Family Book Club: SLAY
Reading level: young adult
Synopsis: Kiera seems like a normal teenage girl, but she's harboring a huge secret. That massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) known as a "mecca for Nubian kings and queens"? The one built completely on global Black culture? Where Black kids from around the world can find respite from gaming racism and celebrate one another? Kiera built it. She runs it. And she's never told a soul. Not her parents—who she feels won't be accepting of some aspects of the culture. Not her sister—who she's afraid will lecture everyone on the importance of every aspect of the culture. Not her boyfriend—who believes video games are another of white society's tools to try and keep Black folks down. Not her best friend—who tries to be woke but shows her white ignorance more often than not. Kiera's been pretty good at juggling it all, until a boy is murdered over the game, and suddenly the whole world knows it exists.
When Kiera built SLAY, all she wanted was a place where kids and teenagers didn't have to hear racial slurs and witness the prejudice built into the system—where, for instance, you could choose more than one dark-skinned character option. But now that the news has its hands on SLAY's existence, they're turning the tables, saying Kiera—or, rather, Kiera's online persona, Emerald—is the racist one, using skin color as a gatekeeper to keep white folks out. Between the guilt over the boy's murder, the lawsuits being dangled from every side, and an interloper to the game threatening to tear it all down, Kiera's world is unravelling. Luckily for her, with each online persona comes a real person, ones who value their safe haven as much as—if not more than—Kiera, and they won't let her take up the fight alone.
Categories: STEM, family/friend dynamics, race/racism, isolation
- Kiera saw an opportunity to create a community and took it. Where do you see gaps that could be filled? What are steps you could take toward doing so?
- One of the reasons Kiera loves the SLAY-verse is because she feels so singled out in her almost entirely white high school. Are there times you've felt like the only person in a room full of people who understands/feels/lives/believes something? Are there other communities you could find to relieve some of that isolation?
- Kiera's best friend, Harper, wants to talk about anything and everything race related in an effort to make Kiera comfortable, but she accidentally keeps putting Kiera on the spot to be an authority on all things Black culture. Think about your interactions with your friends of different races and cultural backgrounds. Do you make attempts to talk to them about their experiences? Do you accidentally take it too far sometimes? On the flip side, do friends ever do that to you? Think about some boundaries you could set up to invite honesty but also protect from mental and emotional exhaustion.
- In the end, the people Kiera has been holding at arm's length are the ones who help her through the biggest challenges. Do you have friends and/or family members you don't talk to about things because you're afraid they just won't get it? Is it possible you're unfairly judging them and, because of it, hurting yourself by being closed off? If so, try to find a time and place you feel comfortable opening up, letting them know you're looking for empathy and support, not judgement or a fix-it attitude.
- Though Kiera spent all of high school striving for perfection so she could apply to the best schools, in the end, she realizes college may not be in the cards, not when she has the opportunity to make a career out of what she loves. What do you love? Are there ways you can pursue it in addition to or outside of school? Are there steps you can take now that make doing what you love professionally a reality?
Activity: Kiera couldn't find what she needed online, so she built it herself. Game design is really accessible if you take the time and put in the effort. Try some free online courses from EdX, Coursera, Udemy, and Skill Share. Coursera also offers a ton of app development courses, if staying mobile is more your style.