Like Vanessa

LIKE VANESSA

Tami Charles

Readers will laugh and cry with thirteen-year-old Vanessa Martin as she tries to be like Vanessa Williams, the first black Miss America.

In this semi-autobiographical novel set in 1983, Vanessa Martin’s real-life reality of living with family in public housing in Newark, New Jersey, is a far cry from the glamorous Miss America stage. She struggles with thoughts of a mother she barely remembers, a grandfather dealing with addiction, and her own battle with self-confidence. But when a new teacher coordinates a beauty pageant and convinces Vanessa to enter, Vanessa’s view of the world begins to change.

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Readers will laugh and cry with thirteen-year-old Vanessa Martin as she tries to be like Vanessa Williams, the first black Miss America.

In this semi-autobiographical novel set in 1983, Vanessa Martin’s real-life reality of living with family in public housing in Newark, New Jersey, is a far cry from the glamorous Miss America stage. She struggles with thoughts of a mother she barely remembers, a grandfather dealing with addiction, and her own battle with self-confidence. But when a new teacher coordinates a beauty pageant and convinces Vanessa to enter, Vanessa’s view of the world begins to change. Vanessa discovers that her self-worth is more than the scores of her talent performance and her interview answers, and that she doesn’t need a crown to be comfortable in her own skin and see her true beauty.

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  • Charlesbridge
  • Hardcover
  • March 2018
  • 288 Pages
  • 9781580897778

Buy the Book

$16.99

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About Tami Charles

Tami CharlesTami Charles began participating in pageants when she was thirteen years old. Following in the footsteps of one of her heroes, Vanessa Williams, gave her the confidence and drive to compete, make friends, and stay focused. Tami’s pageant successes sent her to college where she became a teacher. As a teacher, she made it her mission to introduce her students to all types of literature, but especially diverse books. Tami’s other books include the picture book Freedom Soup (Candlewick), and a companion to Like Vanessa called Becoming Beatriz (Charlesbridge).

Author Website

Praise

“Without a doubt, it will be inspiring to a new generation of young, talented girls.”—Vanessa Williams, multi-platinum recording artist and actor

“Gritty, poetic, emotionally true. . . An unforgettable debut.”—Rita Williams-Garcia, author of One Crazy Summer and P.S. Be Eleven

“A treasure. . .”Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

“Superb.”— Booklist, Starred Review

Discussion Questions

1. Why does Mrs. Walton insist that Vanessa enter the school’s beauty pageant?

2. Why is Mrs. Walton so drawn to helping Vanessa with the pageant?

3. Why does Vanessa think she cannot enter the beauty pageant?

4. Vanessa has a support network. Why does she still feel like an outsider?

5. Vanessa doesn’t understand her father. What do you think is the issue between them?

6. TJ seems happy with his life. In 1983, in the projects, he might have reason to be frightened and unhappy. Discuss why. What is the difference between TJ and Vanessa?

7. How does Darlene help Vanessa?

8. Why do TJ and Pop Pop want Vanessa to enter the pageant?

9. When Vanessa sings, what does she see when she closes her eyes? Do you know how she feels?

10. What does Pop Pop give Vanessa for good luck when she auditions for the pageant? What is the significance of this exchange?

11. How does Vanessa and Tanisha’s relationship evolve over the course of the book?

12. Do you trust Beatriz? Why or Why not?

13. Why won’t Vanessa use her bathtub? How does she overcome her fear?

14. TJ has a dangerous crush. Is he naïve or progressive in his behavior?

15. Why do you think Beatriz betrays Vanessa to her father? What does this mean to Vanessa?

16. Why wouldn’t Vanessa’s father support her dreams?

17. When Vanessa discovers the truth about her mother, what goes through her mind? How would you feel? Did you want a different outcome?

18. What becomes of TJ after he is jumped by the Diablos? Did you see this coming?

19. Describe how Vanessa and Daddy’s relationship evolves throughout the novel.

20. What was Vanessa’s true victory?

21. Identify the historical moments presented in “Like Vanessa.” How do these “current events” contribute to the novel?

22. Vanessa desperately wants to be like her idol, Vanessa Williams. How does this evolve throughout the novel? What does young Vanessa learn in the end?