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25+ Diverse Books on Reparations

This month, MAR explores the theme of Reparations. Many think of reparations just in terms of financial compensation but reparations is really about repairing relationships. Repairing relationships with oppressed peoples. Repairing relationships with the land. Repairing relationships with ourselves. The foundation of reparations, and the ability to take accountability for our actions, starts when we are first learning to say "I'm sorry".


This month’s book list has been compiled as a group effort by our MAR volunteers and addresses themes of Reparations including saying sorry, making amends, taking accountability and what we need to be making reparations for. Next month we will be exploring the Indigenous experience on Turtle Island where we will continue our conversation of the need for reparations. Here are 25+ titles ranging from children's board books to Adult non-fiction relating to Reparations that you can add to your library today.



15 of the 25 book covers from the list on a red background


"In our home, we do not make our children say sorry to each other."

MAR Recommends: 25 Books on Reparations.


Reparations, as defined by the dictionary, means the act of making amends, offering expiation, or giving satisfaction for a wrong or injury. You will notice it does NOT mention apologies, or sending thoughts and prayers.


This is because reparations is more than just words; it is an act. There needs to be action.

In our home, we do not make our children say sorry to each other. Forcing a child to say sorry does not help them understand the injury they caused or how to take personal ownership. What they ARE taught are just the words they need to say to get out of trouble.


Instead, we practice reparations. If my daughter breaks her brother’s Lego creation, our focus is helping her find out how she can make it better with him. This may look like helping him rebuild it or her rebuilding it on her own. It may look like her sharing something of hers with him. It could actually be just a “sorry” and a hug. But it is not up to her to decide. She asks her brother what he needs for this wrong to be righted. Often he wants to be heard, have his upset feelings validated, and some help fixing what she broke. Through this process there is a greater sense of ownership and responsibility over their interaction. There is increased empathy and understanding for each other. And the amends that are made are authentic and genuine.


As adults, when we are talking about Reparations for Indigenous genocide, Black slavery, and continuing systemic racism, we are talking about what ACTIONS can you take to make it better for, and with, racialized people?

  • Educating yourself is great, but that action is for you, not for me.

  • Being a member of an anti-racism group or committee is great, but if you aren’t DOING anything, that action is for you, not for me.

  • Sharing a bunch of information on your Facebook or Instagram is great, but if you aren’t also pushing the dialogue in all your spaces, that action is for you, not for me.

Reparations can take many forms. From small acts, like being active contributors to conversations versus passive consumers, to large acts like giving land back.


Reparations is NOT, an eye for an eye. Black people are not looking to enslave white people and Indigenous people are not looking to run white settlers out of their homes and decimate their communities. Reparations is more mindful, more intentional, and does not seek to punish. Reparations seeks to repair, to heal, to mend - to make life fair, and just, and equitable for everyone.


To bring the practice of reparations into our homes and to instill this value in our children, we need to start with how we "relationship" with others. Are we givers or takers? Do we listen to understand or listen to respond? Do we practice empathy? These are all skills we can build in ourselves and in our children starting from babies when we treat them as people to be listened to and not controlled, to young adults when we help them take accountability and responsibility for their actions.


We hope this book list helps to give you a new perspective on reparations, gives you pause for reflection, and inspires you to seek out those areas when you can be making reparations.


-Kerry


*This month's list includes several titles by white authors. These books are denoted with an asterisk (*) in the title.


**We always recommend pre-reading books prior to reading them with, or giving them to, your children.



Board Books, Babies, Preschool


When We Are Kind by Monique Gray Smith

“When We Are Kind celebrates simple acts of everyday kindness and encourages children to explore how they feel when they initiate and receive acts of kindness in their lives. Celebrated author Monique Gray Smith has written many books on the topics of resilience and reconciliation and communicates an important message through carefully chosen words for readers of all ages. Beautifully illustrated by artist Nicole Neidhardt, this book encourages children to be kind to others and to themselves.” - Orca Books



"...and this I need to know." With this refrain, Indigenous children are invited to re-learn their ancestral teachings about the Little People in their communities. With simple language and natural photographs, I Was Born Precious and Sacred acknowledges culturally integral concepts that promote the sacredness of life, the building of positive self-esteem, and an awareness of children's rights to be safe, loved and respected. Readers and listeners of all ages will be reminded that every aspect of a child is sacred and valuable and that each of us must work to preserve and nurture their minds, bodies, spirits and hearts.” - Strong Nations


