Why is cultural diversity important? Without it, we settle in to our beliefs like a feather bed (or quicksand) and fail to listen to the truth of the world around us.

Why is cultural diversity important? Without it, we settle in to our beliefs like a feather bed (or quicksand) and fail to listen to the truth of the world around us. #middlegrade #ownvoices #teacher #homeschool

I grew up loving Laura Ingalls Wilder books and knowing absolutely no one of color. Looking back, I can understand how my upbringing made it easy to live in complacency. My complacency has led me to a lack of understanding about the prejudices and problems that non-whites face.

We all suffer from prejudice, but we don’t all recognize it. I’m grateful for brave writers who use their authentic voices to help me understand and chisel away at the lies I grew up with.

For Black Girls Like Me

Mariama J. Lockington, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, July 30, 2019, 336 pages

Eleven-year-old Makeda June Kirkland has a lot going against her. She just moved from Maryland to New Mexico and has no friends. Her older sister no longer seems as close, and no one understands what it’s like being a black girl raised by a white family.

The one person who does understand, her best friend Lena, has suddenly gone silent as well. All of those things would make life hard to handle, but Makeda fears something even worse. Her mom can’t seem to get a grip and starts making all sorts of odd decisions.

Who Should Read This Book?

Middle-grade students (and their parents and teachers) will love this book for Makeda’s lyrical voice as she struggles with all of the problems in her life. She’s felt a little left out all her life, but the kids at her new school seem to highlight her differences. When her dad, a symphony musician, goes on tour overseas, Makeda and Eve struggle to know what to do about their mom and her increasingly bizarre behavior.

Lockington weaves both the pathos of being different with the fear and uncertainty of a daughter dealing with a parent’s mental illness. As a narrator, Makeda makes the reader reconsider behavior and beliefs without shaming or chastising.

As an adult reader, I found the spelling errors and alternate spellings for some words cumbersome. I confess the English teacher in me wanted to pull out a pen and help Makeda with her spelling and grammar. But as a writer, I understand how those same mistakes help bring authenticity to Makeda’s voice.

This book helps answer the question of why cultural diversity is important in our classrooms, families, and lives.

Looking for an excellent #ownvoice #middlegrade book? Check out #ForBlackGirlsLikeMe by @marilock. #amreading #mentalhealth Click To Tweet

Red Dove, Listen to the Wind

Sonia Antaki, One Elm Books, October 15, 2019, 232 pages

Thirteen-year-old Red Dove lives with her mother and brother and Lakota tribe in the Dakota Territory. Abandoned by her white father, Red Dove struggles to help her family survive. Walks Alone, her older brother, constantly reminds her of her place in the family and the tribe. Red Dove must not hunt, must not eat plums, and must not break a hundred other rules that govern the way of the people.

Why is cultural diversity important? Without it, we settle in to our beliefs like a feather bed (or quicksand) and fail to listen to the truth of the world around us. #middlegrade #ownvoices #teacher #homeschool

Falling Bird, Red Dove’s mother, tries to help her understand that the rules help everyone live in balance. Red Dove fears that her need to question traditions stems from her white heritage. Fitting in, even after living her entire life with the tribe, doesn’t come easy. Her grey eyes and lighter skin don’t help.

When white settlers come to their village and insist that all the children leave for the white man’s school, Red Dove has no desire to leave for the white man’s school, but it becomes clear that if the tribe that sending its children away will be the only way the white soldiers will help feed the tribe over the winter.

Red Dove’s grandfather, a medicine man, assures her that one day she will use her gifts to help her people. Even if it means traveling far away to the school.

Once at the school, Red Dove wonders how her grandfather’s prophecy could ever come true. Especially in a place where no one listens and no one cares.

Who Should Read This Book?

Antaki tells Red Dove’s story with sensitivity and accuracy. Younger readers may struggle with the truths about the boarding schools for Native Americans and the treatment of Natives during this time period (1880s). Red Dove’s quest for truth and her place in the world keep the book from becoming maudlin or a heavy-handed litany of wrongs against Native Americans.

Students will want to explore further and draw their own conclusions about the settlement of the American West.

If you're a #teacher, #parent, or #librarian, go to Amazon and pre-order #RedDoveListentotheWind today. @soniaantaki did a beautiful job of revealing little-known history to today's #middlegrade reader. Click To Tweet

In order to understand why cultural diversity is important, one needs to inform oneself about the history of oppression in the United States. This book will serve as an eye-opener for many.

I receive free electronic advanced reader copies of these books through an arrangement between the publishers and NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion on NetGalley’s website. I only review books on my blog that I really love.