children's fiction

Let’s Talk About Race

letstalkaboutraceIf you’re black, brown, color of any kind then you’ve probably talked to your children about race already. It is part of living, but I think it’s something that is uncomfortable for white people to address, or figure out how to talk about, or something forever postponed to be taught by a teacher.

Am I generalizing? Of course. This picture book, Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester, provides an excellent framework for having that conversation, not only what race is and means, but also that there’s more to a person beyond that.

Just as I am a story and you are a story

and countries tell stories

about themselves, race is a story, too.

Whether you’re black like me or Asian, Hispanic

or white, each race has a story about itself.

And that story is almost always the same:


Some stories are true. Some are not.

Those who say


are telling a story that is not true.

I’m having a hard time holding myself accountable to the kind of person I want my children to be. I’m very angry and frustrated with the political climate and feel like every new appointment is a slap in the face. The message in this book is one of empathy and peace.

Do I look at you and think I know your story

when I don’t even know your name?

Or, do I look at you and wonder:

What’s your name?

When were you born?

Where were you born?

Where do you live?

What do you like?

What don’t you like?

Gee, maybe we like and dislike

some of the same things.

You can find a copy of Let’s Talk About Race here, here, and from your library here.

middle grade · young adult

We Will Not Be Silent


We Will Not Be Silent tells the true story of the White Rose Society— a student led resistance against Hitler. Russell Freedman adeptly shares this history with younger readers (middle-grade and up) focusing on Hans and Sophie Scholl, their classmates and friends at the University of Munich who worked together to write, print, and distribute thousands of pamphlets calling for active resistance against Hitler.

The Nazi party controlled everything, there was no room for critical and independent thinking. The White Rose Society brought together the students who recognized evil, recognized the restrictive government, recognized the hateful actions and rhetoric and came together to fight.

I read this book this past summer and cried and cried— for their bravery, their lives, their selflessness, and their conviction to stand up against evil. I can’t think of a better book to put in every middle school and high school library right now.

Why do you allow these men who are in power to rob you step by step, openly and in secret, of one domain of your rights after another, until one day nothing, nothing at all will be left but a mechanized state system presided over by criminals and drunks? Is your spirit already so crushed by abuse that you forget it is your right – or rather, your moral duty – to eliminate this system?

from the Third Leaflet, White Rose Society

You can get a copy here and here, or borrow one from your library. The intended audience for this book is middle school and up, but if you want more information on the White Rose Society, there’s plenty out there.

young adult

Beyond Magenta


My local newspaper this morning had an image of a car tagged with the hate speech, die fag, painted in red on the hood of a car belonging to a young college student. If you’ve been paying attention to social media, the news, your life, etc. then you’ve seen emboldened racist behavior manifested in all its different forms.

Susan Kuklin’s photography collection, Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out is a beautiful book. The teens interviewed for her photography collection shared their stories and experiences that are as varied and unique as they are in these transcribed interviews and essays. Beyond Magenta is incredible in it allows room for the teens that fill the pages to dictate their own story, a freedom that so often the media, popular culture, their classmates, families, and their world doesn’t even allow.

I’m not going to pretend that all these stories are filled with hope, sunshine, and rainbows. It’s in there, the sunshine and the hope, but there is also so much pain and loss.

My biggest comfort in this book is that you can read it, you can buy it here, here, here, and borrow it from a public library found here. And you can meet these teens, ON THEIR TERMS, thank god for that.

Be active, protect yourself, and protect each other.

children's fiction

The Chickens Build a Wall

The Chickens Build a WallHave you ever had the pleasure of watching chickens strut around? They scratch and dig in the dirt. They eat literally everything trying to grow. And if there’s a strange noise or anything out of the ordinary, those poor little chickens freeze or find a bush to hide under immediately. They’re fearful little biddies, and the perfect animals to build a wall when a strange looking hedgehog shows up in the hen yard.

Jean-François Dumont is the author and illustrator of this gem of a book. The book comes together very cleanly, but it gives our children hope, and maybe hope is what they need when we try to explain why on earth someone would want to build a wall to shut people out. When we take the time to look at our similarities rather than our differences there is arguably less to fear. And so many of the issues we face and the lies that have been told rely on fear. Let’s move beyond fear. Let’s show our children the way.

Check your local library for a copy, your local bookstore, Powell’s, or Amazon.

adult fiction

A Hologram for the King

hologramcover_final_webI really felt like the first book I chose for the empathy bookclub needed to encapsulate so many of my hopes and desires and all of my frustrations. And then I pivoted completely and picked a book I’m not sure I even liked. But this is the empathy bookclub, and Donald Trump’s message resonated with a lot of frustrated blue collar workers who watched their jobs disappear, much how Alan Clay’s character in The Hologram for the King becomes frustrated watching his job transition and morph into something unrecognizable. A character frustrated with the global marketplace. A character frustrated with his inability to make anything.

So first up in the empathy bookclub is The Hologram for the King written by Dave Eggers, published in 2012 from McSweeney’s and also available from Vintage Books in paperback.

“Eggers seems ready to take America by the scruff of its neck and ask us what we’re going to do about injustice and a sense of community; but where some writers celebrate America as a home for second lives and triumphant reinvention, Eggers seems bracingly wary of happy endings, as if convinced that our real work is still ahead of us.”

– from a review in the NY Times Sunday Book Review by Pico Iyer which is as much about Eggers than The Hologram for the King.

You can purchase this book from your local independent bookstore, you can borrow it from your local public libraryAnd if you’re into book packages showing up at your door there’s always Amazon and my favorite, Powell’s.

In 2016, The Hologram for the King was released as a movie featuring Tom Hanks. My challenge for you is to read the book, but you totally have my permission to see the movie instead. I just might do both.

Once you’ve read The Hologram from the King, check out this interview with Dave Eggers from The New Yorker .

You tell me how dark the humor is when Alan Clay can’t even build a wall in his own yard.