Ma Voiture À Moi

Book Title Ma Voiture À Moi
(My Own Car)
Author(s) Blaine Ray
Illustrator(s) Laia Amelia Albarran
Other Contributors
Published by TPRS Books (view our statement)
Genre Realistic Fiction
Publication date 2020
#Ownvoices NO
From the author/publisher’s website

Total Word Count

Illustrations                    YES 
Glossary                          YES  
Guiding Questions       NO  
Context                            YES
Other                                N/A

Races, Ethnicities, and Nationalities
Black, Haitian 
white, American

Languages spoken

Sex and Genders
Male – main character


Social classes
Upper Class

Sexual Orientation



Family Structures

Body Type

From the author/publisher’s website 

Ben, a seventeen year-old high school student, has high hopes for getting a car for his birthday. When the big day comes he does not get a car but his parents promise him one if he spends the summer in Haiti rebuilding houses for earthquake victims. Ben goes to Haiti even though he doesn’t want to. He doesn’t really like the work but in the end he appreciates the Haitian people and culture. At the end of the summer when he returns home, he makes an unexpected decision.

To what extent do the illustrations present positive and thoughtful representations of identities?

The illustrations present positive and thoughtful representations of the identities in the book. The illustrator tried to present the various identities in their individual ways whether drawing the blond hair of a white character or a Haitian character with their black hair in afro or in a bun. The illustrator went the next step and drew the characters as realistically as possible in regards to various physical shapes, i.e. non-curvy, curvy, etc. and did not attempt to draw everyone looking the same. 

We understand identities are complex and no single story represents the spectrum of identity-based experiences. Also, a text may address a stereotype, misrepresentation, or generalization without relying on it.

Does any stereotype, misrepresentation, or generalization affect any positive and thoughtful representations of identities in the text?

1. Problems faced by characters with an identity belonging to a marginalized group are resolved through the benevolent intervention of a white person (saviorism) 
2. Characters of color are assumed to have low family wealth, low educational attainment and/or low income.
3. Characters of diverse backgrounds are represented stereotypically, or presented as foreign or exotic or are tokenized. (microaggressions)
4. American female character is presented in a very stereotypical way (pretty, thinks only about shopping)
This section is for teachers who are working towards sourcing more texts within the four domains of anti-bias education. We are excited about reading all books and we understand that not all books are written for this specific purpose. 

Does this text work toward goals within any of the four domains of anti-bias education as defined by Learning for Justice

Ma Voiture À Moi follows the protagonist, Ben Sullivan, a 17-year-old Californian teenager on his journey to discover what life could really be about, outside of his nice house, nice things, and his overwhelming desire for a brand new car. In order to help him become a more giving person, Ben’s parents decide to send him on a trip to Haiti to help rebuild homes that were destroyed due to a major earthquake. He reluctantly agrees because he is promised a brand new car upon his return, as long as he stays there the entire summer.  Because of all of the eye opening experiences that he has and with the help of his new Haitian friends, he discovers that there is more to life than having nice things like his big house and great computer, like family, love, and community. 

Throughout the book, the author really uses this story to introduce some really useful vocabulary about traveling, food, goods and services, jobs and self-expression.  The author also presents life after the earthquake in Haiti realistically and one can really see how hard life must have been post-quake. The illustrations also help to paint the picture well for the reader. It is also positive to see the growth of the protagonist from a somewhat naïve and materialistic teenager to a bit more aware young adult, which can be powerful for young people to see as they are reminded of the fact that we should be mindful of others and not just ourselves.

Ben’s family, and at some point Ben himself, suffer from a White saviorism complex: the Haitian people cannot overcome the aftermath of the earthquake without the benevolent intervention of White people who will be building homes for them. Perhaps worse, the trip to Haiti is viewed as a “life experience”, an opportunity to learn about self by helping poor people. His parents say on p. 7 “ This year your (birthday) gift is an experience. A life experience (…). You are going to Haiti to help the poor.” 

Additionally, starting in chapter 9 when Ben spends more time with the locals, the harmful “poor but happy” narrative starts emerging. First, Ben cannot fathom how these people can be happy while being so poor (p. 45). Later on, after having complained about absolutely everything in Haiti (transportation, food, accommodation, climate, people, etc.), he suddenly realizes that “these people are rich. They don’t need big houses to be happy.” (p. 56) and he now “understands everything” (p. 57). 

Furthermore, while it’s pretty common knowledge that some Haitians practice voodoo, it was surprising and a bit shocking in the book to see a Haitian man present a blood sacrifice of a chicken with a machete during a Haitian ceremony. It is not the most positive view of the Haitian people that is glorified a lot in media and entertainment and it should be worth noting that teachers should be aware that the book will present this topic to their students upon reading.

Finally, Ben’s American girlfriend, Mindy, is portrayed in a highly stereotypical way: she is pretty, popular, and she likes to shop. That’s it. While it is evident that Ben cannot see women past their looks -“you are so pretty you could be a cheerleader” (p. 41)-, it is unfortunate that the narrator should do the same thing – “she (Melissa) looks like a model” (p.34).  

View our statement on TPRS Books

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