#DecolonizeReading2023 Books Early Readers Features Genre It's Monday What Are You Reading Lifespan of a Reader Picture Books Reading Themes

[Monday Reading] Tackling Racism and Injustice in 2022 Diverse Picturebooks

"They say, Jay, it's time we had a talk." - Alicia D. Williams and Briana Mukodiri Uchendu, The Talk | "Dream, my child; imagine, my child. A new world - a new future - awaits." - Ibram X. Kendi and Cbabi Bayoc, "Goodnight Racism."


It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). It has been awhile since I joined this reading community and I intend to be more present this year, life circumstances permitting.

This year, we hope to feature books that fit any of the following criteria:

  1. Postcolonial literature and/or [pre/post] revolutionary stories
  2. Stories by indigenous / first-nation peoples / people of colour
  3. Narratives of survival and healing, exile and migration, displacement and dispossession
  4. Books written or illustrated by people who have been colonized, oppressed, marginalized
  5. Translated or international literature

Goodnight Racism (Amazon)

Written by Ibram X. Kendi Illustrated by Cbabi Bayoc
Published by Kokila (2022)
ISBN: 9780593110515 (ISBN10: 059311051X) Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

While I confess to liking Antiracist Baby more (Amazon) – also written by Ibram X. Kendi with illustrations by Ashley Lukashevsky (see my review here) – this book remains remarkable in its scope and inclusivity.

There is not only a recognition and celebration of children of diverse ethnicities, it also acknowledges quite subtly the hierarchization even among communities of color:

What I especially liked is the way the art is cleverly layered with the text narrative – with visual codes evident in the walls or just strategically positioned by the book creators – see the words community, family, and hope above; and the celebratory messages in the image below: fresh squeezed compassion, fresh baked peace among others.

It embraces the entire gamut of diversity in all its rainbow colors. There is also the continual positive refrain which I found to be especially comforting:

Dream, my child; imagine, my child. A new world – a new future – awaits.

Perhaps, it was just the title itself and the ending on saying good night to hate, hurt, injustice, inequality that I did not know how to feel about. I would rather not say good night but goodbye to them instead (in an ideal world, of course). It would be interesting to find out from teachers or parents who have read this book to their own children on how the kids found those parts. Regardless, this is a great book to add to your diverse bookshelves.

The Talk (Amazon)

Written by Alicia D. Williams Illustrated by Briana Mukodiri Uchendu
Published by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books (2022) Literary Award: Coretta Scott King Award Nominee for Author (2023)
ISBN: 9781534495296 (ISBN10: 1534495290) Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

I have been reading a lot of blogger friends who had been sharing their thoughts about this book, and with good reason. It speaks of how communities of color need to have very different conversations with their children on how to navigate a world that is often hostile to them because of the way they look, speak, talk, pray, love.

Yet, it begins and ends remarkably with such joy and promise – dreams and aspirations dripping like honey from the page – in spite of (and perhaps despite of) open antagonism, violence, misplaced hatred.

The book creators also did not explicitly articulate the injustice and the racism, but merely alludes to it with the art. The image above, for example, is striking with the child’s innocence and the mother’s anxiety as she looks on at their television set depicting police shooting and protests.

Yet as can be seen in the full page spread above, there is a balance between dreaming great on the one hand, and the microaggressions that people of color had normalized into their very existence on the other – probably because of the many “talks” their families had (I know my own family and I had many such conversations) – to quietly blend into a world that continually perceives darker-skinned people as threatening or suspicious. This book balances darkness and light in a way that very few books tackling injustice head-on achieve. A must-have and a must-read.

#6DecolonizeReading2023 Update: 35/36 out of target 100

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

2 comments on “[Monday Reading] Tackling Racism and Injustice in 2022 Diverse Picturebooks

  1. That’s an interesting point about “goodnight” versus “goodbye.” I also liked Antiracist Baby more.


  2. Max @ Completely Full Bookshelf

    I really appreciate these thoughtful reviews as always, Myra! I had seen Goodnight Racism online, and the illustrations look simply beautiful from what you’ve shared. I get your point about the title—also, I’ve seen some Goodnight Moon parodies and the title reminded me of them, even though this book isn’t one.

    I also added The Talk to my TBR list—I read Alicia D. Williams’s MG novel Genesis Begins Again and *loved* it, so I will definitely track this beautiful picture book down. Thanks so much for the wonderful post!

    Liked by 1 person

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