Example No. 1. Last fall, around the same time I was working on the nonfiction book Racial Profiling: Everyday Inequality for Twenty-First Century Books, I read Mildred D. Taylor's Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry for the first time. I'm embarrassed to admit I never read it as a kid, but I suspect a lot of white students miss out on this wonderful, wrenching novel because their teachers and librarians don't look at the cover and think, This is a book that will matter to my kids. That's more than just an unfortunate misconception or oversight--it's evidence of the subtle assumptions that keep people's minds and hearts segregated. Had I encountered this book as a kid, I would've been so much better equipped to understand the societal realities I was researching in connection with Racial Profiling: the sharecropping system, which got maybe one line in my high school textbook and no class discussion; the nature of separate and unequal education facilities and resources; the daily norms of white supremacy; and the very, very good reasons that a black father would warn his son that it's impossible to truly be friends with a white child. (My early education about race relations was heavy on surface-level kumbaya moments and light on soul searching.) I'm not sure I would've absorbed the book's full impact as a middle-school student, but I'm sure it would've enriched my perspective, made me a more empathetic human being, and prepared me to be a better ally.
|(It would've helped me immensely in editing this book, too.)|
Every so often I try to remind myself of the children's books that--at whatever stage of my life they came to me--made a difference to me personally. Fiction, in particular, often opens mental doors that nonfiction can't. If any of the books I edit can do that for even a handful of young readers, then I'll be in this game for a while.