In a 2018 American study, it was found there were more children's books featuring animals and other non-human characters (27%) than ALL types of visible minorities COMBINED (23%). In contrast, 50% of the children's books reviewed featured white kids. It is important for children to see themselves reflected back in the books they read. Books can also be an effective tool for gaining perspective, understanding, and empathy for people with different lived experiences.
This month, MAR explores the theme of Windows and Mirrors and why diverse representation in books (and TV, movies, podcasts, etc) matters.
"This has led to a lifetime of unwanted touching of my hair, ridiculous and inappropriate questions, teasing and bullying, and of course, racism."
MAR Recommends: 25 Books that can be used as "windows" and "mirrors".
I grew up in a pretty much all white town, with my white mom, educated by white teachers, watching shows full of white people, reading books with white characters. I had very little, if anything, reflecting my Blackness back to me. And, my friends, classmates, community, being in a similar situation with a lack of diverse media, did not have any insight into my experience as a Black kid. This has led to a lifetime of unwanted touching of my hair, ridiculous and inappropriate questions, teasing and bullying, and of course, racism.
We are naturally curious about that which is "different" from us, that which is out of our "normal". Right now, the standard of "normal" in our society, and that which is reflected and upheld in much of our media is that of the cis-gender, white, male who is young, able-bodied, neurotypical, and affluent. The farther from this standard, the more "different" you are - unless we can change our experience of "normal". As caregivers and educators, one way we can do this for our children is to ensure the books and other media they consume is diverse. Our kids need to see more than just whiteness in their media.
Diverse representation matters as it helps to "normalize" and "humanize" the lives and experiences of those who have historically been excluded from the story. It makes our existence less "rare", less "exotic", less "other". So the more children are exposed to, engage with, and relate to diverse individuals and accurate #ownvoices stories, the less of a "anomaly" we become.
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.
Here is a list of 25+ books, ranging in ages, subjects, and experiences, you can have at home or in your classroom to use as windows and mirrors. These book suggestions are taken from our Diverse Book Basket program. With this program, we are delivering bundles of 10 culturally diverse books to homes and classrooms across Canada along with support resources for caregivers and educators. To learn more about our program - to sponsor a basket, purchase one, request or nominate one - please visit our website.
Board Books, Babies, Preschool
Cool Cuts by Mechal Renee Roe
This companion to Happy Hair (2019) takes the same appreciation for the diversity of black self-expression from the beauty salon to the barbershop. Branching out from black girl hairstyles, Roe here extends the conversation to consider the multitude of hairstyles for black and brown boys even as readers can infer a wider representation of the gender spectrum, since many of the illustrations come without explicit gender assignments. There’s a legacy of black boys who have been targeted, punished, or criticized for their choice of self-expression, and this book is a needed corrective. Arriving after the much-heralded Crown (2017), this makes space to celebrate a wide range of styles, from cornrows and curls to fro-hawks and flat-tops. Each matte, posterlike portrait is rendered alongside a catchy, empowering quote: “When the stars shine, / the world is mine” highlights a high-top; “A happy boy, / full of joy!” celebrates a step-up. - Kirkus Reviews
Festival of Colors by Surishtha & Kabir Sehgal
The Sehgals, the mother-son duo behind A Bucket of Blessings, offer a fittingly vivid introduction to Holi, the springtime Hindu festival of colors, as seen through the eyes of Indian siblings Chintoo and Mintoo. The children collect flowers from their garden to turn into brightly colored powders (“They gather orchids, because orchids make purple”), then gather with everyone they know in the town square to celebrate by throwing the powders on each other. Harrison (Little Leaders: Bold Women), working in a distinctly Disneyesque style, fills a spread with laughing and dancing celebrants, their skin and white clothes covered in dustings of red, yellow, blue, and purple. But the Sehgals also remind readers that “Holi is a festival of fresh starts. And friendship. And forgiveness.” - Publisher’s Weekly
Follow Your Dreams, Little One by Vashti Harrison