Start with Sorry by P.T. Finch


In Start With Sorry, Three-year-old Luna loves to spend time with her older brother, Asher, and she wants to do everything he does. But when they sit down to draw pictures together, Luna feels upset that she can’t do everything he can do. When she reacts in anger, Asher is sad and doesn’t want to color with her anymore. With Mommy’s help, Luna learns how to make amends for hurting her brother’s feelings. Kids love this story, written by PT Finch, and adults appreciate the valuable lesson it teaches about empathy for others. - Literary Mango


*The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld


“Author/illustrator Doerrfeld gives children a model for how to process difficult events and provide meaningful support to friends who need it...Despite the obvious takeaway, this story doesn’t feel overly moralizing or didactic. Keeping the focus on the small tragedy of tumbled blocks makes it young-child–appropriate, with opportunities for deeper connections with an older audience. This appealing work is an excellent addition to any emotional-intelligence shelf.” - Kirkus Review


*Peace is an Offering by Annette LeBox


“A list of small lessons that, when added up, have a great impact.

Peace is so abstract that it’s a difficult concept to grasp. LeBox tries to make it concrete, encouraging children to practice small acts of giving, sharing and understanding every day. She follows a diverse group of friends as they find tiny moments of peace in the world around them.” - Kirkus Review



Picture Books


R is for Reparations by Global Afrikan Congress - Nova Scotia Chapter

“This book is drawn from the voices of the children who participated in the Book-in-a-Day event and rode on an imaginary Underground Railroad Freedom ride, equipped with Elders who served as “conductors” and “station” stops. Their words address the tragedy and resulting political, social, and economic damage caused to African People by the slave trade, slavery, colonialism, poverty and anti-Black racism. Their reactions and reflections lead the contributions for this compelling, one-of-a-kind Alphabet Book suitable for all ages.” - Fernwood Publishing


Little Afeni and the Cause for Reparations by Nora Wittmann, Robert Ras Kahleb Gordon


"This illustrated children's book on Reparations is the key that opens the door, to children worldwide, on a hidden topic." - Keturah Cecilia Babb "Truly another masterpiece from Power of the Trinity Publishers!" - Esther Stanford Xosei, Pan-Afrikan Reparations Coalition in Europe (PARCOE)


Stolen Words by Melanie Florence

“The story of the beautiful relationship between a little girl and her grandfather. When she asks her grandfather how to say something in his language – Cree – he admits that his language was stolen from him when he was a boy. The little girl then sets out to help her grandfather find his language again. This sensitive and warmly illustrated picture book explores the intergenerational impact of the residential school system that separated young Indigenous children from their families. The story recognizes the pain of those whose culture and language were taken from them, how that pain is passed down, and how healing can also be shared.” - Strong Nations


Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson


“Warning: This picture book for young children does not have a happy ending. And therein is the power and beauty of the story. When a group of children ostracize a new child who is poor, they do not realize how hurtful they are being until it is too late to make amends. As the teacher talks to the children about the ripples of our actions, we as readers learn that it is up to each of us to create a happy ending in our own encounters.” - Social Justice Books


Feast of Peas by Kashmira Sheth


“Collaborators Sheth and Ebbeler offer a lyrical fable set in India about Jiva, a man who tends to his vegetable garden daily and holds a special fondness for his peas. A rapid cycle of anticipation and disappointment repeats until the thief’s unavoidable unmasking and fairness restored through a feast: peas shelled and boiled, “steamed and simmered,” “fried and spiced.” Sheth spins a yarn about greed and forgiveness in well-paced, poetic narration accompanied by Ebbeler’s expressive acrylic illustrations.” - Publishers Weekly


Bonus Picture Books:


