When Aisha moves to Kaz’s neighborhood the two strike up an immediate friendship through their dogs. When Aisha learns Kaz’s dog is named Wolverine she immediately asks if the namesake is Logan or Laura. This X-Men reference leads the two to bond over comics and this blossoms into a deep connection. Kaz’s feelings for Aisha begin to evolve, but just telling her isn’t easy. While Aisha grew up in L.A. and has been out since she was a pre-teen, Kaz is struggling not with sexuality, but with gender. In the Silences takes a friendship and creates a story that examines gender stereotypes, racism, and sexism and the impact it can have no matter where you live.
For the purpose of this article I am going to refer to Kaz by they/them pronouns, which is a bit of a spoiler, but useful for sentence structure. Kaz has never felt fully comfortable in their skin, but they have been struggling with how they truly want to express themselves. Raised female, they have always used she/her pronouns, but they don’t always feel right in clothing considered the standard for that gender. They feel both masculine and feminine at various times and when they try to explain this to Aisha she accepts them as them. Kaz knows that Aisha identifies as bi, but she prefers women or feminine presenting people, and Kaz isn’t sure they always fit in those boxes, which keeps them from telling Aisha how they feel. Throughout their journey, Kaz begins to find words for who they are and the right pronouns that fit, but that’s not the only thing they are trying to work through. Being raised in a predominantly white neighborhood has kept Kaz in a sort of bubble of privilege, that through Aisha and her experiences they realizes has left them blind to the racism in the world. Together the friends examine the differences in the way that Aisha is treated and through that Kaz realizes that they need to do something to change the voices in people’s heads that lead to continuous racial stereotypes and racist behaviors.
Rachel Gold has crafted a story that is both a sweet coming of age romance, but is also a treatise on societal issues that impact everyone. With Kaz as the primary narrator readers are able to see racism through the eyes of someone who is actively working to break the societal condition that they had never realized lurked in their mind. The work that Kaz and Aisha do together to try and make the world a better place is inspiring and shows that allyship is something that everyone needs to take on for populations that are seen as minorities. Beyond that the discussion of gender and gender expression that is opened up by having Kaz as a main character is exquisitely done and is full of information that is easy to understand and relate with. The story itself might initially seem like a teen romance, but it is so much more. In the Silences is something I think could be and should be required reading for a number of people and could be used in a classroom setting. I absolutely loved this book and found myself learning new things. This book will leave you thinking and that is something that only great books can do. You can find In the Silences on Bella Books.