Today marks a day of promise. A day of renewed hope and the possibility for change.
Yet, January 6th, 2021 is another date embedded in our memory and will be marked in history books to follow.
A word redefined through stark images filled with hate: ‘terrorist’. The visual definition not fitting the bias that too many people have carried around for decades, without question.
In Canada, hate groups have been on the rise and have tripled since 2015. Incidents have been documented. In British Columbia, hate-ridden posters have been spotted around the province. We can sit complacent, foolishly convinced that the horrors of history will not be repeated. Or, we can speak out in solidarity with the Jewish community, who are experiencing unimaginable trauma.
We cannot pass as silent allies after witnessing those violent acts on our screens – antisemitism in full view.
The issues of social justice that we see in our world today, are issues our young folx will inherit. People on the Capitol included young persons. They were people who once sat in Kindergarten classrooms and perhaps, throughout their schooling, may never have spoken with people who looked different from their own lives. Others were educators, who took their lived experiences into classrooms and may have fueled ignorance in places of learning. These are realities we have to recognize to understand where and how hate grows.
When we care deeply about issues of social justice, anti-racism and anti-bias work, we acknowledge that this work has to begin early. Talking to children about the difference between protests and insurrection can help them question their own choices and figure out how to respond to what is happening in the world.
Children’s books are one way to disrupt the roots of prejudice and hostility. They help facilitate conversations with young persons to interpret the world through meaningful dialogue. Our common humanity can be found through stories. We do have to be willing to push through our own discomfort in the process.
This is not just another book list. There is still much work to do, but today is a step towards the promise of a better tomorrow.
Not an exhaustible list, of course, but I hope these titles spark an interest to learn and disrupt what we think we know.
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Tu B’Shevatis Jewish Arbor Day beginning January 27th, this year (2021) and ending the next day.
2. Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman
This book went out of print in 2012 but Candlewick Press introduced a new edition with illustrations by Laura Cornell to celebrate its 25th anniversary.
Although it debuted in 1989, it has been one of the most frequently banned books in the U.S.
In an interview with Tablet Magazine, the author talks about how she took out a line from the book because “I hope that in 25 years I’ve learned something about the craft of writing”.
Please click on the book image below to read a conversation with Lesléa Newman on diversity in children’s books.
3. Doctor Esperanto and the Language of Hope by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Zosia Dzierzawska
Leyzer Zamenhof sets out to create a new language to connect people of the world. He publishes a book of his new language and signs it – Doctor Esperanto.
4. A Scarf for Keiko by Ann Malaspina and illustrated by Merrilee Liddiard
This story is set in 1942, with Sam – a young Jewish boy – and Keiko, his Japanese American friend from school whose family is sent away to an internment camp. A discussion around the Shabbat table, helps Sam consider his fears and doubts, and find common humanity with Keiko.
5. The Key From Spain: Flory Jagoda and Her Music by Debbie Levy (author of I Dessent!) and illustrated by Sonya Wimmer.
The story of Ladino singer Flory Jagoda who flees Europe during Word War II.
6. Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas by Pamela Ehrenberg and illustrated by Anjan Sarkar.
The beauty of intersectionality.
7. Parrots, Pugs, and Pixie Dust by Deborah Blumenthal and illustrated by Masha D’yans.
Instead of centring fashion ‘icons’ like Coco Chanel, this story amplifies handbag designer Judith Leiber.
8. Buen Shabat, Shabbat Shalom by Sarah Aroeste and illustrated by Ayesha L. Rubio.
9. A Hat for Mrs. Goldman by Michelle Edwards and illustrated by G. Brian Karas
10. Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust by Loïc Dauvillier and illustrated by Greg Salsedo.
11. As Good as Anybody by Richard Michelson and illustrated by Raul Colón.
Two civil rights icons – Martin Luther King Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel – marched for freedom, together.
12. The Little Boy Star: An Allegory of the Holocaust by Rachel Hausfater and illustrated by Oliver Latyk.
13. Always an Olivia by Carolivia Herron and illustrated by Jeremy Tugeau.
The author shares her own family history as a Jewish African-American.
To learn more, please consider following the work of these amazing folx:
In order to move beyond being passive allies, we have to understand the lived experiences of the Jewish community and their interpretation of antisemitism. We need to listen to their voices and feel the discomfort.
On Instagram, check out these accounts (and follow Patreon accounts to further support if you are able).
Tablet Mag: Daily online magazine of Jewish news, ideas, and culture
Jewish Book Council – Book Reviews
The Association of Jewish Libraries: The Sydney Taylor Book Awards
Facing History: The Roots and Impact of Antisemitism
Teaching Tolerance: Addressing Antisemitic Hate With Students
Above book images are linked to the Jewish Book Council when possible. When you purchase through affiliate links on their page, you support their work further. They also offer insightful reviews.
(I receive no compensation for these links).