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Literature / Ethan, Suspended

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Ethan, Suspended is Pamela Ehrenberg's 2007 YA novel debut. After getting suspended from his suburban Philadelphia school, 13-year-old Ethan Oppenheimer is sent to live with his grandparents, the last remaining Jewish family in their Washington, D.C. neighborhood.

Ethan quickly comes to think his whole life is "suspended", what with his grandparents' lack of 21st-century technology and his new school's lack of soap and paper towels in the washroom. Oh, and he's the only white student in the predominantly African-American and Hispanic school. And his bedroom was last occupied by an uncle who died at age 20, decades ago, and is untouched down to his old The Lone Ranger comics. Back home, Ethan's parents are busy getting separated and the only updates he gets are from his sister, who herself is in college in California.


Basically, the setup is an inversion of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

This book provides examples of:

  • All Jews Are Cheapskates: The grandparents are obsessive coupon clippers.
  • Alter Kocker: Ethan's grandparents.
  • American Educational System: The inequalities within it are a major theme.
  • Civil Rights Movement
  • Character Blog: Here. Caution-spoilers.
  • Eating Lunch Alone: Ethan eats lunch on the stairs outside the cafetera after sitting at a "reserved" table on the first day. Later we find out his mom had done that when she went to school there, and kids would dump stuff on her head as they passed by.
  • Elaborate University High: Maple Heights, Ethan's school back home.
  • Fish out of Water: Ethan
  • Funny Foreigner: The Krashevskys, recent immigrants from Russia, are seen as weird. Alex, in Ethan's class, wore Hello Kitty T-shirts and brought cold hot dogs on white bread to lunch when he first arrived in 3rd grade. He's acclimated since, but his mom's the only one in Maple Heights who walks to the supermarket.
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  • Inner City School: Parker Junior High.
  • Keet: Felix.
  • Noodle Incident: What got Ethan suspended is left as this for over half the book.
  • Nonuniform Uniform: Sharita's multicolored socks are literally the first thing Ethan notices about her, and are described in detail every time he sees her for the first time on a given school day.
  • Peking Duck Christmas: An Oppenheimer family tradition.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Or the juvenile equivalent.
  • Suburbia
  • Transfer Student Uniforms: Inverted - Ethan is left to think he's in the District of Columbia for only a few days' visit. Then he sees the new uniform in a shopping bag on the desk in his (uncle's) bedroom. Also inverted (on another axis?) by the fact that having previously gone to a suburban school with a good reputation, he's never had to wear one before.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: Set in the sort of neighborhood that's been the prime terrain for gentrification since just about around the time the book was written.


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