All Because You Matter by Tami Charles


“Two accomplished creators invite Black children to take up their spaces in the world. Charles’ lyrical text addresses “you, dear child,” in the voice of a loving caregiver, recounting how the world anticipated and prepared for the child’s existence...The universe made room for “you, / your people, / their dreams, / your future,” Charles assures the child. The protesters (“take a breath, / take a stand, / take a knee”) and victims of racist violence (“Trayvon, / Tamir, / Philando”) are mentioned explicitly without becoming the focus; the journey from beginning to end of the book sends a message that is nurturing, nourishing, loving, and reassuring, expanding and deepening the words of the movement it echoes.” - Kirkus Reviews


Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena


“Last Stop on Market Street reveals the creative potential of a powerful cross-cultural author-illustrator partnership. In words and pictures, it embraces substantive diversity in children’s literature, diversity that not only helps us see ourselves and one another, but that also asks that we make our world anew.” - Social Justice Books



“When the child chooses kindness, compassion, listening, and saying sorry, they find that they are connected to everyone, and they resolve to keep trying, because “I am full of hope. I am human.” Reynolds’ simple line drawings with bursts of color have become iconic, and they serve the simple, affirming text with their own vision of the emotions and possibilities we humans have in this wide world. He depicts the protagonist with brown skin and black, curly hair amid a multiracial gathering of other children and adults. An author’s note guides readers through a loving-kindness meditation as an example of how one can choose to improve one’s relationships with others.” - Kirkus Reviews



“This fun and empowering guide to making the world a better place is packed with inspiring ideas and tips for kids who want to know how to make a difference.


Full of positive encouragement to find something you're passionate about and how to get started on making a big difference through small actions, this brilliant fact book for kids is a treasure trove of information and great advice.” - Toppsta



Middle Grades


Lucy & Lola by Monique Gray Smith


Lucy and Lola are 11-year-old twins who are heading to Gabriola Island, BC, to spend the summer with their Kookum (grandmother) while their mother studies for the bar exam. During their time with Kookum, the girls begin to learn about her experiences in being sent — and having to send their mother — to Residential school. Ultimately, they discover what it means to be inter-generational survivors. - Strong Nations



"Monique Gray Smith offers young readers around the world an important new book in Speaking Our Truth, A Journey of Reconciliation...Smith tackles these issues in such a way that readers learn about the lives of Survivors and listen to allies who are putting the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission into action."

—The International Educator


Clean Getaway by Nic Stone


Set against the backdrop of the segregation history of the American South, take a trip with this New York Times bestseller and an eleven-year-old boy who is about to discover that the world hasn’t always been a welcoming place for kids like him, and things aren’t always what they seem–his G’ma included.


Stargazing by Jen Wang


“Wang is a master storyteller, knowing when to quietly place panels between each moment to sharpen the emotional impact or to fill it with life. It is so very rare and refreshing to see diversity within the Asian American community authentically portrayed; Wang allows each character complete ownership of their identity, freeing their truths and, in the process, allowing readers to do the same.

A shining gem of a book.” - Kirkus Reviews



“This is the story of 12-year-old Dene Cho, who is angry that his people are losing their language, traditions, and ways of being. Elder Snowbird is there to answer some of Dene Cho’s questions, and to share their history including the impact Residential schools continue to have on their people. It is through this conversation with Snowbird that Dene Cho begins to find himself, and begins to realize that understanding the past can ultimately change the future.” - Strong Nations


Bonus Middle Grade Book:


*Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness By Anastasia Higginbotham


Featuring brand-new activity pages and additional learning material, the paperback edition of Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness is a picture book about racism and racial justice, inviting white children and parents to become curious about racism, accept that it's real, and cultivate justice.

An honest explanation about how power and privilege factor into the lives of white children, at the expense of other groups, and how they can help seek justice. --THE NEW YORK TIMES



Young Adult


A Knock on the Door: The Essential History of Residential Schools from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada


Seven volumes from a nationwide inquiry into the legacy of Canada's Indian Residential Schools have been condensed into a compelling book that is both accessible and well-documented. The central conclusion—that the schools were part of a deliberate cultural genocide policy aimed at the continent's first peoples, spearheaded by the Canadian government with the support of mainline churches —is clearly supported by historical references, gut-wrenching personal stories, and a thorough analysis of a system that forcibly removed indigenous children from their families. The text connects past injustices to problems still plaguing Canada's indigenous communities today, including alarmingly high suicide rates and disproportionately high rates of incarceration. It also celebrates the First Peoples who have survived extensive damage and suffering and continue to embrace identities that for centuries were the target of elimination by European settlers. Noting that the process of reconciliation is only just beginning, the commission provides 98 provocative recommendations for ways that non-indigenous Canadians can address present-day injustices and build new relationships.” - Publishers Weekly



