I’m half Hispanic and half white, and grew up straddling two totally different cultures. I knew variety existed on the planet as a result of I lived it. Saturdays consuming pupusas and dancing to bachata music blaring from audio system in my tío’s yard, and Sundays with my grandmother working via the park and having lunch at McDonald’s. I benefited from having publicity to 2 distinctive worlds. However once I received to Duke College, I spotted how restricted my precise world had been.
I grew up working class, the place I helped my mother and father of their pizzeria from age eight. We had been by no means with out meals or shelter, so I believed we had been rich. However in school, I met folks so faraway from myself financially, individuals who had by no means labored a day of bodily labor of their lives. I additionally met folks of many alternative ethnic, non secular and cultural backgrounds—and was uncovered to the LGBTQ group for the primary time.
I liked each second of faculty, however I felt like a bumpkin. It shouldn’t have taken me eighteen years to know how various our nation and world was.
I don’t need that for my youngsters. I would like them to know and admire the world round them. One of the best ways I may give that to them is thru studying. Books present us a glimpse into different folks’s lives. Books assist us construct empathy. Whether or not via fiction or non-fiction, studying broadly helped me find out about our nation’s historical past, and offered me a window into the lives of so many souls.
As an writer, I do know it’s laborious for marginalized writers to get printed, so their tales are sometimes not informed. So many books current a homogenous view of the world. I need to elevate those that break via the barrier, and I would like my youngsters to search for these tales. By means of studying is how we will go about instructing variety and inclusion to children.
We go to the e book retailer regularly. However on a visit this summer season, after staring on the rows of “Captain Underpants” and the “Diary of a Wimpy Child” sequence books on my children’ cabinets, each written by white males, I informed them I needed them to select books by diverse authors.
My oldest son, an avid reader, threw a match. He had a selected e book he needed by Rick Riordan and he didn’t need to relent. He requested, “Why do we now have to learn various authors? Why does it matter?” The query took me aback.
Didn’t he notice it was essential to know that not everybody seemed like him? And that not everybody has two mother and father who went to varsity and offered a loving dwelling? However then I spotted that he’s a baby and it’s my job to show him that.
“My abuelita was Hispanic. Your grandfather was Hispanic. Their tales are simply as essential as anybody else’s, and I would like you to learn with characters from their backgrounds and different backgrounds totally different from ours. You received’t perceive what different folks take care of in case you aren’t uncovered to it. You received’t perceive what I handled,” I informed him.
“Rick Riordan’s books all have various characters. LGBTQ characters. Blind and deaf characters. He at all times writes to be inclusive,” he responded. I remembered him telling me this earlier than, and it did make me blissful. However I don’t need my children to solely learn books that make identification a focus or supply of trauma of the story.
In the true world, various folks dwell on a regular basis lives. So whereas I admire authors like Rick Riordan writing to be inclusive, I additionally need my children to learn from precise marginalized writers.
He ended up selecting “Merci Suárez Adjustments Gears” by Meg Medina. My different son grabbed a e book by Dusti Bowling referred to as “Insignificant Occasions within the Lifetime of a Cactus,” the place the primary character is 13 and born with out arms. My son lives with type 1 diabetes, and I liked that he grabbed a narrative with a essential character who has a incapacity.
The subsequent time we went, he grabbed “Measuring Up” by Lily LaMotte and Ann Xu, which encompasses a Taiwanese essential character attempting to slot in at her new Seattle college. And my different son nabbed “Lotería” by Karla Arenas Valenti, which options each a Latina writer and essential character and facilities round a sport we play as a household.
My youngsters additionally love the “Who Was?” sequence, the place they will examine so many alternative folks of assorted backgrounds, together with pioneering ladies. I liked that on Martin Luther King Day my son knew about him and our nation’s battle with civil rights. I liked that he knew about Stonewall and the Holocaust as a result of he examine them in a e book, or that he identified to me that his “Wings of Fire” e book sequence was written by Venezuelan writer Tui T. Sutherland.
I dwell in a state the place the federal government is actively trying to restrict books made accessible for youngsters to learn, however I’m not going to be shamed for wanting my children to learn broadly. My want for them to have publicity to totally different authors and characters isn’t political, however somewhat to make them well-rounded people. I’ve additionally performed this for myself, ensuring that particularly throughout Hispanic Heritage and Black Historical past Month, I learn authors from these backgrounds.
This yr, I’ll make my children do it together with me. Regardless of my efforts to introduce various authors, nearly all of the whole lot my youngsters learn nonetheless comprises primarily white, center/higher class characters—and unicorns (my daughter loves unicorn books).
My children relate to Greg Heffley as a result of his life is just like theirs. They want these tales too, however I don’t need them pondering these are the one tales on the market or the one tales value studying. I would like them to color their canvas broadly in all the colours of the world. And I need to elevate the voices of individuals whose tales may not in any other case be heard.