When We Was Fierce

Candlewick Press, 2017

9780763679378 (1)


T’s bad day started with a good kid named Ricky-Ricky. What happens next will
change the way readers think about young adult literature. As a group of friends
struggle to stay out of gang warfare, the reinvention of language and take on a life
lived hard will bring into focus the power of choice, the pain of loss and the limits
youth are pushed. Ethnically diverse, When We Was Fierce will grab fans of
The Outsiders, The Crossover and Crank.

Why This Book:

  • Will entice reluctant readers
  • Discussion of Ebonics and historical use of language
  • Conversations about: Systemic racism in America, Media Perception of Race, Police Brutality +
  • Issues: Racism, community divisiveness, family, friendship, community unity, gangs, loss, gun violence, facing fears, being in choice

Book Moment:

We wasn’t up to nothin’
new really.
Me and Jimmy, Catch and Yo-Yo.
We just comin’ down the street keepin’ cool.
We was good at stayin’ low
Especially around the Wooden Spoon.
Guys hang around there, they got teeth on ’em
Sharper than broken glass.
Words that slit ya’ from chin to belly. And that’s just their words.

Quotes From The Trenches

Charlton-Trujillo has created a world of outsiders that reads like a Beat-generation West Side Story;
it sizzles and snaps with an inventive poetry all its own. This story is fierce, fine, and full of moxie.
—G. Neri, author of the Coretta Scott King Honor Book Yummy


e.E. Charlton-Trujillo’s When We Was Fierce is a powerhouse of a book, rhythmic, immediate,
and eye-opening. Charlton-Trujillo creates a distinct dialect and melody to tell a story of violence,
belonging, pain, and redemption. I hung on every word. This is some of the bravest and best
writing I’ve laid eyes on in years.
—A. S. King, author of the Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book Please Ignore Vera Dietz


The Outsiders for a new generation.
—Elizabeth Bluemle, The Flying Pig Bookstore


If we can agree that the finest story-making erupts from impassioned empathy and a willingness
to bend the rules of language, then we must agree that e.E. Charlton-Trujillo ranks among our
very finest story makers. This is a lyric manifest that commands us to hear so that we might have
a chance at being healed.
—Beth Kephart, National Book Award Finalist


When We Was Fierce. This blew me away. One of the best books I’ve read. Honest.
Heartbreaking. Beautiful.
– Kiera Parrott, Reviews Director for Library Journal & School Library Journal


Kirkus Reviews (Starred)
Booklist (Starred)
Publishers Weekly (Starred)


Parade Magazine
Reading Junk Blog
ProseAndKahn Blog
Library Journal
Booklist Interview

Short List of Books By People Of Color To Discuss With Readers

All American Boys – Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely
Tyrell – Coe Booth
Yummy: The Last Days of a South Side Shorty – G. Neri
The Crossover – Kwame Alexander
Jumped – Rita Williams-Garcia
Monster – Walter Dean Myers
When I Was The Greatest – Jason Reynolds
They’re Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
How It Went Down – Kekla Magoon
Push – Sapphire
The First Part Last – Angela Johnson
The Skin I’m In – Sharon Flake
Monster: A Graphic Novel – Walter Dean Myers, Guy A. Sims, Dawud Anyabwile
X: A Novel –  Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon
Manchild In The Promised Land – Claude Brown
March Book 1 & Book 2 – John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell
We Were Here – Matt de la Peña
Always Running: La Vida Loca: Gang Days In LA – Luis J. Rodriguez

Books To Further The Discuss Of Racism In America

Just Mercy – Bryan Stevenson
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness – Michelle Alexander
Between The World And Me – Ta-Neshisi Coates