This is an abbreviated version of the hardcover edition that came out last November, and while it doesn't provide all of the biographical details that the hardcover edition does, it's perfect for little ones. Featuring eighteen inspirational black men in history such as Aaron Douglas, Gordon Parks, Sir David Adjaye, Alvin Ailey, and fourteen more, Follow Your Dreams Little One uses accessible phrases throughout the book that little ones can easily understand. Here's an example: "André Leon Talley showed that grace and kindness are always in style." Another page: "Sir David Adjaye designed buildings inspired by people and culture." Vashti Harrison's illustrations are always lovely and the background that's created for each person provides a great reference for kids as to each person's work. - Where the Board Books Are
Happy to be Nappy by Bell Hooks
This lighthearted board book with mystical elements is fun to read and will be fun to share with young children. One of several collaborations between writer bell hooks and illustrator Chris Raschka (the team that created Skin Again and Be Boy Buzz), Happy to Be Nappy shows Black children and their hair in a consistently glowing light. The authors take care to convey that African hair is beautiful, whether it’s cut close and tight or long and plaited... - Common Sense Media
Little You by Richard Van Camp
"Van Camp composes a lyrical ode to a newborn child, which is matched in its loveliness by Flett's exquisite, collage-like images of a young one with his or her parents. Both collaborators are of aboriginal Canadian descent, and the book will have particular appeal for families looking for nonwhite representations of tender family moments. But families of every size, shape, and background can appreciate sentiments like, 'You are life and breath adored/ You are us and so much more/ Little ember with growing light/ Feel our love as we hold you tight.'" — Publishers Weekly
Bonus Board Book:
Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race (Board book) by Megan Madison, Jessica Ralli, and Isabel Roxas
Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race is the book we’ve been waiting for! The team (Megan Madison, Jessica Ralli, and Isabel Roxas) did an incredible thing: they explained race and racism to young children. Not only did they do it in a few pages of a board book, but they also provided guidance to the adults who will read it to children. As soon as you open the book, the reader is greeted with colorful representations of the authors and illustrator, as well as a note on the purpose and function of the book. The last few pages provide developmental insight by using direct language to explain the “why and how” of having conversations about race, race-related observations, family diversity, identity terms, stereotypes, as well as prejudice, race, racism, empowerment, and activism... - Social Justice Books
Counting Kindness: Ten Ways to Welcome Refugee Children by Hollis Kurman
A family seeking refuge is met with kindness in this simple counting book. One boat carries an African family escaping war across the sea, two hands lift them out of it “to safety,” three meals calm the children’s hunger, and four beds keep the family and a friend warm at night. The mother, two young children, and a baby continue to be met with kindness. Colorful spreads illustrate their journey and fill the newcomers’ environment with diverse faces, young and old. The simple counting book concludes with further information about refugees and a list of organizations through which readers might help or learn more... - Kirkus Reviews
M is for Melanin by Tiffany Rose
Rose’s A–Z affirmation of black children sings with inclusivity and zest. Alongside letters presented in different bold design—the A for “afro” is studded with picks, combs, and brushes—language works to inspire confidence and pride: “Be you. Love you. Always. All ways,” “Acknowledge your majesty and act accordingly.” References to black leaders—Obama (“Our first black president”) and Malcolm X (“Activist. Leader. Revolutionary”)— occur alongside calls for children to define and be themselves, and to “SPEAK OUT for what is right./SPEAK UP when others are silent...” - Publisher’s Weekly
Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged by Jody Nyasha Warner
Years before Rosa Parks's act of civil disobedience, Viola Desmond refused to give up her seat in a movie theater in Nova Scotia. Dragged out of the theater, sent to jail, and charged a fine, Viola returned home and shared her experience with her community, who fought (unsuccessfully) to appeal her case. Debut author Warner's conversational prose is message-driven ("They took Viola to jail. Can you believe it?") while Rudnicki's illustrations, in bright shades of green, red, and orange, are dramatic, if sometimes garish. An appended section on African-Canadian history provides additional background; Desmond's story should prove eye-opening to readers whose civil rights references are limited to American figures. - Publisher’s Weekly
