Monthly Archives: March 2019

Jerry Craft’s New Kid

I hadn’t heard a thing about it when an ARC of Jerry Craft’s New Kid showed up in my mail last fall, but the description drew me in immediately:

Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade.

As he makes the daily trip from his Washington Heights apartment to the upscale Riverdale Academy Day School, Jordan soon finds himself torn between two worlds—and not really fitting into either one. Can Jordan learn to navigate his new school culture while keeping his neighborhood friends and staying true to himself?

I dove in and fell completely in love. This old white lady teaches in a New York City elite private school and Jordan’s experience felt so authentic and real, something experienced over and over by black students at my school. Not sure of my own white privileged perspective, I gave it to my school’s diversity coordinator who expressed excitement and enthusiasm, supporting my own feelings about the book. Craft, using his own experience and that of his children, has produced a narrative that captures sensitively and with humor the world of many students of color at my school and others in New York City.

Yes, it will be enjoyed by young graphic novel fans, but it is more than that. It is piercingly accurate about the life a child like Jordan experiences in a school like mine. Assumptions. Microaggressions. Lame liberal white teachers. Parental expectations. Code-switching. Navigating friendships. Figuring out one’s future.

I’m so glad to join the bandwagon of accolades for this splendid work for young readers.

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Teaching and Learning About Slavery: Portugal’s Role

I am just back from a delightful one week sojourn in Portugal. The weather, food, and landscape were gorgeous. But this post isn’t about that; it is about African slavery. For, alongside all the fun vacation/tourist activities, I was paying attention to what I saw and what was said about Portugal and African slavery. Now a caveat: what follows is from a teeny tiny slice of time in Portugal, in a few parts, and listening to a very few people (all white). I would like to think that if I had dug further into this topic, if I had gone to Portugal to learn about this explicitly, that there would be many people and exhibits that were more reflective, more honest, and more contrite than what I heard and saw.

A few snapshots:

  • A guide who acknowledged our interest (I’d asked about this early on), but then said slavery had gone on throughout history everywhere and, as for Portugal, those involved had done so because they’d married African leaders who were slave traders. That is, it was the Africans who got the Portuguese into it. How else am I to interpret that statement?
  • A lecturer who gave us two talks on different days. I asked about slavery and he acknowledged it, but barely said anything about it.
  • A guide who proudly stated that Portugal was the first European country to end slavery. Perhaps she didn’t know that it was because of mercenary reasons (being no longer profitable) and empire-building reasons (better ways to exploit than through slave trade). Here’s a chronology: Who banned slavery when? (Portugal was not the first by any stretch)
  • Also, what about Brazil? They spoke about it in terms of the monarchy relocated there for a while, but ….er…what about the workers there? Africans in bondage were brought to Brazil by Portuguese in droves.
  • While one guide consciously spoke of “explorations” rather than “discoveries” others did not. And so there was the celebration again and again of the various men who crossed oceans to “discover” or “explore” or whatever in Africa, the Americas, and Asia. Witness The Monument of the Discoveries.
  • When given some free time in Belem I visited the Maritime Museum and was sadly unsurprised to see the exhibits featuring discovery and nothing about those “discovered.” Looking at their website here is a worksheet for students. It is in Portuguese but it doesn’t appear to consider the topic at all. (If I’m wrong please let me know and I’ll correct this.)

Now home I poked around a bit to see what I could find:

This is just a start but I encourage anyone visiting Portugal to be aware of this aspect of the country’s history and ask your guides about it. As I responded to a friend on Facebook, I would hope my very narrow window into the Portuguese and their awareness of this was not typical. And if it was, hopefully, that will change soon.

 

 

 

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In the Classroom (and Anywhere for that Matter): We MUST Do Better, Fellow White People

From Teaching Tolerance:

Slavery Simulations: Just Don’t

We’re saddened by the news of yet another classroom lesson on slavery involving a troubling simulation—but we’re not surprised. Our research has shown some common pitfalls when teaching and learning about slavery. In this edition of The Moment, we explain why mock auctions—along with simulations of the Middle Passage—do more harm than good, and we provide resources for teaching this history more effectively.

Please read the whole article here.

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Diverse Voices in Latinx Literature Conference Report

Yesterday’s mini-conference at Bank Street College of Education, Diverse Voices in Latinx Literature, was outstanding. Every panel, every panelist, every moderator, every keynoter — all were wonderful. The moderators asked great questions that inspired the panelists to give fascinating and informative answers. And added bonus — they were all delightful storytellers! Kudos to Cindy Weill and everyone else involved in creating this unique day. Hopefully, they do it again. And guess what — you don’t have to feel sad you weren’t there because the whole thing was filmed by Kidlit TV and is archived here.

Here’s the program so you can see the panel titles and speakers:

Program

9:00 – 9:30 AM: Breakfast and Registration

9:30 – 9:45 AM: Opening Remarks
Loida Garcia-Febo, President, American Library Association

9:45 – 10:30 AM: Fantasy and Illustration in Graphic Novels and Comics

  • Raúl the Third, Lowriders Blast from the Past
  • Liniers Macanudo, Buenas Noches Planeta
  • Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez, La Borinqueña

Moderator:  Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

10:30 – 11:20 AM: Elevating Our Heroes Through Picture Books

  • Duncan Tonatiuh, Danza! Amalia Hernández and El Ballet Folklórico de México
  • Raul Colón, Miguel’s Brave Knight: Young Cervantes and His Dream of Don Quixote
  • Eric Velasquez, Schomburg: The Man Who Built the Library
  • Anika Aldamuy Denise, Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and StoryTeller Pura Belpré
  • Rudy Gutierrez, Carlos Santana: Sound of the Heart, Song of the World

Moderator:  Sonia Rodriguez, LaGuardia Community College

11:20 AM – 12:20 PM: Break

  • Lunch on your own
  • Book sales

11:45 AM – 12:20 PM: Author, Book Signing Begins

12:20 – 1:10 PM: Soy yo: Developing Identities & Relationships in Latinx Coming-of-Age Stories

  • Pablo Cartaya, Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish
  • Angela Dominguez, Stella Diaz Has Something to Say
  • Hilda Eunice Burgos, Ana Maria Reyes Does Not Live in a Castle
  • Aida Salazar, The Moon Within

Moderator: Carla España, Hunter College

1:10 – 1:30 PM: Keynote: Duncan Tonatiuh

1:30 – 2:00 PM: Authors Sign Books

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