Ibram X. Kendi How to be an anti-racist, which explores how to create a fair and just society, struck a chord with readers following widespread protests following the 2020 killing of George Floyd; it has, to date, sold over 930,000 copies in print. The book also prompted a question from parents: how do we pass on these values to our children?
In How to raise an anti-racist, a June release from One World, National Book Award winner Kendi suggests some answers, drawing on scholarship and his experience as a father. “Ibram stresses that it’s not about the individual work you do with your individual child, but it’s also the work we do as adults to make our society one in which we can raise our kids,” says Chris Jackson, publisher and editor. chief at One World. “It is productive, generative and loving work that asks how we make ourselves a stronger, better, more caring and inclusive society, and how we as individuals represent these ideas in ourselves. This is what every parent wants for their child.
Kendi’s book is one of many new titles that address issues of race and social justice in the context of parenthood, a fact Jackson doesn’t find surprising given the events of the past two years. “What we saw in 2020 was one of the biggest social movements in world history,” he says. “People were suddenly, inevitably having to deal with issues that we had avoided in this country for a very long time. These ideas were no longer things you could just brush off, but parents had no language for that.
TP spoke with authors and publishers about upcoming titles that help parents make sense of the present moment and imagine a more just future.
Several books take a hands-on, interactive approach to anti-bias parenting. Educator Britt Hawthorne Raising Anti-Racist Children (Simon Element, June), written with Natasha Yglesias, is divided into four sections – “Healthy Bodies”, “Radical Minds”, “Conscious Shopping” and “Thriving Communities” – each accompanied by quizzes, stories, activities and tools to foster an anti-racist worldview, with contributions from 15 other contributors.
“It’s a community-centered book written and directed by BIPOC,” says Hawthorne, a black biracial parent. “Here you have a connection to so many anti-racism caregivers across the country and a window into how they do it.” The author cultivates similar conversations with her more than 96,000 Instagram followers and in the Collective Liberation online community, which offers webinars and other anti-bias resources.
“The parenting field is overwhelmingly made up of white and cisgender women who are middle-class or uphold middle-class ideals,” she says. “The ideas in the book are encountered with a new level of openness and connection in a way that this conversation has never been encountered before. People are forced or invited to consider systemic oppression, with language that they find difficult, to think of terms like “white domination,” “white supremacy,” and “white toxicity.” The book offers achievable next steps to minimize or mitigate harm.
The Race-Wise Family (WaterBrook, May) is for Christian parents, offering biblically sound advice for raising anti-racist children. Co-authors Helen Lee, whose books include The missionary mother, and Michelle Reyes, vice president of the Asian American Christian Collaborative, highlight key scriptures that underpin a biblical theology of race, and suggest questions, prayers, conversation starters, and activities that families can use in their homes and church communities.
Both Lee and Reyes, who are Asian Americans, have written about homeschooling their children, but the public face of homeschooling is overwhelmingly white. Blogger and professional speaker Amber O’Neal Johnston is one of the few prominent black parents in homeschooling. In A place of belonging (TarcherPerigee, May), she develops the principles of her website, Heritage Mom, which details ways in which black families can honor and celebrate their cultures.
The book encourages parents to affirm their cultural or ethnic origins and to recognize the similarities and differences in how others live. “Traditionally, homeschoolers have been viewed as having their children in this bubble, not wanting them to fit into the larger world,” says O’Neal Johnston. “But I see home as an incubator to prepare our children to integrate beautifully and connect with their local and global communities.”
Although her Christian faith informs the content of her website and her children’s upbringing, O’Neal Johnston emphasizes that her book is written for families from all walks of life. It includes tips for fostering open dialogue, teaching difficult history, organizing an inclusive library, and celebrating culturally specific art and music in the context of everyday family life. “Anti-racism is not a lesson plan,” she explains. “I show parents how to create a family life of intentional natural rhythms that help build a childhood of mutuality, with the goal of raising adults who are actively engaged in vibrant communities of all kinds.”
Other books use a personal narrative to consider larger societal issues. In want the best (Parenting Press, May), Sarah W. Jaffe, who is white, details her struggle to reconcile her family’s privilege with her anti-prejudice ideals. A former advocate for the foster care system, Jaffe has interviewed dozens of parents like her who are questioning and moving away from the cultural message that parents should seek every benefit for their children and remove every obstacle in their path. which often leaves other people’s children behind. “The Varsity Blues college admissions scandal is a very strong indictment of what extremely privileged parents are doing,” she says.
The book offers guidance for making important family decisions, especially around education, while encouraging collective action that can improve systems for everyone. Jaffe profiles activist parents and addresses wealth, legacy and inheritance. “Let’s talk about what we actually do and how we spend our money,” she says, “and the harder things, like giving up our benefits and not just trying to maintain the status quo.”
The collection of essays Raising Raffi, by novelist, translator and journalist Keith Gessen, which Viking will release in June, examines how parental choices intersect with political realities. “Keith is an immigrant, and everything he writes is from the perspective of being born Jewish in Russia and fleeing that country with his family to seek a better life in the United States,” says Allison Lorentzen, editor-in-chief at Viking. . “One of the best essays in the book is about their family’s experience during the first months of the pandemic.” Gessen and his wife, novelist Emily Gould, and their two sons lived near the intersection where one of the biggest protests of the 2020 uprisings took place, Lorentzen says. “The play is about what it was like to go through that as a parent and trying to explain the dangers of being a black man in America to a young [white] child.”
In 2018 like a mother, Angela Garbes combined scientific information and personal experience to ease readers’ anxiety around pregnancy; TPcalled it an “enabling resource”. His follow-up, Essential Work (Harper Wave, May), grew out of a widely read 2021 essay for the To cut, “Numbers don’t tell the whole story”, in which she examined the unfair burden that Covid-19 has placed on female caregivers.
Using the de Garbes family’s experience as social workers in the Philippines as a starting point, Essential Work offers insight into the current state of caregiving in America and explores the idea of motherhood as a means of social change. Her central thesis is that change starts at home, and she draws on the reproductive justice movement, black feminism and feminist scholarship, as well as her own life, to illustrate her point.
“I wanted to write something that celebrated the beauty of care work, and – this is where the social justice part comes in – I wanted to give parents a space to reimagine care work as a place where we we can actually start the work,” says Garbes. “It’s the daily place where we can teach children about their own inherent value.”
Garbes’ tone is hopeful, focused on a world that is not bound by the oppressive systems we currently live in, she explains. Parenthood isn’t glamorous or “global movement work,” she says, but “we need all kinds of commitment at all levels. Parenthood is not particularly immediately rewarding. It requires the belief that the world can be a better place and that you need to work towards it, even if there’s a very good chance you won’t be there to see it.
Pooja Makhijani is a writer and editor in New Jersey.
Below, more on parenting books:
Life’s Labor: PW interviews Jazmina Barrera
In ‘Linea Nigra’ (Two Lines, May), essayist Jazmina Barrera reflects on literary and artistic considerations of the maternal body and the upbringing of children.
Family matters: books for parents 2022
New titles address the particular concerns of expectant gay parents through the lens of psychology and midwifery.
Wonder Why: PW interviews Scott Hershovitz
Scott Hershovitz, professor of law and philosophy at the University of Michigan, titled his forthcoming book “Nasty, Brutish, and Short” (Penguin Press, May) after speculation by Thomas Hobbes about what life would be like without government .
Alone: Books for Parents 2022
Future books address the particular and growing needs of single and single parents.
A version of this article originally appeared in the 01/24/2022 issue of Weekly editors under the title: Teach your children well