Laxmi’s Mooch by Shelly Anand
Laxmi, an Indian American elementary school student, has a mooch. A mooch, Laxmi explains, is a sprinkling of hairs on her upper lip; it’s also the Hindi word for mustache. Laxmi is unaware of her mooch until her friends Zoe and Noah point it out during recess. At first, Laxmi is mortified—especially when she realizes she doesn’t have fine, dark hairs just on her top lip but all over her whole body. At the end of the day, she runs home to her parents, who react to her distress with humor and compassion. Mummy explains that Laxmi comes from generations of women with mooches. When Laxmi complains about the hair between her eyebrows, her parents compare her to feminist icon Frida Kahlo. Laxmi is still upset, but that night she dreams of tigers, and, appropriately, in the morning she has a whole new attitude—about herself and about her hair. Debut author Anand skillfully balances humor with sincerity, crafting a narrator who is both vulnerable and powerful, while Ali contributes sunny-humored illustrations that place the appealingly chubby, brown-skinned girl at the center of a diverse classroom headed by a hijabi teacher. Laxmi’s journey is both accessible and authentic, and it is a true pleasure to watch her not only embrace her own body, but also teach her classmates how to embrace theirs as well... Fabulous, funny body positivity. - Kirkus Reviews
My Chinatown by Kam Mak
Fifteen untitled poems, handsomely illustrated with photo-realistic paintings, express the feelings of a young Chinese boy from Hong Kong as he adjusts to his new home in New York’s Chinatown. Grouped by the four seasons, the poems span the time from one Chinese New Year to the next. The simplicity of language and beautiful paintings evoke poignant imagery; phrasing like “ . . . school where English words taste like metal in my mouth” or a scene where an overhead perspective captures the boy and a girl playing chess on the floor with a cat pawing a marker, framing a tender moment. Even though the reader may not know firsthand all of the specific references—Tic-Tac-Toe–playing chicken, sidewalk cobbler, red confetti on streets from firecrackers—what comes through clearly is the boy’s gradual acceptance of his new home place where daily pleasures can be enjoyed without relinquishing memories of the past... The first-person voice and strong composition of art with vivid colors symbiotically make this boy’s personal emotional journey a universal experience. - Kirkus Reviews
Bonus Picture Book:
Not My Girl by Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret Pokiak-Fenton
Ten-year-old Olemaun describes her return from two years at the outsiders’ school and her slow re-entry into her family’s Inuit world. When Olemaun (co-author Pokiak-Fenton) returns to her family, both her mother and her father’s dogs fail to recognize her. She’s grown tall and skinny, her hair has been cut short, she has a different smell. She no longer understands the family’s language and finds the food inedible. Her best friend isn’t allowed to play with her anymore. Appropriately for the young audience, the authors deal gently with the child’s trauma, showing how, in every case, things get better. The skills Olemaun acquired at school help her nurse a puppy she mistakenly kept too long from its mother. And, she learns to drive a dog sled, making her own mother proud. As they did with Margaret’s boarding school years in When I Was Eight (2013), the authors have distilled the years covered in A Stranger at Home (2011) into a moving picture book. The first-person narrative is set against Grimard’s dramatic paintings, which depict family members shown in close-ups and wide-angle views that take in the dramatic scenery of northern Canada. The sky colors are particularly effective—the varying blues and orange of day and the reds and greens of the nighttime northern lights. Another compelling version of an inspiring story. Kirkus Reviews
The Best At It by Maulik Pancholy
Actor and debut author Pancholy draws from his own experiences as a young Indian American to create this funny, uplifting story about identity. Twelve-year-old Rahul Kapoor lives in Indiana with his parents, his younger brother, and Bhai, his grandfather, who uses a wheelchair and “has a Mr. Rogers–worthy supply of cardigans.” When an obnoxious kid at school taunts Rahul for his inadequacies and questions his sexuality, Rahul decides he must prove to himself, and the world, that he is the best at something. With help from his steadfast friend, Chelsea, and the wisdom and encouragement of Bhai, Rahul begins to learn—after some amusing, misguided failures—who he really is and what he’s actually good at doing… Pancholy charts his rocky path to pride in his layered identity. Rahul finds unconditional acceptance with his family and friends, which sends a powerful, positive message to young readers about choosing self-acceptance.
