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Literature / Anger Is a Gift

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Anger Is a Gift is a Young Adult novel by Mark Oshiro.

A cop killed Moss's father merely for walking out of a convenience store at the wrong time. Since then, Moss goes to therapy to deal with crippling panic attacks, anxiety, and depression. He already feels uncomfortable that his high school has a police officer and as more regulation is added, his school feels more like a prison. Moss and his friends are determined to fight back and organize but when tensions escalate and tragedy happens again, Moss learns that sometimes being angry is the right response to fight for justice.

Tropes for this book include:

  • "Anger Is Healthy" Aesop: Moss, whose father was wrongfully killed by a cop before the events of the book and deals with even more injustice throughout, learns that sometimes being angry is the right response to fight for justice, rather than giving in to fear. His efforts convince the guilty cop to turn himself in and the police to withdraw metal detectors from their school, though it's a Bittersweet Ending.
    "Anger is a gift. Remember that. [...] You gotta grasp onto it, hold it tight and use it as ammunition. You use that anger to get things done instead of just stewing in it.?
  • Bittersweet Ending: Moss finally gets justice when the cop who killed Javier turns himself in and apologizes and the police withdraw the metal detectors/magnets at his school, but the dead are still dead, and Moss will never receive true closure after being traumatized twice by his loved ones being murdered by the police.
  • Bullying the Disabled: The Resources Officers goes after Shawna, an epileptic, when he finds her pills in her locker and induces a seizure in her. Another tosses Reg into the metal detectors when he's merely asking if the sensors will affect his pins. This ends up permanently crippling Reg.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Moss accuses the cop who murdered his father and Javier of this.
  • Cast Full of Gay: Almost all of Moss's friends, including himself are non-heterosexual or transgender or both.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: Invoked; when the assistant principal brings plans for the magnets and makes a joke about how earbuds kept some of the students from throwing up, Moss calls him out for making light of it. It's the administration's fault that the detectors were brought in the first place, hurting their students and that Javier died.
  • Good Parents: Wanda tries to be there for Moss, supports his budding relationship with Javier, and helps him when he wants to protest the metal detectors for Reg's and the other students' sake.
  • Happily Adopted: Explored. Esperanza never knew her birth parents, but her adopted ones love her. They just are clueless about their privilege.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Esperanza is a lesbian and Latina, but it's indicated that being raised with rich, liberal white parents has given her a naive view on social justice and just what Black and other people of color deal with regularly with the police.
  • In-Series Nickname: Moss is short for Morris. He goes by Moss as his father was also named Morris.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • The school "Resources Officer" has a habit of picking up students by the throat to make them comply.
    • The cops hurt a paramedic who merely asks that they give medical attention to Wanda.
  • Loose Lips: Esperanza telling her parents about the walkout lead to her father telling the principal, who in turn tells the police and "smugly" sends out a memo warning a teacher. No one at the church is happy, least of all Esperanza and Moss. Moss then later point-blank asks Esperanza to not listen in on new strategy.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: It's implied that the cops injuring an NBC reporter and killing Hayley, a white woman, during Moss's impromptu protest lead to a high amount of bad publicity, which means they let Moss and Wanda go with no charges. The city also offers a public apology and promises to remove the metal detectors.
  • Nice Guy: Javier, Moss's Love Interest, is a handsome and affable young man who Moss quickly falls in love with.
  • Police Are Useless: Taken to the logical, most realistic extreme. Every subsequent action by the police in Oakland show that they're making the situation worse in the school and in the community.
  • Police Brutality: The novel starts six years after Moss loses his father to a shooting that was racially motivated. It goes From Bad to Worse.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Javier is killed by a police officer in the middle of the book, after spending chapters of building his relationship with Moss and solidifying the Oakland police as the villains.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Moss's father was killed before the events of the book, and then later his school's protest is broken up by Oakland police horrifically leading to his boyfriend Javier being killed. Driven to the breaking point, Moss leads in impromptu protest in front of the police station, chained to a flagpole. That assembly was attacked by Oakland police, leading to much violence and one woman was even killed.
  • Unwitting Test Subject: A horrifying one; it's revealed that the cops are testing military technology meant for Afghanistan terrorists on the students, using the school for its "pilot program".