The Talk: Conversations About Race, Love & Truth – edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson

 The Talk: Conversations About Race, Love & Truth – edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson, Crown Books (an imprint of Penguin Random House), 9780593121610, 2020 

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Format: Hardcover

What did you like about the book?  Although billed as a short story collection, the content was actually quite varied. It’s a book of essays, poems, illustrations, first person narratives and stories about adults speaking truth to children about bias and race. The pieces are short, illustrated in black and white and the line-up for both the authors and illustrators is star-studded. Grace Lin wrote and illustrated her selection that explicitly rejects the “China doll” label on behalf of her daughter and explains why it’s so demeaning. Tracey Baptiste walks her son through the ten things you must do when a cop stops your car — in real time,  as she’s pulled over for “driving a little erratically.” Adam Gidwitz tells his daughter the truth about his family’s historic support for systemic racism. Christopher Myers retells the story of the Minotaur, from a new perspective. There are also affirmation pieces about being Cherokee, Iranian-American, Latinx and Vietnamese-American, among others. The illustrations range from realistic (a soft pen and ink wash with lots of detail by E.B. Lewis for a reminiscence about a family’s Christmas) to highly stylized (Duncan Tonatiuh accompanying his own essay on “Why Are There Racist People?”).  The entries are all unique and that’s one of the strengths of the book. Although they each address the histories and circumstances of different groups of people, you may discover affinities with any of them, based on style and approach, instead of only engaging with ones that speak to your personal experience.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No. To clarify, the “love” being referred to here is family love. I mistakenly thought it might also have “talks” about LGBTQ families, but the collection is instead focused on race, ethnicity, culture and language.

To whom would you recommend this book?  This book addresses a unique need for parents and caregivers: some simple, short pieces to read and discuss on race & racism, bias, self-image, and love. The essays are appropriate for children between grades 3-8, although they could also work well for high-low readers or ELL learners. Teachers in those grades will also find this a good source for class discussion assignments. It’s less clear to me that children would pick this book up independently to read, although there’s nothing to prevent that.

Who should buy this book? Elementary, middle and public libraries

Where would you shelve it? For public libraries, I’d put it in a parenting section. For schools, 305.

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes. A great book to recommend to parents or elementary/middle school teachers.

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: September 14, 2020

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