By: Angie Haddock
Austin Channing Brown’s first encounter with race in America came at age seven, when she discovered that her parents had named her Austin to trick future employers into thinking she was a white man. Growing up in majority-white schools and churches, Channing Brown writes, “I had to learn what it means to love Blackness,” a journey that led to a lifetime spent navigating America’s racial divide as a writer, speaker, and expert helping organizations practice genuine inclusion.
I want to say up front that I have not read the grown-up version of this one, so I cannot compare the two! But I did love this version on its own merits.
Brown grew up between Toledo and Cleveland, Ohio, so I related to her instantly on that front. (Hello, fellow Cleveland native!) And she grew up in a similar time period, as well… so things like having to use a pay phone are things I understood. Maybe Gen Z will or not, but that will make itself seen when they get their hands on this one.
The stories here are mostly short and to the point, but they are great reminders (to an old folk like me) of how we are molded as kids. The stories are about church, school, hanging out with friends, getting that first crush. Things that kids – even ones growing up in a different time – will surely relate to.
This book is written to and for black girls, primarily. This only comes out in certain parts, though (mostly at the beginning and end). And while these girls will be able to see themselves in these scenarios, I think it’s equally important for other kids to consider the stories as well.
For example, she tells a story about a teacher using a hair salon as a scenario in class. A hair salon experience will be different for black kids and non-black kids, though. So, while the black kids reading this could be identifying with Brown’s confusion over the example – a white kid reading this might have never considered before why the teacher’s scenario didn’t make sense to everyone in the class. I feel like it could be eye-opening for younger readers to see that different perspective, maybe for the first time.
So, I think kids of all colors would learn something from these stories. Their takeaways will inherently be different, but it would be a good introduction to trying to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
This book comes out today, April 4th. I was able to read it in advance through Netgalley and the publisher, Convergent Books.