Elevate Difference

The Latte Rebellion

Asha Jamison’s classmates are quick to categorize her. She is called both a “towelhead” and “barely Asian.” Asha and her best friend Carey have a harder time describing their own ethnicities. Asha is part Indian, part Mexican, and part Irish, while Carey is half Chinese and half Caucasian. When they begin describing themselves as lattes—a mix of coffee and milk—they start brainstorming ways to distribute their idea to other multiethnic teens and coffee lovers. The Latte Rebellion is born, first only through t-shirt sales that Asha and Carey hope to use for a post-graduation trip but spiraling quickly into a viral social movement.

Things get out of hand, though, when other chapters of the movement take the message too far. Asha promotes peaceful rallies, but others resort to hate speech and violence. The Latte Rebellion becomes targeted as a terrorist group, and Asha is forced to go before the school board for a disciplinary hearing as a result of her involvement. Now more than ever, Asha must find her voice and speak out for what The Latte Rebellion is truly about: empowerment, belonging, and identity.

Sarah Jamila Stevenson’s The Latte Rebellion sports a gorgeously textured cover, and it was the side-by-side glossy and matte finishes that lured me into the book initially. I can’t help but be tempted by a delicious-looking cup of coffee. While I couldn’t always identify with Asha’s struggle, I admired the book’s promotion of mixed-ethnicity understanding and acceptance. I was rooting for Asha, though after reading a book about advocacy—albeit a fictional one—I would have liked to have gotten more riled up. Throughout much of the novel, it was hard to accept that these teens cared about much more than their t-shirt sales, vacation plans, and cute guys. They are teenagers, after all.

The Latte Rebellion is founded on a solid premise, but its message is one that can be grasped quickly from the first few chapters. Much of the remainder dragged on and on. Unfortunately, I found this book to be short on substance, too much milk and not enough coffee. (If you are not a fan of the latte metaphor, this book is most certainly not for you, as they are used in abundance.) Perhaps teens who can relate better to Asha’s quest will find more meaning behind The Latte Rebellion’s manifesto and pursue their own journey toward social change. As for me, I’ll stick with the coffee and the cool t-shirt.

Written by: Melanie Goodman, April 9th 2011