Protagonist: The lead character of a story
I get multiple responses from people of all races when they see my store. Most are positive. I love having people from other races come over and seeing their faces light up with joy when they see my table. They understand, they get it! Diversity.
Just recently I met a woman, who was white, and we had the most elaborate conversation about the necessity of black books being in schools and accessible for families. I could not agree with her more! We even talked about how she is Jewish and I knew I had the right book for her! I handed her the book Ezra’s Big Shabbat Question and watched her heart beam with excitement as she flipped through the pages and resonated with each and every one of them. She bought about five books for her family, books that told amazing stories, took a few cards and promised to tell friends. This interaction is the kind that I am used to. Then there is interactions like this one...
This woman’s response to my store has stuck with me for months now. She saw the table and I smiled. I gave her the same greeting every one gets.
“Hello! How are you today? I’d love to recommend your child a book from my store” with a smile you could see from heaven.
She looked at me with... the look. You know the, “Where are the white books” look. Her exact words to me were “Do you only have these kinds of books?” I guess in my mind I wanted her to pick up a book, ask questions about the books and see what they were about but she didn’t. She said her peace and left.
I was honestly shocked. In my world where I have seen more books without black people than with, I never thought a bookstore filled with black books would make a white person feel excluded and disgusted. I have only encountered a reaction like this twice.
On a different occasion, the mother grabbed her son when she saw him talking to me about the books and swiftly took him away from my table. I try to place myself in the shoes of others to help me comprehend their actions. I try to make it all make sense. But these two encounters don’t make sense because I always had to read books that didn’t have characters that looked like me on the covers no matter what the story was about. I also understand we are creatures of habit. Some things are just too foreign and we stick with what we know, with what we are comfortable.
In my 25 years of life I have never looked at a book and thought “This book has white people in it. It has no value to me.” I still learned the lessons, I still laughed, I still loved, I still cried the same. The colors of the characters never took away anything from the story.
What if I told you not all books with black protagonist are about loving the melanin in your skin and the kinky-ness of your hair. Did you know books with black protagonist can teach life lessons, teach love, give laughter, a feeling of adventure, home and safety?
Diversity is not linear. Diversity is not for one group to feel included, it for the masses. Diversity is not for conversion, it is for understanding.
The next time you see a book with a character that may not look like you, pick it up, open the inside cover or flip it over to read what the story is about. Flip through the pages and see how the children and a the family in the book are just like your family. You never know what you may find when you take a quick look! You could find books like:
Yes You Can to teach your child about independence and perseverance. In this book, Amaiyah has to learn to do tasks like tie her shoes, fold laundry, peel a banana, jump rope and much more. she doesn’t learn to do these tasks alone. She has the help of mentors to motivate her by saying “Yes you can” when she feels defeated.
B Is for Breathe to teach your child, and yourself, 26 ways to cope with frustrations.
Beyond the Kitchen: How To Cook Up Success with Life’s Mistakes to teach your children that they will make mistakes but it’s how we recover from the mistakes that makes the impact.
Cooking with Daddy to highlight the beautiful relationship between father and daughter! In this book, dad cooks up the meal of his daughters dream with his seven favorite seasonings. The secret seventh seasoning is the best!
Daddy’s Mini-Me to highlight the impact an active father has on his children and the pride felt by fathers.
Disco Balls of the Universe to teach your child about the galaxy.
Donovan’s Collage Adventure to teach your child what college is like and contrary to the childhood song, boys DO go to college.
Dr. Jam: The Kid Doctor of Education to teach your child about STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading, Art and Math)
Dream Big to teach your children to keep on dreaming even if it does seem impossible.
Ezra’s Big Shabbat Question that talks about a little boy that is curious if he is allowed to do this one thing on Shabbat.
Hey Numbers to help teach your little one how to count to ten.
I Am Me that is filled with positive affirmations for young girls and women to say over themselves daily.
Little Brother to teach the older sibling the importance of their influence on the younger child.
Tom McNaulty and the Sugar Mutants to teach your child about the importance of dental hygiene.
Black people are human. The stories created by black people are no less great than others. Black children deserve to see themselves as the stars. White children deserve diversity in every shape, size and color.
This blog isn’t a push for my bookstore, it’s a heart cry... HOWEVER, if you would like to take a glimpse into a pool of wonderful literature, check out BeBOMBBookClub.com, the online children’s bookstore dedicated to literacy, diversity, self acceptance, education and building the family unit.