In the forward of The Talk: Conversations about Race, Love, and Truth the editors Wade and Cheryl Hudson talk about their own experience giving "the talk" to their two children because they wanted to make sure that they knew the ways to stay as safe as possible in a society that is too often hostile to African Americans. Other contributors talked about how they broached the subject with their daughters about staying safe around their gender and about sex. Others talked about their Native American heritage or recalled the time they received "the talk" from one of their own parents. The universal theme in all of the conversations: parents love their children, want them to be proud of their heritage, and pray that they will be safe as they go out into the world. Parents want to empower their children. All of the conversations are are real and honest. If an event caused the child to feel small, these parents wanted to turn the conversation around so the child could embrace the truth: they were born to be big.
The essays and illustrations are created by a diverse cast of authors and artists using a variety of mediums, styles, and forms. There are letters, lists, poems, short stories, and essays. Illustrations (all in black and white) rendered in watercolor, collage, pen and ink, acrylic, comics, and digital styles. The messages shared are diverse and heart-warming in their sincerity.
I devoured the book, smiling, laughing, crying, and sighing as I read these tender remembrances of tough but necessary conversations. I recalled "the talk" I had with my mom after I started menstruation. Oh, was that mortifying. I cringed at the thought of the parent having to teach their child what to do if a police officer pulled them over---hands on the dashboard, move slowly, speak calmly. Oh, to live in a society where that conversation was not necessary. A Latinx parent reminded her child to not be ashamed of her first language. "Our words are beautiful. Our words belong here. They give you more ways to understand people around you...Remember that no language is better than another." An Asian-American parent tells her daughter to not accept the cliche "China Doll" from people or men, because it diminishes her. They think she is as cute as a toy, but she is really strong and fierce! So many wonderful empowering messages in this book to contemplate and to savor.
What I liked about the book:
- At the end of the book all the authors and artists were named and their accomplishments highlighted. Some I had heard of before, most I hadn't. I was glad to learn more about each of them.
- The variety of contributors was refreshing: Blacks, Jews, Muslims, LGBTQIA+, Native American, Asian-American, Latinx, and immigrants.
- All the conversations, whether personal or historical in nature, and in whatever writing style moved me and helped advance my own empathic knowledge.
What I didn't like about the book:
- Once again I am wondering if this book is being marketed to the right audience. As a Cybils Award nonfiction judge I am told this is a Middle-grade book, for students from 5th to 8th grade. I do think all people would benefit from reading this book children to adults, but I just have a hard time imagining young pre-teens picking this book up on their own. Note to parents: If you want your kids to read it, check it out (or purchase it) yourself and read it together!