HURDLES (MG Contemporary)




Lisa Moore Ramee


MG Contemporary

Word Count:

41,000 words


Eleven-year-old Shay knows all about suffering.

Having a five-head instead of a forehead? Suffering.

Falling flat on your face at your first track meet—in front of everybody? Suffering.

Your best friend deserting you for an all-Asian group? Suffering.

Proving you’re black enough, or get dog-piled if you can’t? Major suffering.

All Shay wants is to make it through the sixth grade without embarrassing herself, and maybe, just maybe, have a cute boy see past her ginormous forehead. Face-planting at a track meet was not the plan. But when the track coach asks Shay to be part of the relay team, Shay must face her fears and join forces with the very girls who’ve been teasing her about not being black enough. If she doesn’t, she’ll risk forever tripping over the next hurdle. Talk about suffering.

HURDLES is a MG Contemporary, complete at 41,000 words.

As an African American author it is important to me that books featuring black main characters join the canon of stories about growing up and coming to terms with who you are, because the difference matters. My publishing credits include: The Little Mermaid Junior Graphic Novel (Disney Comics) and Kwanzaa, ABC and Me On Sesame Street and The Three Little Pigs (Best Personalized Books). I also have had short pieces published in online literary journals. (Tattoo Highway and 2nd Hand) I have a MA in English Literature and am a member of SCBWI.

First 300 words:

I’m allergic to trouble. It makes my palms itch. So when Mr. Levy, our science teacher, started calling out partner assignments and my hands felt like I just stuck them in a flaming bowl of poison ivy, I should’ve paid attention. But I was too busy fantasizing I might be partnered with Jace. A fine specimen if ever there was one. In a movie that’s just the way it would happen. Lots of staring soulfully at each other over Bunsen burners.

My life was not a movie.

Or if it was, it was the kind of movie my sister, Hana, likes with lots of screaming and blood and grossness.

“Shayla and…Bernard.” That was how Mr. Levy said it. He paused a few seconds like he was really thinking about it. Like he didn’t already have the partner list on a sheet in front of him. Enough time to imagine Bunsen burners.

That is the type of thing I’d rush to tell Brianna about. If we were still friends. If she even acted like I existed.

I snuck a peak at Bernard. He was in the back, slouched low in his seat. Bernard was big and barely fit in the desk. Not fat. Just BIG.

He caught me looking at him and his mouth shifted into a mean grimace. I gulped and looked away.

I was doomed.

If you tell Momma about a problem, she starts talking about missing Nigerian girls or starving babies in Sudan. “Those are problems,” she’ll say. What she’s really saying is: Stop your bellyaching and count your blessings.

I get plenty to eat and as far as I know, no one is about to kidnap me. Yes. Things could be worse. That’s not the point. Being partnered with Bernard is as close to a death sentence as I can imagine.


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