Despite what you may be hearing in the media: “The truth is, no one of us can be free until everybody is free”. (Maya Angelou) In my work, that means that representation in youth literature has to be continually examined, preferably through the lens of critical multicultural analysis because our stories express how we conceptualize freedom.
The books we hand to young readers transmit to them the possibility of freedom that we intend for them. Through critical multicultural literacy, readers learn to disrupt the limits placed upon them by identifying expressions of how the world takes away our power that are embedded in the text. Books can also provide readers with the tools, the knowledge, and the insight to challenge misinformation.
The more books we read critically that relate to how we are positioned because of our race, ethnicity, religion, gender, ability, or class, then the more we are able to see, and hopefully to disrupt, in the real world.
No doubt, Jewish people face these same barriers. Through my work on the We Are Kidlit Summer Reading List, I’ve become so much more aware of Jewish literature, the diversity it offers and the themes it expresses and they ways those is this community can be rendered powerless. Books by or about Jewish people are well worth a read so that we can connect, identify, disrupt, and move beyond uneducated opinions that are expressed in the media; so that we call all work to be free
Here are a few books to get you started.
This is Just a Test by Wendy Wan-Long Shang, and Madelyn Rosenberg
Always an Olivia: A Remarkable Family History by Carolivia Herron; illustrated by Jeremy Tugeau
Color Me In by Natasha Diaz
Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar
Ordinary Hazards by Nikki Grimes
Enchanted Air: Two Cultures Two Wings by Margarita Engle
Emily Goldberg Learns to Salsa by Micol Ostow
Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi
My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula J. Freedman
The Whole Story of Half a Girl by Veera Hiranandani
Burnt Bread and Chutney: Growing Up Between Cultures – A Memoir of an Indian Jewish Childhood by Carmit Delman (not necessarily children’s but, I really want to read this)
Artichoke Hearts by Sita Brahmachari
The Way Home Looks Now by Wendy Wan-Long Shang
The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee by David Truer