While I Was Away by Waka T. Brown
In 1984, a 12-year-old Kansas girl spends five months in Japan with the intimidating grandmother she barely knows. At school, Waka is used to being regarded as a brain—as well as the short kid. At home, her Japanese immigrant parents worry that in striving so hard to be American, she is losing touch with her heritage. The solution? Sending her to Japan to live with Obaasama and attend a local public school despite her strenuous protests. In her new Japanese school, Waka’s language struggles and cultural faux pas make her stand out—and not in a good way. On the other hand, she is considered tall and a jock. Breaking into established social circles presents another puzzle. But everything pales in comparison to learning to get along with her taciturn grandmother, whose traumatic history and emotional complexity come to light as their relationship deepens. Waka finds inner strength she didn’t know she had, cultivates greater self-awareness, and comes to truly love many aspects of Japan. The author shares her story in a conversational and accessible tone. Many facets of life in the 1980s will be as surprising as the U.S.–Japan cultural differences that readers unfamiliar with Japan discover alongside young Waka. International travel aside, the journey of coming to see oneself and others through more mature eyes is a universally familiar element of the middle school years, adding additional appeal. An emotional, contemplative tale of risking and growing.- Kirkus Reviews
Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams
This uplifting story shows a middle school girl getting though family problems, discovering her unique talent, and moving beyond concerns about her skin color to finally love herself. Author Alicia D. Williams is a teacher, and it shows. In Genesis Begins Again, she does a great job capturing the way young teens think and act like adults one moment and like children the next. For example, when Genesis realizes neither of her parents is effective in breaking the cycle of hope and eviction, she takes matters into her own hands: She heads out to her father's job site to try and work something out with the boss-landlord. Yet once she gets on the bus, she becomes afraid at taking such a long ride by herself and relies on the driver for direction and reassurance. The other middle-schoolers also seem authentic in what excites them and what makes them upset. Williams also does a good job of showing how parents look through their kids' eyes. Genesis' gradual understand ing of her parents' humanity is moving. - Common Sense Media
I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day
“Day’s novel brings an accessible, much-needed perspective about the very real consequences of Indigenous children being taken from their families and Native Nations. The absence of one’s tribal community, loss of culture and lack of connection to relatives have ripple effects for generations.” — Traci Sorell (Cherokee Nation), award-winning author of We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga - Strong Nations
...Kinew, a musician and leader of the New Democratic Party in Manitoba, Canada, spotlights 14 indigenous Americans and Canadians. Rhymed lines introduce each individual (“Net-no-kwa was a woman,/ like most, a true warrior./ Strong and independent, fierce/ as any man before her”), and brief profiles further detail each person’s accomplishments… in this glimpse into the lives of several indigenous heroes, Kinew, a member of the Midewin and an honorary witness for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, underlines the key idea that “we are people who matter./ Yes, it’s true./ Now let’s show the world what people who matter can do.” Mixed-media art by Morse features a cool palette and crisp, evocative portraits of those showcased and their surroundings. - Publisher’s Weekly
Bonus Middle Grade Book:
We rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices by Wade & Cheryl Willis Hudson
An anthology of poetry, essays, short stories and art designed to lift children up, especially children from traditionally marginalized communities, during difficult times. This collection encourages America’s children to remember their history, learn from it, and choose to be kind in the face of hatred, racism, and oppression. “Throughout history, kids like you / were right there. / With picket signs and petitions….They changed this world for the better. / And you will too,” Kelly Starling Lyons tells readers in her poem “Drumbeat for Change.” Featuring contributions from such writers as Jacqueline Woodson, Ellen Oh, and Hena Khan, and an equally august lineup of illustrators, including Rafael López, Vanessa Brantley-Newton, and Javaka Steptoe, every work packs an emotional punch. In his poem “A Thousand Winters,” Kwame Alexander wonders “if words, sentences, and books aren’t enough, anymore” as he reflects on the state of the world and hard conversations with his daughter. A stunning collage by Ekua Holmes accompanies Alexander’s poem; in it, a vivid, violet sky surrounds a sleepy black girl sitting atop her father’s shoulders. Every work in this beautiful collection feels personal and is meant to inspire and comfort. A love song from children’s literature’s brightest stars to America’s Indigenous children and children of color, encouraging them to be brave and kind. - Kirkus Reviews
