It wasn’t so long ago when I still believed that it was impossible for a politician to run on a platform of white nationalism and come anywhere close to winning. Now I realize that this belief was a result of my white privilege and that, for many people in the United States, this possibility was never in doubt. Hate has always been a presence in their lives.
Verdad’s life has been turned upside down by hatred in The Truth Is by NoNieqa Ramos. While the full extent of this tragedy is not revealed until the middle of the book, it is clear that something horrible has happened to Verdad. We know that her best friend Blanca has died, though Verdad still has internal conversations with her. The other kids call Verdad Ex Machina because they think she acts like a robot, so most of her time outside of class is spent in a bathroom stall pulling out her hair as a coping mechanism to deal with her grief.
Until Danny shows up, that is. Verdad’s classmates pay less attention to her and start to spend more time trying to figure out if Danny is male or female. To Verdad, Danny is just Danny. The kid who brings fruit to the bathroom stall and deals with bullies on the bus for her. However, pronouns are helpful in any situation and when Verdad finally says, “pronouns, please for the love of God,” Danny is happy to tell her that he/him works just fine.
Danny brings Verdad more joy than she has known in quite a while. Everyone has been encouraging her to move past the hateful incident she experienced and no one more than her mom. So, it would seem like she would be happy to discover that Verdad has someone new in her life to help to fill the void that was left behind. But the response that Verdad is met with when her mom meets Danny, demonstrates the power that hate can have to overwhelm the strongest of connections. Even family. Even love.
As shocked as Verdad might be, Danny is not. He, and the four other teens he lives with under a fountain at the park, are quite familiar with being despised by the ones they love. They also know that sometimes the only way to escape from hate is to find a better and more inclusive form of love.
Hatred has been a constant in the lives of so many of our fellow human beings for such a long time. Love should not be something that people have to go out and find. We need to start carrying it with us and spreading it around in ways that (to paraphrase the “hater in chief”) have never been seen before. In The Truth Is there are characters who overcome the greatest odds to make sure that love is felt by everyone. Readers can learn so much from them while sharing the love that they feel for each other.
Teaching Tolerance Social Justice Standards:
Diversity 9: I relate to and build connections with other people by showing them empathy, respect and understanding, regardless of our similarities or differences.
Diversity 10: I understand that diversity includes the impact of unequal power relations on the development of group identities and cultures.
Justice 11: I relate to all people as individuals rather than representatives of groups and can identify stereotypes when I see or hear them.
Action 19: I stand up to exclusion, prejudice and discrimination, even when it’s not popular or easy or when no one else does.
RL.2- Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
RL.3- Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.