|Photo by Catherine Cronin
My wife is a middle school guidance counselor, and this year, as last, she has one or two transgender students who are coming out—in sixth grade. At age eleven. Their parents are in various stages of disequilibrium, trying to rise to the occasion.
Another kid I know dissolved in tears recently, worried that two of his classmates (and their families) may now be deported under the new administration.
A girl who was adopted from Guatemala at birth by two parents from upstate New York now wonders if she will be sent back to the country of her birth.
No matter what your feelings about the outcome of the presidential election, there is no doubt that kids are feeling the stress and uncertainty of the sea change in our political system. What can we as middle grade authors do in the face of their vulnerability?
Here are some ideas:
1) Write the stories of those children in flux—kids who are facing pressures and fears due to immigration, discrimination, dislocation of any kind. These stories can be written in the voice of a targeted or vulnerable child if you feel qualified to do so, or in the voice of the kid who is a friend/ally/bystander.
2) Seek out books that portray these experiences (see resources). By reading and buying these books, we support those authors, and we familiarize ourselves with the narratives of children who are going to bear a lot of the brunt of the new administration hitting the ground in January. There have already been specific groups identified as targets: Muslims, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, Syrian refugees, Dream Act kids, transgender kids. On top of that, we have heard dire pronunciations about instituting “law and order” in our cities, putting communities of color at risk.
3) Use your own platform to amplify stories and authors from these communities and perspectives. If you’ve read a wonderful book about an immigrant child, a child of color, a kid who is LGBTQ, tweet about it. Stories about immigrants and refugees build empathy and break down stereotypes. Write a review. Read these stories to inform your own work and world views. Book-talk these diverse titles when you do your own author events—amplify, publicize, and spread the word on social media and in person.
4) Dig into these resources:
**Read author Jacqueline Woodson’s brilliant essay in the New York Times: “How Do I Comfort Our Frightened Son After the Election? I Tell Him How Our People Have Survived.”
**Check out School Library Journal’s Islam in the Classroom
**Use the rich resources of We Need Diverse Books to find stories about African American kids, Asian kids, Latinos, Muslim kids, LGBTQ characters, and more.
**Explore these on Twitter: #ownvoices, #booksfighthate
Be brave. Be generous. Stand up for kids who need us now and will continue to need us in the coming months and years. It’s imperative.
"This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal." ~~ Toni Morrison