Prince, a sixth-generation descendant of slaves who came to Canada before the Civil War, begins with a brief history of slavery and its origins before turning to Canada’s part in this sad history. His account acknowledges the complex, even contradictory, attitudes toward slavery held officially and popularly in Ontario, where escaping slaves may have found sanctuary but were not always welcomed. The book introduces such important historical figures as Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass as well as celebrating those whose stories have not been told and whose names have not been remembered. Prince’s attention to these otherwise silenced subjects makes this text an engaging and important history that fills in many blanks. - Quill and Quire


The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill


“Hill joins elements of the 19th-century novel, with its frequently vulnerable protagonists, its picaresque plots, its unlikely coincidences, and its historical and social accuracies. As with Victorian novelists, he focuses on character and plot, and yet his intimate grasp of the mechanics of fiction allow him to maximize the potential of these traditional elements...


Today, the geography of Aminata's life remains eerily familiar, a restless route that keeps many black people travelling in circles in search of home. The best black Canadian writing articulates a diasporic experience arising from the cultural collisions of the Atlantic slave trade. And nobody does this better than Lawrence Hill.” - The Globe and Mail




The strength of this collection lies in its diversity of voices and perspectives. Contributors include journalists, writers, scholars, visual artists, filmmakers, a former city planner, and a lawyer from across Canada, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. The pieces are beautifully written, reflective, and accessible. Notably, many reveal deeply unsettling truths. Métis writer Emma LaRocque recounts her experiences of racism and physical abuse in the public school system in Alberta during the 1960s. Non-Indigenous author Joanna Streeley describes a time when she dated a Tla-o-qui-aht man on Vancouver Island and witnessed firsthand a rash of youth suicides, a young woman go missing, and multiple acts of violence in her partner’s community. Still, the message shared here is one of optimism and hope for change. Overall, this is an exceptional and important read.” - Broken Pencil



This is the story of the Asahi, a Japanese Canadian baseball team that was formed in 1914 and competed in Vancouver's Caucasian leagues between 1918 and 1941. Using a strategy called "brain ball," the smaller Japanese defeated the larger white teams and won a number of championships. This describes what happened to some of these Asahi players after Pearl Harbor when British Columbia's Japanese were sent to internment camps in the province's interior. Here they played an important role in establishing baseball leagues. Following the war, many former Asahis came to eastern Canada where they continued to play an important role in baseball as they began new lives. There is a second story here as well. It is about a former Asahi fan who was determined that the Asahi legend would not die and how she insured that what they meant to the Japanese community before World War II would never be forgotten. - Friessen Press



Adult


Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Kimmerer


“With deep compassion and graceful prose, Robin Wall Kimmerer encourages readers to consider the ways that our lives and language weave through the natural world. A mesmerizing storyteller, she shares legends from her Potawatomi ancestors to illustrate the culture of gratitude in which we all should live.”—Publishers Weekly


Price Paid by Bev Sellars


As Sellers explores the different stages of the Indigenous-newcomer relationship, she invites readers to consider the First Nations perspective by asking questions that frame each chapter. For example, before the chapter discussing first contact between European and Indigenous peoples, she asks, “What if you owned a house and beautiful garden? Would you share it with others? Would you welcome them?” Then, before the chapter discussing the process of newcomer settlement, she asks, “What if your guests decided to stay? Would it still be your house?”

