Sincerely Sicily

Sicily Jordan’s worst nightmare has come true! She’s been enrolled in a new school, with zero of her friends and stuck wearing a fashion catastrophe of a uniform. But however bad Sicily thought sixth grade was going to be, it only gets worse when she does her class presentation.

While all her classmates breezed through theirs, Sicily is bombarded with questions on how she can be both Black and Panamanian. She wants people to understand, but it doesn’t feel like anyone is ready to listen—first at school and then at home. Because when her abuela starts talking mess about her braids, Sicily’s the only one whose heart is being crumpled for a second time.

Staying quiet may no longer be an option, but that doesn’t mean Sicily has the words to show the world just what it means to be a proud Black Panamanian either. Even though she hasn’t written in her journal since her abuelo passed, it’s time to pick up her pen again—but will it be enough to prove to herself and everyone else exactly who she is?


The first person narration through the eyes of Sicily is spot on. She has to deal with changing friendships, a possible first crush, missing her abuelo, and confusing questions about her color.

Those not interested in how hair braids are created or the fashion choices of girls might choose to skip this one, but they will miss out on much more important dealings. That would be the often confusing path to understanding cultural and racial differences. Conflict is also splendidly portrayed in Sicily’s life both at home and at school. Something all middle graders will understand.

Sincerely Sicily hits all the right notes as Sicily tries to find out who she is and the voice she wants to be in this world. This contemporary debut will have you hoping for more books about Sicily.


  1. The hurtful comments about Sicily’s braids from her much adored abuela were heartbreakingly displayed in an early scene. Demonstrates the importance of using criticism in the right way.
  2. Sicily’s parents were a welcome and positive influence in her life even though Sicily might roll her eyes at some of their comments.
  3. I’ve been through the Panama Canal so the historical background as to the how and why it was built was a positive.
  4. Writing can be such a huge remedy when dealing with life’s road bumps. Sicily’s journal might inspire others her age to begin one of their own.
  5. A great classroom or at home discussion starter about culture, race, and finding your voice.


Tamika Burgess (Ta-mee-Ka Bur-jess) is a storyteller with over a decade of novel, TV/film, and personal essay writing experience. Born to parents who migrated from Panamá, Tamika has always taken a particular interest in writing themes that explore her Black Latina identity. Because of her passion for spreading the knowledge of Black Panamanian culture, Tamika has been featured on various websites, podcasts, and panels. When she is not writing, Tamika is somewhere cozy online shopping and listening to a podcast. Tamika resides in sunny Southern California, where she is writing her second novel. Learn more about Tamika at

Tamika’s Website:

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Questions about Sincerely Sicily for Author Tamika Burgess

What inspired Sincerely Sicily?

Sincerely Sicily is loosely based on my experiences growing up and came out of a need for representation and understanding. As a child, I didn’t fully comprehend how to explain my Black Panamanian background when people asked, “What are you?” Being asked that question, coupled with the fact that I was growing up in a predominantly white community as a Black Latina, I often felt out of place. My peers were all the same, and not only was I of a different race, but my culture was something that was entirely out of their realm of understanding.

I always wished for a point of reference, someone I could point to and say, “I’m just like them.” But characters in books, movies, and TV shows didn’t look like me, nor did their experiences resemble mine. So I wrote the book I needed and would have loved to read as a child.

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
I have so many hopes for Sincerely Sicily, but the main one is that when readers finish, they walk away from it with a clear understanding of the African diaspora. The diaspora is vast and spans worldwide. It is made up of people who descend from native Africans yet live outside Africa, predominantly in the Americas, therefore including Latin American countries.

What is your favorite quote from Sincerely Sicily?

“Afro (short for African) comes before Panamanian to let people know I am of African ancestry… Panamanian or Latina, either way, I am Afro/Black first.”



About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
This entry was posted in Middle Grade Book Reviews and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Sincerely Sicily

  1. After interviewing Tamika on my blog, I’m really excited to read this book. That’s cool that you’ve been to the Panama Canal. I’d like to learn more about it too.

  2. writercarolb says:

    This book sounds like one that will inspire and teach. Thanks for highlighting it.

  3. Brenda says:

    Sounds like a wonderful story, thanks you for sharing and Happy MMGM.

  4. Very interesting to learn about this author, I read her interview on Natalie’s blog too. Sounds a great story! Thanks for sharing!

  5. This one sounds good! Will have to check it out.

  6. I have heard so much about this book that I look forward to reading it. I imagine many kids will relate to this story. Loved the points you made! Great story!

  7. I’ve been hearing about this book and hope to get to read it soon. Thanks for the review and interview. Very fun reading. It must have been cool to have gone through the Panama Canal. Maybe someday for me.

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