• Amanda

Book Recommendations for Turbulent Times

There are a lot of great books that explicitly discuss race, and now, more than ever, they are flying off the shelves. Last week, Dr. Ibram Kendi shared on social media that “On the most recent New York Times list of best-selling nonfiction in e-books and print, five of the Top 15 titles address racism. . .The week before, there were none." And of course, this is a good trend.

The same is true for #kidlit, but I would recommend against buying every children’s book about the Civil Rights Movement for your kids and then calling it a day. Hear me out: Kids don’t really start to develop the capacity for nuance until age seven, and they also don’t yet have the historical context for the stories they’re hearing. At the Spitfire Club, we are very pro reading diverse books, but I’ll be honest that we’re still figuring how to read books that explicitly discuss racism. Why is that?

It's very easy to fall into a trap of only reading books that present people of color as victims in our society (let it be said and understood that people of color are far too often victims in our society). If Latinx people are most often written as downtrodden immigrants, if Black people only exist in kids’ books during Jim Crow or slavery, kids notice that. But they don’t yet have the skills to unpack it. It's easy for them to think, at a very deep and almost unconscious level, that people of color primarily exist within the narrative of oppression. Even if book themes and outcomes explicitly run counter to oppression, the beginning state of oppression sticks in their minds.

So what should we read? Especially if your home library is currently not representative of our society (read: mostly White boys) and you’re looking to change that, I strongly advise a twofold approach: buy books that explicitly discuss race and anti-racism with your kids and be sure to read and discuss with them AND normalize diversity in their lives and on their bookshelf.

Here are some books I highly recommend (these lean a little heavy on female protagonists – this is an opportunity to normalize diverse books with female protagonists, too!):

(The Spitfire Club financially benefits from purchases made using the below links)

Great books that explicitly explore racism and/or diversity:

Great books that normalize diverse representation (I'd call these bookshelf staples):

Books about kindness and empathy:

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