Cover image for Born in sin
Born in sin
Coleman, Evelyn, 1948-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2001.
Physical Description:
234 pages ; 22 cm
Despite serious obstacles and setbacks, fourteen-year-old Keisha pursues her dream of becoming an Olympic swimmer and medical doctor.
General Note:
"A Richard Jackson book."
Reading Level:
530 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 3.9 8.0 45699.

Reading Counts RC High School 5.8 14 Quiz: 24904 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Malik got out of the swing and walked in back of me. "I've seen you swim, girl. You're the best I've ever seen. And whenever you ready you can win. Or, you can give up", he said, placing his hand in the middle of my back. "Just remember one thing", he said, pushing me gently, so gently, I could barely feel his hand as I swung up into the air. "I'll be here for you when you need me. But only if you don't let them win"."Them who?" I asked, closing my eyes and letting the wind whisper on my face."Them who would hold you back", he said. "Keisha . . ". He stopped the swing with both his hands on either side of me. He leaned in close to my ear and whispered, "Keisha, don't let them win. I've gotta go now, but if anybody bothers you again, I'm taking it up".-- from Born in Sin

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 7^-12. "Just cause we poor don't mean we born in sin." Growing up in the all-black projects, Keisha Wright, 14, is a straight-A student who plans to attend nearby Avery University's premed summer course. Instead, she is dumped in a charitable program for "at-risk" kids. In the end she does go to Avery, with the help of her strong, loving single-parent mom. In fact, through some decidedly awkward plot contrivances, just about all Keisha's dreams come true during one packed summer: she learns to swim and immediately becomes Olympic-class; discovers her long-lost dad; and finds a perfect boyfriend. Yet the bitter alternatives are there, too. Keisha knows she could be trapped like her mom, cleaning up at a motel; or like her older sister, a single mom at 16; or like her best friend, shot by a drug-dealing boyfriend. Prejudice is a daily reality, whether it's the country-club set that doesn't want black kids swimming in the pool, or Keisha's classmates who say her academic achievement means she wants to be white. What grips you in this story--as in the great books in the Read-alikes column, opposite--is the personal city voices that ring true: tough, honest, witty, grim, and beautiful. There's hope in the individuals who overcome the divides of class and race, but many teens will recognize how hard it is to get out. --Hazel Rochman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Keisha, a 14-year-old growing up in Georgia, narrates the events of a pivotal summer in Coleman's (White Socks Only) inspiring novel. When her high school guidance counselor thwarts her efforts to get into Avery's fast-track pre-med program and instead places Keisha in a summer program for at-risk kids, Keisha erupts in a rage (" `You know what, Ms. Hill. Ain't the hospital just a few blocks away? I ain't the one at risk. You are.' And I leaped over the desk to get to her"). The author carefully finesses Keisha's complex emotions as she attempts to be true to herself and to navigate the obstructions in her path. It is Keisha's strong narrative voice, combined with some striking characters and relationships, that keeps her story afloat, despite some far-fetched and serpentine plot developments. Through this summer at-risk program, Keisha learns to deal with her own racial prejudice, makes her first real friends and discovers that she has a natural talent for swimming. Readers may find that Keisha's acceleration from non-swimmer to Olympic hopeful stretches credibility. And the two-dimensional portrayal of the white leaders of the at-risk program (they speak in sports metaphors, for instance) detracts from the more penetrating, insidious examples of racism (such as the conversation between Miss Troutman, the head of the program, and Keisha's mother) elsewhere in the novel. But the authentic interactions here far outweigh the missteps. The relationships among the women form the core of the novel: tender bedtime conversations between Keisha and her older sister, many touching scenes between Keisha and her mother, and the heroine's recollections of her grandmother ("As long as there's stars in the sky we gonna be all right. My grandma taught me that before she died and I believe her"). Keisha's rise to the top will keep readers enthralled. Ages 14-up. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 8 Up-In gritty vernacular, Keisha Wright narrates a testimonial depicting the racial stereotypes and socioeconomic hardships that many urban African-American teens struggle to overcome. A good student with ambitions to become a doctor, she learns that she has been transferred out of the college-prep curriculum by a guidance counselor who considers her to be at-risk. Shocked and angry, the 14-year-old is bolstered by the stalwart affection and support of her hardworking single mother, her intuitive unwed older sister who has a two-year-old, and her loyal younger brother. Attending a white-run teen-rescue program, Keisha discovers her swimming ability and is groomed for Olympic trials by an admiring coach. Her resurrected hopes for success beyond her poor neighborhood seem shattered when a local drug dealer shoots her pregnant best friend and then attacks Keisha. However, through a series of revelations-her mother's additional source of income, the reappearance of her absentee father, and the admiration of her best friend's sensitive brother-Keisha's aspirations revive and she realizes she can create her own future. The protagonist is a determined, observant teen who values family and lives by her grandma and mama's adages, including the one that says, "just `cause we poor, don't mean we born in sin." An assortment of white and African-American characters populate the story, reflecting a variety of backgrounds in education, tolerance, motivation, and influence. Although the happy ending may rattle cynics, teenage readers will find promise, hope, and satisfaction in Keisha's prospects.-Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.