Growing up with every ‘ism’
I was brought up hearing my father speak ill of Black people, homosexuals and denigrating women. Whether in the factory, on TV or at home it was the same. My mother kept quiet.
One day my big brother came home with a Black Jamaican mate. Afterwards my mother spoke of Black people not being all the things my Dad had said. My Dad kept quiet.
That was just the beginning of my unravelling the racism and prejudice I had been brought up with. My father was rigid. He held ill informed views of women, people of a different skin colour, dialect, ethnic origin, sexuality and faith.
I want life to be different for my grandsons. It has been for my daughter. She wants the same for them.
Understanding the current world better
She and her boys live in an area rich with cultural diversity. Their school teachers come from a wealth of different communities. The exchange of ideas and learning is deep. But the wider world the boys will gradually come to see is not like their school or the street they live on.
If the boys see programmes with men dominating and succeeding while women adore and giggle we talk about it. It does not just pass with a snigger or gasp. Afterwards the programmes are deleted.
We avoid books on Princesses and Princes preferring to target stories where both genders and all races are able to discover, show talents, laugh and have impact on the world.
Choosing inclusive books
They have books with characters who are clearly diverse. We want stories which enable them to think and talk about what they see and hear, at school and on the street.
So I intend this to be an evolving article with books we have found helpful,adding new additions as I find them. They will reflect the world the boys currently see, which explain the matter of difference, of racism or of gender inequality as well. Share your ideas of good books with me #nanhood or on Instagram @livingnanhood .
Don’t assume books have to be newly published. My starters
- How do I feel About Dealing with Racism by Jen Green https://www.worldofbooks.com/en-gb/books/dr-jen-green/dealing-with-racism/GOR002182612 Published in 1996 this book steps carefully through ‘what is racism’, its history, feelings to ‘Stopping Racism’. Great illustrations.
- I am Human by Susan Verde https://www.bookdepository.com/I-Am-Human-Book-Empathy-Susan-Verde/9781419731655 Published 2018 . This book sets out how we can value ourselves and hurt others and how we can change this by developing empathy. Lovely illustrations which imply different ethnicities and genders without direct reference. Simple words and beautiful illustrations by Peter Reynolds.
- The Life of Stephen Lawrence by Verna Allette Wilkins. https://www.worldofbooks.com/en-gb/books/verna-allette-wilkins/life-of-stephen-lawrence/NGR9781848531055 Published 2001 The book focusses on Stephen’s life at school, home and clubs, his joy and hope. The last chapter is what the world has focussed on, his murder.
- Dealing with Racism by Jane Lacey. https://www.bookdepository.com/Dealing-With-Racism-Jane-Lacey/9781445157900?ref=grid-view&qid=1592236045091&sr=1-2 Published 2019. This is a ‘good enough’ book for my taste. The illustrations lack diversity of features, show one style of clothing, relying on hair and skin to show difference. The descriptions are interesting and will provoke conversations. I was surprised, given its publication date, that there were no White people from other White nations if this is a UK published text. It was largely about difference based on country and defined by colour and faith.
- All are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman. https://www.bookdepository.com/All-Are-Welcome-Alexandra-Penfold/9781526604071?ref=grid-view&qid=1592236360799&sr=1-1 I really liked this simple and enticing book about children who look different, are different and celebrate difference while all being in the same community and the same race. It had a lovely rhythm and pace to it to keep the attention of little ones. Left lots to talk about and to use to make comparisons.
- And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson Published 2005 https://www.worldofbooks.com/en-gb/books/justin-richardson/and-tango-makes-three/NGR9781847381484 A true story of two boy penguins who loved each other, made a life and cared for an abandoned penguin egg.
- My First Book of Feminism (for boys) By Julie Merberg. Published 2018 https://www.waterstones.com/book/my-first-book-of-feminism/julie-merberg/9781941367940 Great rhythm. Unpicks the many boxes we can too easily put our boys in as they grow up. “Use your words to win fights” being a favourite.
- King and King by Linda De Haan & Stern Nijland. Published 2000. Not every boy wants to marry a girl. https://bit.ly/2BxVk0M
- The Whisperer by Nick Butterworth Published 2005 https://bit.ly/2Z7rRD5 A cat version of Romeo and Juliet showing how difference is not something to fight about.
- Equal to Everything Judge Brenda and the Supreme Court. by Afua Hirsch and Henry Beaumont Published 2019. https://bit.ly/2YDX95h The true story of a Yorkshire lass who rose to lead the British Supreme Court. The text and illustrations weave in diverse ethnicity as well as a gripping tale.
- Feminism for Teenagers by Sophie Gillett Published 1997 https://bit.ly/2NHUxgp . Even though over 20 years old this easy read art filled book tells a clear and important story of how men and women have evolved into a power relationship and what needs to change.
- Hidden Figures The true story of Four Black Women and the Space Race. by Margot Lee Shetterly Published 2018 https://www.waterstones.com/book/hidden-figures/margot-lee-shetterly/laura-freeman/9780062742469 As a Nan and as a woman I loved this book. It simply and accurately shows the slow progression of 4 Black women in the field of Maths and Space travel. They were pioneers.
- We’ve Got A Job : The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson. Published 2012. https://bit.ly/3jq5F0h Tells the story of how children reinvigorated the civil rights movement in Alabama. Brilliant reminder of how children can be effective activists.
- Black Music Greats 40 Inspiring Icons by Olivier Cachin Published 2017. https://bit.ly/3eLcohB A powerful reminder that so much great music is and was born from the Black singers and musicians. Crisp and accessible for teens.
- Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson . Published 2013 https://bit.ly/30uEb0V An exquisitely illustrated book telling the life and influence of Nelson Mandela. A visual feast and simple read