Sellars’ book Price Paid shows that the intergenerational trauma of residential schools is not the only price Indigenous peoples in Canada have paid for welcoming newcomers. - Canada’s History


Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga


“[W]here Seven Fallen Feathers truly shines is in Talaga’s intimate retellings of what families experience when a loved one goes missing, from filing a missing-persons report with police, to the long and brutal investigation process, to the final visit in the coroner’s office. It’s a heartbreaking portrait of an indifferent and often callous system . . . Seven Fallen Feathers is a must-read for all Canadians. It shows us where we came from, where we’re at, and what we need to do to make the country a better place for us all.” — The Walrus


All Our Relations by Tanya Talaga


“Bestselling and award-winning author Tanya Talaga argues that the aftershocks of cultural genocide have resulted in a disturbing rise in youth suicides in Indigenous communities in Canada and beyond. She examinees the tragic reality of children feeling so hopeless they want to die, of kids perishing in clusters, forming suicide pacts, or becoming romanced by the notion of dying — a phenomenon that experts call “suicidal ideation.” She also looks at the rising global crisis, as evidenced by the high suicide rates among the Inuit of Greenland and Aboriginal youth in Australia. Finally, she documents suicide prevention strategies in Nunavut, Seabird Island, and Greenland; Facebook’s development of AI software to actively link kids in crisis with mental health providers; and the push by First Nations leadership in Northern Ontario for a new national health strategy that could ultimately lead communities towards healing from the pain of suicide.” - Strong Nations


edited by Gabrielle HIll


“A variety of metrics indicate that, even after the end of Jim Crow, black lives are routinely assigned a worth approximately 30 percent that of white lives,” write the authors,” who also detail the negative impacts on black lives of federal highway construction, urban renewal, and gentrification. They consider arguments for and against reparations and examine complex possible methods of financing and making reparations (from lump sums to payments over time) that might, at the outside, cost trillions of dollars. Though academic in tone and approach, and therefore unlikely to reach a large audience of general readers, the authors are convincing in their arguments. Essential to any debate over the need for and way to achieve meaningful large-scale reparations. - Kirkus Reviews


Bonus Adult Books:




"The Red Deal is an incendiary and necessary compilation. With momentum for a Green New Deal mounting, the humble and powerful organizers of The Red Nation remind us that a Green New Deal must also be Red—socialist, committed to class struggle, internationalist in orientation, and opposed to the settler-colonial theft of Indigenous lands and resources. Redistribution also requires reparations and land back. The Red Deal is a profound call to action for us all."—Harsha Walia, author of Undoing Border Imperialism and Border and Rule: Global Migration, Capitalism, and the Rise of Racist Nationalism - Strong Nations



“A variety of metrics indicate that, even after the end of Jim Crow, black lives are routinely assigned a worth approximately 30 percent that of white lives,” write the authors,” who also detail the negative impacts on black lives of federal highway construction, urban renewal, and gentrification. They consider arguments for and against reparations and examine complex possible methods of financing and making reparations (from lump sums to payments over time) that might, at the outside, cost trillions of dollars. Though academic in tone and approach, and therefore unlikely to reach a large audience of general readers, the authors are convincing in their arguments. Essential to any debate over the need for and way to achieve meaningful large-scale reparations. - Kirkus Reviews



A Note to the Adults:

There is a phrase commonly used by educators and children’s librarians striving to promote diverse representation which speaks of books as “mirrors and windows”. An inclusive library collection should provide both mirrors where children can see themselves represented in books, as well as windows where children are provided with a view into the lives of others. Mirrors allow children to feel valued, seen, and validated in their own identity, while windows build empathy and understanding for others.


Children’s books are one of the most powerful tools which can be utilized by parents and educators to initiate conversations on important topics such as racism and racial injustice. A good book can provide a gateway to open a conversation, guide dialogue, and prompt questions from children. Particularly for young children, curling up and having a caregiver read aloud also provides ideal conditions for connection and fostering family values.


It is also recommended that parents read alongside their children in order to further discussions, particularly if these topics are new for your children. Additionally, the Middle Grades and Young Adult titles may contain more sensitive subject matter which may require further discussion with an adult. Older children and teens may be reluctant to read with a caregiver, but in this case adults can independently read the same title in order to be equipped to answer questions and spark discussions. Above all, let your child lead and guide the discussion, and listen attentively to their thoughts and ideas. Simply asking them questions such as “what do you think?”, “why do you think this happened?”, or “why do you think the character did this?” can be a good starting point.


Read any of these books with your kids? Send us their reviews and we will publish them on our Facebook page and Intsagram accounts. Show us your little Anti-Racist Readers!


If you have read a great book that you think should be on our next list, please email us at Info@MomsAgainstRacism.ca. We LOVE finding great new books!




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