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
Teenager Jam unwittingly animates her mother’s painting, summoning a being through a cross-dimensional portal. When Pet, giant and grotesque, bursts into her life one night, Jam learns it has emerged to hunt and needs the help of a human who can go places it cannot. Through their telekinetic connection, Jam learns that though all the monsters were thought to have been purged by the angels, one still roams the house of her best friend, Redemption, and Jam must uncover it. There’s a curious vagueness as to the nature of the banished monsters’ crimes, and it takes a few chapters to settle into Emezi’s (Freshwater, 2018) YA debut, set in an unspecified American town where people are united under the creed: “We are each other’s harvest. We are each other’s business. We are each other’s magnitude and bond,” taken from Gwendolyn Brooks’ ode to Paul Robeson. However, their lush imagery and prose coupled with nuanced inclusion of African diasporic languages and peoples creates space for individuals to broadly love and live. Jam’s parents strongly affirm and celebrate her trans identity, and Redemption’s three parents are dedicated and caring, giving Jam a second, albeit more chaotic, home. Still, Emezi’s timely and critical point, “monsters don’t look like anything,” encourages our steady vigilance to recognize and identify them even in the most idyllic of settings. This soaring novel shoots for the stars and explodes the sky with its bold brilliance. - Kirkus Reviews
When They Call You A Terrorist (Young Adult Edition) by Patrisse Khan-Cullors & Asha Bandele
In this young readers’ adaptation of the 2018 original, a Black Lives Matter co-founder recounts growing up in a society that sought to punish her mere existence. Using journal entries, Khan-Cullors recalls with sometimes excruciating detail finding and developing aspects of herself that would cumulatively create her identity. From stories of her biological and chosen family to her wider community, the writing overflows with honesty, compassion, courage, and love. The many unjust interactions she and her community have had with law enforcement make for a heart-wrenching read. Still, the author and activist maintains a message of action-based hope, life-sustaining love, and community support. With assistance from co-author bandele, a noted writer and journalist, Khan-Cullors shares private and public challenges and victories. Readers will understand and connect the traumas experienced by Black people in America for centuries, from Jim Crow to the war on drugs to modern-day slavery in the form of the prison system. Most importantly, the authors share principles and beliefs that speak to what is needed to facilitate and achieve necessary changes to a blood-stained, toxic, fatal disease of American society. Part memoir, part call to action, the message is clear: Black Lives Matter despite systems and inhumane practices that say otherwise. Questions for readers at the end of each chapter will prompt discussion and awakening and even inspire action. A gripping, much-needed memoir about a Black woman, a movement, and people fighting for freedom denied. - Kirkus Reviews
The Outside Circle: A Graphic Novel by Patti LaBoucane-Benson
In this important graphic novel, two Indigenous brothers surrounded by poverty, drug abuse, and gang violence, try to overcome centuries of historic trauma in very different ways to bring about positive change in their lives. Pete, a young Indigenous man wrapped up in gang violence, lives with his younger brother, Joey, and his mother who is a heroin addict. One night, Pete and his mother's boyfriend, Dennis, get into a big fight, which sends Dennis to the morgue and Pete to jail. Initially, Pete keeps up ties to his crew, until a jail brawl forces him to realize the negative influence he has become on Joey, which encourages him to begin a process of rehabilitation that includes traditional healing circles and ceremonies. Powerful, courageous, and deeply moving, The Outside Circle is drawn from the author's twenty years of work and research on healing and reconciliation of gang-affiliated or incarcerated Indigenous men. - CBC Books
Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro
