December 14, 2020 at 11:00 AM EST
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Credit: Scholastic

Muted, the highly-anticipated new YA novel from Tami Charles, is a story — told in verse — inspired by real-life events surrounding the Me Too movement and its affect on Black girls. Below, read an excerpt from the groundbreaking tome.

**

According to Instagram

Sean “Mercury” Ellis was inside the Prudential. Mic check done, ready to hit the streets,

grab a bite, before the concert began.

And so we all stood

beneath the sun.

Hope filling up,

fingers crossed that he’d float out,

like Black Jesus,

invite someone, anyone

onto that tour bus parked at the corner.

And I tell you, just like in the movies,

those doors flew open,

pupils combusted.

Stares turned to whispers,

whispers bubbled up

to loud chants.

“Merc is here!”

“Merc is here!”

Hella pissed

’cause I couldn’t see nothing.

Just heard the claps echoing,

up, down, and all around

Lafayette like a parade.

Felt the huddle grow tighter.

A stampede of epic proportions

swallowed me, Shak, and Dali

whole.

“Can I get a selfie, Merc?”

voices cried out.

My eyes found a clearing,

zoomed in on a giant

hovering above the crowd.

Security.

Big head stacked on big shoulders,

stacked on even bigger arms,

swatting video thots

like gnats in summer.

I grabbed hold of Shak and Dali,

forced our bodies away from the crowd,

inched closer toward the tour bus.

“It’s no use,” Dali said.

But I didn’t hear her hear her because my eyes studied

the sea of red-bottom shoes and Timberland boots,

and finally,

I saw the only pair that mattered—

diamond encrusted Air Force 1s.

“He’s coming this way. Shak, connect the speaker!

Pull up the track!” I yelled.

And so began Mrs. Doubtfire with the questions.

“Right here? Right now? On the street?”

I snatched my phone from her,

clicked play,

and let that C minor 7th chord

do what it do.

And by do, I mean SAAAAAAAAAAAAANG!

Dali came in with that soprano note,

high enough to crack a hole

in the sky.

Me and Shak

swerved in beneath her,

the perfect alto-tenor blend.

If music were a color,

ours woulda been blue-red-green

ocean meets fire meets earth,

and I’m not just saying that

’cause those were my lyrics,

my chords, my literal heartbeat . . . in a beat.

I say it because

the minute we unleashed our voices, noise canceled,

Air Force 1s emerged,

each diamond

bringing more sunshine with it.

Sean “Mercury” Ellis.

Shades slid

to the tip of his nose.

Gray eyes sparkling

beneath the midday sun.

Homeboy was snapping,

swerving,

grooving to “Shoot Your Shot,”

our song—

my song.

Time stood still as

verse blended into chorus,

into the final,

belting, universe-breaking

note.

Applause, thunderously loud.

Eyes upon eyes stared us down.

But there was only one set I cared about.

“That was dope,” Merc said. “Y’all wrote that?”

“Denver did.” Dali giggled, then covered her braces with her left hand.

There was no time to be shy,

not when the chance to fly

was right in our faces.

“We’re Angelic Voices, an R&B group, from PA. Looking to score a record deal.”

I handed Merc the business card I printed at home . . .

like a freaking BOSS!

Whispers from the crowd spread like disease.

“Ain’t getting no record deal looking like that.

’Specially McThickums.”

 

But I didn’t hear them hear them,

’cause I was too busy

breathing in the same air as Merc.

He leaned in and I knew what was coming next:

“Yooooo, what’s up with your eyes?”

Same reaction I get

whenever someone

meets me for the first time.

Always starts with a stare,

a lean,

a question

(or three).

And for me,

an answer that I

spent the past seventeen

years rehearsing

down to the last word...

Heterochromia

As in:

two eyes

two different colors

one blue

one brown

part ocean

part earth

made of both.

As in:

a genetic mutation

the crashing of

two genes

Heterochromia

 

As in:

two eyes

two different colors

one blue

one brown

part ocean

part earth

made of both.

—a miraculous disaster in the making—

No, I don’t have a white parent!

(Even though that blue eye came from Ma’s German granddaddy.)

I’m Black mixed with Black mixed with magic.

And no, I ain’t wearing contacts!

So, LAWD HAVE MERCY

can we get back to the discussion at hand, sir?!?

(I didn’t quite say all that tho.)

“Angelic Voices, huh?

That’s real cute,” Merc said.

“So are those eyes of yours.

Good luck with the songwriting, baby gurl.”

He. Called. Me. Baby.

Security stepped forward,

side-swatting us

like gnats in summer,

while Sean “Mercury” Ellis,

wrapped in a trio of video thots

made his way onto the bus.

And right there,

on the corner of Lafayette,

I almost emptied myself

of wishing, hoping, dreaming.

Almost.

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