Following the trend of this year, I’m late to the game in compiling this post. I apologize, but Seasons Greetings! I know many of you are completing your Hanukkah celebrations; I hope the holiday was filled with light and love for all.
For those still preparing for their holidays, I hope you will join me in using the season as an opportunity to be intentional and thoughtful about what gifts we purchase and where for friends, family and loved ones. I strive to buy items that challenge the narrative of whiteness as default and seek out books, toys and products that promote equity and justice. I also prioritize supporting local businesses owned by people of color, immigrants and queer folks.
Here are some of my favorites from this year!
Books for kids
The Wedding Portrait, Innosanto Nagara – “The Wedding Portrait is an essential book for kids about standing up for what’s right. Here are stories of direct action from around the world that are bookended by the author’s wedding story. He and his bride led their wedding party to a protest, and were captured in a photo by the local newspaper kissing in front of a line of police just before being arrested. “We usually follow the rules. But sometimes, if you see something is wrong–more wrong than breaking the rules and by breaking the rules you might stop it–you may need to break the rules.” Innosanto Nagara has beautifully melded an act of love with crucial ideas of civil disobedience and direct action that will speak to young readers’ sense of right and wrong. There has never been a more important moment for Innosanto Nagara’s gentle message of firm resolve.”
Not my Idea, A Book about Whiteness (Ordinary Terrible Things), by Anastasia Higginbotthom – “Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness is a a picture book that invites white children and parents to become curious about racism, accept that it’s real, and cultivate justice. ‘Quite frankly, the first book I’ve seen that provides an honest explanation for kids about the state of race in America today.” ‘–Elizabeth Bird, librarian.”
Prince and Knight, by Daniel Haack – “A prince of marriageable age looks far and wide for a partner who sings the same tune. “Handsome and sincere,” the prince accompanies his parents to meet ladies from nearby kingdoms. While the royals are away, a fire-breathing dragon ravages their home kingdom. The prince races home to protect his realm only to find a knight in shining armor battling alongside him. The two work together to defeat the dragon, but in the process, the prince loses his grip and nearly falls to his doom. The visored knight sweeps in to catch the prince, takes off his helmet to reveal his identity, and the two instantly realize their connection. Villagers and royals alike cheer for the two men’s relationship and, soon, wedding. Lewis’ lush colors and dramatic sequencing clearly show her background in animation and lend a timeless, Disney-like quality to the story. The art notably does not shy away from depicting the intimacy between the men, keeping it on par with images of heterosexual relationships that already dominate children’s media. Though the royal family is white, the happy villagers and the prince’s new betrothed add some necessary racial diversity to the mix. Victorious-it may even usurp King & King (2001) as the premier queer-friendly fairy tale for this age set.”
Introducing Teddy: a gentle story about gender, by Jessica Walton – “Introducing Teddy introduces the youngest readers to understanding gender identity and transition in an accessible and heart-warming story about being true to yourself and being a good friend.
Errol and his teddy, Thomas, are best friends who do everything together. Whether it’s riding a bike, playing in the tree house, having a tea party, or all of the above, every day holds something fun to do.
One sunny day, Errol finds that Thomas is sad, even when they are playing in their favorite ways. Errol can’t figure out why, until Thomas finally tells Errol what the teddy has been afraid to say: “In my heart, I’ve always known that I’m a girl teddy, not a boy teddy. I wish my name was Tilly, not Thomas.” And Errol says, “I don’t care if you’re a girl teddy or a boy teddy! What matters is that you are my friend.”
Where will I live, by Rosemary McCarney – “This stunning photo essay takes a look at the thousands of children around the world who have been forced to flee war, terror, hunger and natural disasters, young refugees on the move with very little left except questions. It’s hard to imagine, but the images here will help unaffected children understand not only what this must feel like, but also how very lucky they are. The final message is that children, even with uncertain futures, are resilient and can face uncertainty with optimism. With images from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.”
Books for Adults
I’m still here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, by Austin Channing Brown – “From a powerful new voice on racial justice, an eye-opening account of growing up Black, Christian, and female in middle-class white America.
In a time when nearly all institutions (schools, churches, universities, businesses) claim to value “diversity” in their mission statements, I’m Still Here is a powerful account of how and why our actions so often fall short of our words.
For readers who have engaged with America’s legacy on race through the writing of Ta-Nehisi Coates and Michael Eric Dyson, I’m Still Here is an illuminating look at how white, middle-class, Evangelicalism has participated in an era of rising racial hostility, inviting the reader to confront apathy, recognize God’s ongoing work in the world, and discover how blackness–if we let it–can save us all.”
Me and White Supremacy The Workbook, by Layla Saad – “Part education, part activation, the Me And White Supremacy Workbook is a first-of-its-kind personal anti-racism tool for people holding white privilege to begin to examine and dismantle their complicity in the oppressive system of white supremacy.” This is a downloadable workbook and it’s offered for free!
Coloring without Borders coloring book- “Coloring Without Borders is the culmination of work from artists all over the world who contributed pieces of art for children to complete. The intent is for the book to help children separated from their families at the border to expand their imaginations beyond the walls that confine them and to be a source of empathy and compassion for families that live free of the struggles that migrant families are enduring. All proceeds go directly to Families Belong Together.”
My Family Builders – “MyFamilyBuilders™ is an educational toy, it’s a fun game, it’s a conversation starter. It’s a handcrafted toy set that empowers kids to imagine freely and build thousands of possible combinations of friends and families that are as unique as they are. The set includes 48 magnetic wooden blocks and five games that create “teachable-moments” for parents to help their children understand and learn that differences are something to be celebrated.” I had to include this toy yet again because it’s fantastic.
People Colors Crayons (all ages) – “Our People Colors Crayons come in just about all the colors that people do! Children can draw family, friends and famous people, and make terrific self-portraits—whether they’re ebony, almond or somewhere in between.”
Black owned doll makers (all ages) – when a friend asked me to recommend a soft, brown-skinned baby doll, I discovered this list of 13 Black-owned doll making businesses curated by Shoppe Black. So many awesome options to choose from!
Love Letters 4 Liberation – Matice M. Moore describes themselves as “a Black, non-binary, queer painter and printmaker learning and loving my way through a life-long liberatory art practice.” Their Etsy page is full of beautiful apparel, Black Lives Matter signs and more! I recently became a Patreon of Matice. Consider supporting them and their career here!
Rabble + Rouse – “T shirts and statements for those who understand that what we see all around us every single day affects us.” I had to include my favorite statement apparel business, owned by my neighbor, Vanessa Toro, an Atlanta-based, Latinx creative and activist. I basically lived Rabble + Rouse’s Elect Black Women t-shirt this year. There are kids items too! Happy rabble rousing!
The Come Up Project’s “SweetSol” – A friend recently introduced me to Gangstas to Growers, an Atlanta-based program focused on empowering at-risk youth and our formerly incarcerated through agriculture, employment, and entrepreneurship. The SweetSol hot sauce supports the program toward becoming be self-sustaining.