Rooted in the working-class neighborhoods of Oakland, California, this is a tale of youth of color, diverse in sexuality and gender, organizing to challenge state-sanctioned violence. Black teenager Moss Jeffries is still grieving from the loss six years earlier of his father by the trigger finger of a police officer. Moss struggles with self-doubt and anxiety-induced panic attacks, finding comfort in his emerging relationship with Javier, a Latinx boy who’s just as tender as he is bold. As the school year begins, the school resource officer assaults Moss’ friend Shawna, claiming to suspect drugs—but the young people know that it’s really about her decision to fully embrace her black trans identity. When the administration installs metal detectors, resulting in a tragic injury for their friend in a wheelchair, Moss and his circle organize to dismantle the system of violence at their school, beginning with a wildcat student walkout. They demonstrate that there will continue to be resistance wherein aggrieved communities gather in solidarity to build meaningful lives of collective joy, heartful struggle, and deep love. Moss’ mother, Wanda, offers, “Anger is a gift. Remember that….You gotta grasp on to it, hold it tight and use it as ammunition. You use that anger to get things done instead of just stewing in it.” A masterful debut rich with intersectional nuance and grass-roots clarity… - Kirkus Reviews
Parachutes by Kelly Yang
Kelly Yang has taken a shot at a young adult novel and brought readers to tears in this gripping story involving wealth, immigrant, relationships, and trauma. Parachutes is a lengthy novel but it deals with many important topics faced in our society today, so it’s a breeze to read. For Yang’s first YA novel, it’s beautifully written. Readers are so invested in the story, we don’t realise until later that there’s only been one non-Asian (major) character. That’s how Yang crafted the story so well. We’re driven by their experiences more than their appearances… What made this book more realistic to today’s society was that when they did speak up about harassment, no one listened or believed them. I don’t want to give too much away since I highly recommend this book! At times Dani and Claire did or reacted to things in the way that wasn’t favourable, but them coming together in the end and finally finding something they share—that they can both fight for, is empowering. The ending to Parachutes doesn’t give much closure but that’s what makes it even more realistic. So many cases of sexual harassment and assault today are still left unanswered, opened while the victims are left to fend for themselves. At least they have people around them supporting them. - Goodreads
From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle
A Métis-Cree writer and professor examines how poverty, addiction, and poor choices led to a life of homelessness and crime. The son of a Métis woman and an Algonquin-Scot man, Thistle spent much of his childhood in Saskatchewan dealing with his drunk, abusive father, who taught his children how to beg and steal. Eventually, the police put the children into foster care until Thistle's paternal grandparents became their guardians. Under their stern but loving care, the author's life normalized somewhat. Meanwhile, however, schoolmates taunted Thistle and his siblings for being “ugly Indians” abandoned by their parents. Self-identifying as Italian, the author began drinking and taking drugs during high school. Though his burgeoning habit temporarily abated when he fell in love with a young woman named Karen, an argument with his grandfather angered him enough to spend all of his hard-earned college money on drugs and alcohol. When his grandfather finally told him to leave, Thistle's life spiraled out of control. He became homeless and relied on "food banks, churches and shelter beds,” drifted from city to city, and got addicted to crack. One night, while high, he fell 35 feet from an open window and shattered his leg, which eventually developed gangrene. He was in and out of jail and rehab, and his health continued to deteriorate drastically. Estranged from family and gravely ill, he returned again to rehab, "shaking and vomiting and praying for mercy.” Then he started the long road back to not only personal recovery, but also reconciliation with friends, family, and his Native past. As Thistle narrates his personally harrowing, ultimately uplifting story of survival, he also addresses the life-altering damage that colonialism has wrought on Indigenous people everywhere—especially “how, when one’s Indigeneity is stripped away, people can make poor choices informed by pain, loneliness, and heartbreak, choices that see them eventually cast upon the streets, in jail, or wandering with no place to be.” A courageously heartfelt journey from profound self-destruction to redemption. - Kirkus Reviews
I Am Still Here, Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
