Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Let's Talk About Race

Let's Talk about Race is written by Julius Lester and illustrated by Karen Barbour.  It was published in 2005 by Amistad, which is part of HarperCollinsPublishers.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but have mixed feelings about who the book would be best suited for.    The information and insight within the book is incredibly valuable, especially in today's society.  In a world where everyone is trying so hard to not be racist, yet so many events turn into "being about race" this book could open the eyes of many, and help people understand that, although there are often cultural differences between people of different races, in the end, we are all pretty similar.  That being said, children rarely have a problem with someone because of race.  Children are seen holding hands, hugging, talking with, laughing with and playing with other children of other races all of the time.  It isn't until they get older, and are exposed to the thoughts and ideas of older children and adults that things start to change.  So, although I loved the book and loved the message within the book, I feel as though it would be appropriate for upper grade level students.  It would be appropriate for people who have forgotten what it was like to enjoy someone else for who they are, and not for the color of their skin.

I thought the way the author "spoke" right to the reader was brilliant.  He told the reader about himself, and asked the reader questions.  It made me feel as though I was having a conversation with the author, and not just reading his book.  When he wrote, "Some stories are true. Some are not. Those who say 'My race is better than your race' are telling a story that is not true", he hit the nail on the head as far as pointing out why we have problems with race to begin with. The preconceived notions that are passed down are troublesome for our country and society.  Thinking about that, this book could be appropriate for younger students, as hopefully a discussion can happen to help them think for themselves and not believe what a parent or older friend is saying about people of other races.

I don't feel as though this is a typical multicultural book, as they were discussed in our chapter and in class.  When I think of a multicultural book, or a diverse population book, I think about a picture book with characters that are from a culture outside of the Anglo-Saxon characters that are usually depicted in our storybooks.  This was more of a book about helping people understand our similarities, and not about one particular group of people.

I was drawn to the illustrations no the first page of text. The children and adults interwoven throughout the tree was a beautiful image to me.  There were many curves within the branches, and horizontal lines, which made me feel at peace when I first began the story.  I thought the blue butterfly was a nice touch.  It is the only color on in the illustration, but it's a muted color, which allows for a feeling of calmness.  Beyond the first page, I wasn't reeled in by the illustrations.  It appears that he has an expressionistic style of drawing, which I have realized, it not to my liking.  There were warm colors throughout most of the book, which was probably done to ensure a sense of peace while reading a book that could make you angry, since not everyone will agree with the message in the book. There is a page near the middle of the book that is bright pink.  It states, "Why would some people say their race is better than another? Because they feel bad about themselves. Because they are afraid. Because."  I think the bright pink is perfect for this, as it awakens the reader and makes them think about what is written here.  It makes them realize that what is said on these pages is part of the problem, and maybe, just maybe, if you feel some stirring within you on these pages, you will start to help solve the problem.

I could see myself reading this book with my children and my students.  It is important for them to understand that we should choose our friends because of the way we are treated, or the characteristics we find valuable, and not the race of the other person.

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