Drawing upon the experiences of her own multicultural family, Marilyn Hilton’s Full Cicada Moon explores identity, ethnicity, and prejudice in 1969 suburban Vermont, where heroine Mimi Oliver moves with her family. Having grown up in Berkeley, California, half-Japanese, half-African-American Mimi finds it difficult to fathom, let alone deal with, all the stares and micro aggressions that come her way in her new hometown. Told through the poetry Mimi scrawls in a journal for a school assignment, the book follows the ups and downs of middle school life—only for the protagonist, being an unwelcome outsider makes everything much more difficult.
Despite being set decades ago, the struggles of being biracial are still as relevant today as ever, from having to check only one box for ethnicity to being constantly asked, “Where are you from?” Exploring racism and prejudice through the eyes of the child—and in verse, at that, makes for a particular reading experience that is both more pure and more affecting than similar stories told through prose.
Yet as much as Full Cicada Moon deals with identity and race, it is also about gender and empowerment. Mimi, a brilliant student, finds herself mocked by her new peers for her aspirations to become an astronaut, and criticized by school faculty for wanting to take wood shop instead of home economics. After all, it’s hard enough trying to figure out who you are and what you want to be without external forces bending you this way and that. Thanks to Hilton, it is a pleasure to spend the school year with Mimi, watching her grow and uncover truths about herself and human nature.