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They Work Hard for the $$ | Dive Into Diversity

Dive Into Diversity Reading Challenge

Welcome to March! It’s been another fantastic month of reads, and I hope you’re feeling the same way. I’m suuuper excited to be back and chatting about a diverse subject near and dear to my heart. As always, I would love to hear your feedback and don’t forget to link up your diverse reads below! – Estelle


When I turned 16, my parents were very adamant about me getting a part-time job. The holiday before, I had worked with my friend at her dad’s store selling cards and learning how to wrap the perfect gift; I always did a lot of volunteering to help out my parents with their projects too. But this was a paycheck, my first foray into independence, because without that paycheck, there would be no extracurriculars or trips to the movies for me. So yes — money was fantastic — but so were the people I met while working at the local drugstore. We were like our own little family and I liked it so much that work never exactly felt like work. (Until I had an exploding bottle of shampoo all over my shirt. So fun.) Yes, I had to say “no” a lot because I was on the clock but even now I never regret having to pass.

Because so many of my favorite high school memories (and maybe the most heartbreaking) stem from the times I roamed the aisles of CVS or stayed up late having heart-to-hearts in the store’s parking lot, I get such a kick out of reading about characters who find themselves splitting their time between a million other things and a job, and who find themselves involved in a whole new crew because of that job. Diversity isn’t only about race or ethnicity but it’s also about economics. We can’t control how the cards are dealt when we are young — there are those who are lucky enough to not have to think about it, those who are buried under the stresses day after day, and others who fall somewhere in the middle — they have the basics but that’s where it ends.

Like must diverse subjects, this is a sensitive one. When I was growing up, both of my parents worked and we took really lovely vacations. But if I needed a haircut or wanted new clothes for school, that was on me. When I went away to college, I had whatever I saved from working that summer (not a lot) and then I was on my own. I’m sure my parents would have obliged if I asked for something but this is just the way I grew up, I never really asked (which didn’t automatically make me a fiscally responsible person, I’ll admit). But I wonder what life would have been like if I was in high school when my dad was laid off from the job he had for 30 years, what my childhood would have been like if my mom was the one working 3 jobs and my dad was the one cooking our dinners. (Role reversal, I’ve seen, is tough for the baby boomers.) I’m consciously looking for the recession to make its way into my reading, but I haven’t seen much of it yet.

As I’m writing this, I realize there are many ideas floating around here: survival, responsibility, and how we relate to the world we are born into, a world that can change in the most surprising ways. The surprises can be tough and they can be wonderful — like how getting a job, learning new skills, and meeting new people was one of the first times I ever felt like a grown up. One in four high school students have a part time job and many great people on Twitter shared their own high school jobs experiences; wouldn’t this stuff make for some great, diverse stories?

For now, I’m sharing a few suggestions that I feel reflect the support and community many high school-ers find at part-time jobs — all from very diverse economic backgrounds. I hope you’ll add these to your reading lists! I’d also love to hear your own picks and your own high school job stories. Dig deep! We want to hear all about it.

Dive Into Diversity Working During High School YA Books

I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios | The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds |
Racing Savannah by Miranda Kenneally | The Distance Between Us by Kasie West

Perfectly Good White Boy by Carrie Mesrobian | Like No Other by Una LaMarche
Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo | Reality Boy by A.S. King

Thanks to Molly, Cassie, and Magan for contributing to this list!

And a few more, thanks to the #DiversityDive tag (You guys rock!): Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland | Rules of Summer by Joanna Philbin | Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu | Shut Out by Kody Keplinger | My Life Next Door and What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick | Crash Into You and Take Me On by Katie McGarry | Cherry Money Baby by John Cusick | Top Ten Clues You’re Clueless by Liz Czukas | On the Fence by Kasie West | The Chapel Wars by Lindsey Leavitt | How to Love by Katie Cotugno | The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin

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November 12, 2015 - 8:39 pm

Crystal - Hi. I just read Show and Prove and the teens in that book are working summer jobs. It made me think back on this post so I popped back to include that title.

March 12, 2015 - 10:04 pm

Crystal - In thinking about MCs with jobs, I thought of some in traditional and some in non-traditional jobs. X (fictional biography), The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano (she works at a 5 and dime), Angel de la Luna and the 5th Glorious Mystery (she cleans a school), The Living (he has a summer job on a cruise ship), The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child (and the books to follow – memoir, but a little fictionalized), The Fire Horse Girl (works for a gang), Marcelo in the Real World (summer job), Tankborn (slaves) and Pig Park (all of the neighborhood young people work together on a project). In the Raven Cycle books by Stiefvate, Lily and one of the boys have jobs. Rickshaw Girl is actually a middle grade book, but really explores this concept of working especially in relation to helping family. Another middle grade that does this is My Life in Pink and Green.

March 10, 2015 - 4:22 pm

Molly | wrapped up in books - I love this post! Thanks for sharing your personal experiences. I have such nostalgia for my part-time job, as I shared briefly on twitter when I happened to see your tweet. But, reading your comments on survival and responsibility forces me to look at it with less rose-colored glasses. I did love working at my parent’s restaurant in high school, and most of my friends worked there part-time as well. After my dad died, my mom wasn’t as up on the business side of things, and I did take on a lot more responsibility than I was ready for, and it was hard to just have fun with my friends sometime when the restaurant was my family’s livelihood. In fact, there probably is a YA novel in there somewhere, complete with the older guy who bought us liquor, workplace romance, and lots of pizza.

As far as favorite books, I suggested Love and Other Perishable Items, but I also recently read I’ll Take You There and The Boy in the Black Suit, and both were fantastic.

March 10, 2015 - 2:25 pm

Alexa S. - I love how your post was part thoughtful personal reflection and part invitation for us to join you! You really balanced both well. Plus, it’s a great topic to tackle for Dive into Diversity, too! Really liked this post + the recs.

March 10, 2015 - 12:16 pm

Katie @ The Logonauts - Thanks again for the diversity push! Really enjoying reading more diverse books and finding out about even more.

March 10, 2015 - 9:31 am

Lauren @ Bookmark Lit - I always love when books feature MCs who have a job! I worked at a local grocery store through high school (and whenever I came home during college) and it was so much fun. I got so close with my coworkers and definitely had a lot of parking lot heart-to-hearts. Those experiences were great and taught me a lot!

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