Book Review
So it's February again and it is Black History Month, which is good and bad. Good in the sense that we need it, but bad in the sense that it is swallowed up by all the other "month" observances we now pay homage to. For example, did you know that February is also American Heart Month, American History Month, National Bird Feeding Month, National Boost Your Self-Esteem Month, and National Canned Foods Month (to name a few)? Despite all that, February still belongs first and foremost to celebrating Black History, and there are a couple of books on our plate that I wanted to mention.

The first book is The Underground Railroad: An Interactive History Adventure by Allison Lassieur. I plan on reading this aloud with the kids at dinner over the next several days. Definitely for the older crowd (over age 6, for sure), but I love that it's interactive. You are reading from the perspective of a slave in the 1850s trying to escape, or a slave catcher hoping to get rich catching escaped slaves, or part of the Underground Railroad, helping slaves escape to freedom. While I'm not keen on the slave catcher's perspective, it does present an accurate character in the history of the Underground Railroad that you cannot gloss over. Everything in this book happened to real people, and my kids get to choose which side they're on and what to do next. We've had a lot of success reading biographies aloud together, and I hope the kids will get into the history lesson this book provides.

The next book, for me--not the kids, is How to be Black by Baratunde Thurston. I heard him interviewed recently on a radio program and he had me crying I was laughing so hard. He brilliantly writes about his experiences as a black male growing up in the Washington, D.C. area, and his interactions with everyone around him in his neighborhood, school, college, and beyond. His observations are witty yet spot-on, and if you've never understood the Oreo reference among African-Americans, you will one you've finished the book. I can't wait to get my hands on this.


Laura said...

i have a quick question for you. At what age did you present slavery and our history as a country(I am thinking specifically of the 50s and 60s) to your children. How did you explain it and walk your children through that ugly part of our history? I am dreading it, but want to do it well and not ignore it.

hotflawedmama said...

Both going on our list now! Thank you, love!

Melodie Monberg said...

I always love the books you recommend. Can't wait to try these two! I also second Laura's question..what is a good time to start talking about this?

cathy said...

Laura and Melodie, you ask the ultimate question. As with any topic, you introduce it gradually and slowly and in an age-appropriate way. I think when Carver was as young as 5 we were introducing him to great African American leaders. David is a huge baseball fan and has a Jackie Robinson t-shirt. He was quick to tell Carver about who Jackie was and why it was so important that he played baseball. Even though Carver was very young, he was able to grasp that people were mean to Jackie because of the color of his skin. We told our kids at pretty young ages that there have been some awful injustices in our country's history, but that great people have also always stood up for what was/is right and made a difference. As our kids get older, we can go into more depth about the who, what, when, where, and why. Carver is also named after George Washington Carver and he learned pretty young who he was and what a difference he made. I think you know your own kids best and know what their hearts can handle, but it's never too young to start. You can just slowly and age-appropriately introduce certain people who lived at certain times and expand on their acts of heroism. Does that help???

Laura said...

Yes, thanks. Isaiah just turned 5. I like the idea of starting to teach them about great African American Leaders. That is where I will start.

Laura said...

Have you seen the movie "Ruby Bridges"? I haven't shown it to Isaiah and Laila yet, but my older kids have seen it and it is heartbreaking, but also inspiring to see the faith and courage of that little girl. I would recommend it.