In this powerful book, Brown is up front about her exhaustion with white people as she meticulously details the experience of being a black woman in modern American society. After explaining that her parents named her Austin so that potential employers would “assume you are a white man,” she recreates a typical interview and first few months at a new job: “Every pair of eyes looks at me in surprise.... Should they have known? Am I now more impressive or less impressive?... It would be comical if it wasn’t so damn disappointing.” In clear prose, she relates anecdotes to shed light on racial injustices that are systematically reinforced by the standards of white society. Brown, a Christian, believes the history of American Christianity is deeply intertwined with race relations and that Christian communities need to play a large role in racial reconciliation. Explaining that change needs to come from acknowledgement of systemic inequalities, Brown calls on readers to live their professed ideals rather than simply state them... - Publisher’s Weekly
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
I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You: A Letter to My Daughter by David Chariandy
A Canadian novelist addresses his 13-year-old daughter on the complexities of race, bloodlines, history, and privilege. In his nonfiction debut, Chariandy (English/Simon Fraser Univ.; Brother, 2017, etc.) shares his reflections with his daughter at a particularly pivotal time in her life. After the election of Donald Trump, she had plenty of questions and concerns. Though their native Canada prides itself on being better than the United States on issues of tolerance, shortly after the U.S. election, a murderer “entered a mosque in Quebec City and executed six people who were at their prayers.” The author’s parents were reluctant to share the stories that he feels he must tell his daughter, along with his own. They had been brought to Trinidad as indentured servants and had initially been denied entrance into Canada. Chariandy was born and raised in Toronto, but he never felt accepted or understood as “simply Canadian,” in the way that his Caucasian wife and her patrician family had been for generations. They had met in graduate school, studying literature, where they discovered “a shared passion for broadening, through reading, the cultural and geographic boundaries of what we each knew. This shared passion sustains our relationship, despite what are some rather stark differences in our backgrounds and upbringings.” The author’s daughter likes being known as a tomboy, and much of her fashion sense and attitude come from living along the west coast in Vancouver. They have never really discussed how to categorize her or why. “For some of my relatives, you are Black; for others you are Indian,” he writes. “And as a girl of African, South Asian, and European heritage, some may consider you still another identity, that of being ‘mixed.’ ” Beyond question, this slim volume shows how much she is loved and how concerned her father is for the challenges that await her, some of them the same that he faced. Chariandy’s perspective challenges conventional notions that Canada is tolerant where the U.S. isn’t and that we have entered an era beyond race and discrimination. - Kirkus Reviews
The Skin We’re In by Desmond Cole
The Skin We’re In actively contests Canada’s national narrative by following a year in Black encounters with and resistance to white supremacy. Desmond Cole raises a wide range of stories and experiences including microaggressions in employment, anti-Black racism in education, the oppression of Indigenous Peoples, and violent police brutality. He presents the stories and experiences of Black Canadians in a way that validates; it makes our stories accessible and our emotions palpable for readers. I enjoyed that Cole uses an intersectional approach to analyzing white supremacy and anti-Black racism. He places a spotlight on the stories of the Black queer and trans community, neurodivergent Black people, Black migrants, and Black women. Further, he consistently reminds readers that these stories are neither ahistorical nor individual. He weaves the history of anti-Black racism in Canada throughout each chapter, demonstrating that contemporary experiences are a mere continuation of state violence and oppression towards the Black Canadian community. What I feel is most important is that Cole recognizes Canada as an ongoing settler-colonial project, relying on land theft and genocide of Indigenous Peoples. He respectfully illustrates the distinctions and parallels of Black and Indigenous oppression throughout Canada’s history. Importantly, he also identifies the Nations and treaties that govern the geographies in which the stories of anti-Black racism are situated. Overall, The Skin We’re In forces readers to encounter Canadian settler colonialism and white supremacy by telling the stories of Black people throughout history, up to contemporary times. This book forces readers to confront Canada’s historical and contemporary narratives and reflect on what exactly is being celebrated. - Citizens for Public Justice
A Note to the Adults:
It is 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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