So much of what I read comes from the white perspective. But if I want to expending my understanding of what minorities face, I have to read and respect books written by them about their experience. These two books enlightened me.
Do You Really Know What Minorities Face?
I used to think I knew what minorities face, after all, I married a minority (a Cuban immigrant). But really, I have no idea what ALL or even MOST minorities face. For the past ten years, I’ve been on a quest to expand my understanding. I’ve read some eye-opening books. Unfortunately, I’ve often been part of the problem when I pontificate on what I think minorities need, want, or feel based on my limited experience.
Reading authentic own-voices books helps me understand how my ideas of inclusivity fall far short of real inclusiveness. Instead of thinking I know the answers, I need to learn how to ask better questions. Most of all, I need to quit thinking I know what minorities face. Instead, I need to sit and listen (or read) and learn how to ask better questions.
I listened to My Monticello, which added a chilling note to work. Some books must be heard to get the full effect of the author’s words. What books have you read to expand your understanding of what minorities face?
By Jocelyn Nicole Johnson, Macmillan Audio, 7 hours and 36 minutes, narrated by Aja Naomi King, January LaVoy, Landon Woodson, LeVar Burton, Ngozi Anyanwu, and Tomiwa Edun, October 5, 2021, 16+
The book starts before the story in Jocelyn Nicole Johnson’s debut novel, My Monticello. A series of essays and short stories set the scene for the reader to understand the reality of a Black American today. The short stories, read by various actors, explain a reality most white Americans have no concept of. Fellow citizens don’t enjoy the same freedoms, securities, and experiences based on skin color.
Once a listener understands the social context, the story of My Monticello makes tragic sense.
Da’Naisha, a young Black descendant of Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson, leads a group of neighbors to safety during a violent overthrow of society by white militia. Mysterious storms and power outages lead up to the turbulent night when Da’Naisha drives the group to Monticello for safety.
An older white couple, an immigrant family, Da’Naisha’s white boyfriend, and other Black neighbors make up the rag-tag group seeking asylum at the entrance to Monticello. One of the guards joins forces with the group and the refugees set out creating a new society in a refuge as old as the country and its prejudices.
The dystopian setting raises more questions than answers. Could a group of white militia overrun the country? How would minorities fare? What would happen to women? Does our country hover on the brink of social disaster? If so, what can we do to change the course of history?
What I Loved About This Book
Thought-provoking, chilling, and honest, Jocelyn Nicole Johnson creates a world and reality that every citizen should sit up and listen to. Especially those wanting to understand antiracism and the role of an ally.
As an educator, I wouldn’t recommend the entire book to any but juniors or seniors due to the violence, sexual content, and language. But anyone over 16 should listen to (or read) My Monticello.
By Jasmine Holmes, Bethany House, November 2021, 192 pages.
I majored in history in college, and never questioned the white, Protestant, male version of the world until I went away to graduate school and studied bilingual-bicultural education. For the first time, I learned about others’ (non-white, non-male, non-Protestant) experiences. Ever since, I’ve been on a slow journey to learn about others’ perspectives, experiences, and realities.
Carved in Ebony: Lessons from the Black Women Who Shape Us adds another valuable link to my chain of knowledge. Author Jasmine Holmes digs into the lives of 10 Black women who made their worlds better through their activism, writings, missionary work, or quest to uplift fellow human beings.
Unlike most history books, Carved in Ebony not only shares historical details but also shows how and why they matter to a Black woman today. Part history, part memoir, Holmes leads us through how learning about each woman impacted her as a Black woman, a citizen, a mother, and a Christian.
This book is a must-read for anyone wanting to broaden their understanding of the Black experience. If you truly want to understand the subtle (and not so subtle) prejudices Black women face today, you’ll read this book. Holmes celebrates strong, outspoken, women who didn’t settle for the status quo and used their God-given talents to change their world.
It would make a wonderful book for families to read together and discuss. Teachers could also use the book in their classrooms when discussing Black History Month, racism, and women in history.