut off most of their avenues?

So why the 3 1/2 star rating? (Rounded down to 3 on Amazon, natch.) I'm incredibly disappointed with Shiraz's handling of the rape culture which permeates Retaliation. Whereas Tashera's assault is identified as the impetus for the retaliatory acts of violence found here, I'd argue that the roots run much deeper. To most of the characters, Jessica is a bitter ex-girlfriend who's both jealous of Tashera and angry about how Ahmed treated her. While this treatment - passing her around to his friends on the basketball team and then dumping her for being a "follower" and sleeping with "too many" guys - is morally repugnant, the precipitating event is much, much worse: before she willingly (?) had sex with his friends, Ahmed and his best friend Mike raped Jessica.

Ahmed recalled his relationship with Jessica last summer. It was bad enough he had treated Jessica like a piece of meat, but letting his boys tap her, too, went way over the line of decency.

He had told Mike that he'd handle things with Jessica, and he wasted no time in doing so. Later that day, after talking to Mike, Ahmed told Jessica he was coming to visit her. He told her that he wanted to wrap a scarf around her eyes so she couldn't see what he was doing. Once he wrapped her eyes, he went downstairs and led Mike into her bedroom. Mike started to have sex with her though Jessica thought it was Ahmed, that is, until she took off the scarf.

"Ahmed, what is going on?" Jessica yelled.

Ahmed came into the bedroom. "I didn't think you'd really have sex with him, so I just helped it along. It's like a favor for me. So thanks."

This is rape, full stop.

And yet the word "rape" doesn't appear once in Retaliation.

Indeed, if you read the above passage carefully, it's the consensual (yet questionably so) behavior that's called into question - the "letting his boys tap her" - rather than the rape. Passing her around might indeed cross the line of decency - but tricking her into "having sex" with Mike is downright criminal.

THIS is the act of violence that triggers Tashera's attack, and everything that comes after it. And yet it's never named for what it is, or even treated with the gravity it demands.

After her breakup with Mike - indeed, probably sooner, as in following the rape - Jessica changes: She begins exhibiting symptoms of PTSD. She starts dressing all in black. Her grades slip. She has nightmares and flashbacks. And, of course, she starts to think about getting revenge on Ahmed.

Clearly she's suffering, yet no one steps up to help her: not her teachers, not her parents, not the principal. In fact, she's repeatedly dismissed as "mental" - nevermind that it's Ahmed and Mike's actions that are the source of her distress.

It's unfortunate that Jessica decides to take revenge on Ahmed by hurting Tashera; Tashera is an innocent bystander; she had nothing to do with Jessica's rape. And yet it's important to note that it's her own mother's advice (however innocently intended) that inspires the attack: to really make a boy suffer, you go after his heart.

To be sure, Retaliation is filled with questionable (yet painfully realistic) decisions and acts of violence. However, Jessica's rape is one of the few that Shiraz allows to stand on its own, unquestioned. Sheila, Khalil, even Tashera: the actions of each of these characters is called out in the text, rather than leaving the readers to do so of their own devices. For example, Sheila's cousin -slash- lawyer Richard King challenges her to assume some responsibility for the events which befall her after Tashera's assault: the confrontation with Anita, both women's arrest, the ongoing feud, and Sheila's suspension from her administrative job. Khalil's gang activities are a constant source of strife between Tashera and her brother. And Shiraz herself entreats Tashera not to change who she is (by carrying a switchblade to school), thus letting her enemies win.

Even Ahmed's co-rapist Mike chides him for failing to report Jessica's kidnapping to the police!

But the rape? It's just bundled up with Ahmed's other shitty behavior - passing Jessica around, only to unceremoniously dump her - under the gentler euphemism "how I treated her." As in, "Jessica attacked Tashera because she's mad at how I treated her."

No, she's traumatized because you and your friend raped her, and now she not only has to see you at school every day, but she has to watch silently as everyone treats you like a God: cheering your name on the basketball court, throwing scholarship money at you, and dating you even though you're a rapist.

Personally, I feel bad for Jessica; she's a victim right alongside Tashera. By story's end, I found myself wishing that she and her friends had jumped Ahmed and Mike instead. Because the police? Even less likely to care about a "gray" rape that a "promising" athlete "allegedly" committed (against a woman of color, no less) more than six months ago than they are a random schoolyard beatdown. There's no justice there.

So. Not only is the rape glossed over, but Ahmed emerges from the story unscathed, even as his actions wreak havoc on everyone around him. He escapes prosecution (Jessica never reports the rape; in fact, she might even not think of it as "rape" - though it's worth noting that Ahmed and Mike must have at least suspected, since they recognized that Jessica's consent was not guaranteed); retains his relationship with Tashera (who, to be fair, might not even know about the rape); and not only keeps his basketball scholarships, but cashes in early.

Declarations of growth and lesson-learning abound, yet Ahmed never acknowledges that his "treatment" of Jessica crossed the line from morally reprehensible to criminal. In fact, after he's mistakenly arrested for her abduction, Ahmed drops this gem: "I was in jail for kidnapping somebody I'd never laid a finger on."

But didn't you, Ahmed? DIDN'T YOU?

Continuing this trend, the author includes some tips for conflict resolution at the end of the book...but nothing on rape prevention. Even though it was a rape that precipitated all the subsequent violence in the book.

In many ways, Retaliation is a look at the impossibilities of navigating neighborhoods plagued by violence unscathed. But rape culture also permeates the story - and in not identifying it, interrogating it, engaging in it - Shiraz does her readers a disservice. I'm afraid that many readers - especially teens - will read the scene I quoted above and not see a rape, but just some boorish behavior of the "boys will be boys" variety.

Ahmed might be leaving the gang violence that permeated DC behind him - but he'll still be a rapist, privileged and protected through his athletic prowess, in whichever college town he finds himself. Retaliation is ripe for a critical examination of athletic culture and how it not only excuses, but encourages misogyny and perpetuates rape culture.

http://www.easyvegan.info/2014/06/27/retaliation-a-novel-by-yasmin-shiraz/ ( )
1 vote smiteme | Jun 21, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 097181743X, Paperback)

Violence runs rampant on the streets of Washington, DC, and on one seemingly quiet day, the Odom family finds its world destroyed when seventeen-year-old Tashera is brutally attacked by a group of high school girls. Retaliation exposes the corrupting existence of violence in our communities and the retaliatory measures families go through to protect themselves and their children.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:44 -0400)

When a popular high school girl is badly beaten in a fight borne from jealousy, the girl, her family, and her DC community must choose whether to stay in the violent, dangerous status quo or rise above the violence and its deadly consequences that permeates every crevice of their community.… (more)

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