Friday, February 26, 2016

How Two “Slavery With a Smile” Controversies Are Changing the Conversation About Diverse Children’s Books

A Birthday Cake for George Washington


When I think back to how my peers and I learned about atrocities like American slavery and the Holocaust when we were kids in the 1980s and early ‘90s, I realize that these difficult lessons were often introduced through stories about people hiding. My favorites of those books — like Who Comes With Cannons?, about Quaker conductors on the Underground Railroad, and Number the Stars, which involved a Christian girl helping her Jewish friend escape to Sweden from Nazi-occupied Denmark —provided a sideways entrance to the truth, through the perspectives of characters less vulnerable to violence and oppression. Yet to read about the lengths that people went through to escape was also to obliquely understand the unnamable horrors they left behind.
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