Our picks for books, videos, websites, and other social justice resources 35.4



Reflecting on Anti-Bias Education in Action: The Early Years

Directed by Filiz Efe McKinney
Produced by Debbie LeeKeenan and John Nimmo 
(Brave Sprout Productions, 2021)
Available at antibiasleadersece.com
48 min.

Identity, diversity, justice, action. These are the four interwoven principles of anti-bias education that organize the powerful film Reflecting on Anti-Bias Education in Action: The Early Years. Centering diverse voices of teachers and students, this film brings viewers into early childhood classrooms to show what early childhood anti-bias teaching and learning look and sound like. How do we integrate children’s identities, languages, and cultures into the classroom? How can we talk about differences? What is fairness? How can we talk about unfairness? What can we do? As they model a variety of teaching strategies — read-alouds, self-portraits, choosing materials for and responding to dramatic play, interactions with persona dolls, open-ended conversations, facilitating student activism — the featured teachers offer rich examples of anti-bias curriculum, pedagogy, and teacher reflection. This excellent film, along with the accompanying facilitator and viewer guidebook, have the potential to transform early childhood and elementary teaching and learning.


How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America

By Clint Smith
(Little Brown, 2021)
352 pp.

“The echo of enslavement is everywhere,” Clint Smith writes in the prologue to his brilliant book, How the Word Is Passed. The book captures a few of these echoes and tries to make sense of them for our lives today. Smith shows how in different sites, slavery is remembered, slavery is distorted, and slavery is forgotten. He travels to Thomas Jefferson’s home of Monticello, where over the course of his life Jefferson enslaved more than 600 people; to the Whitney Plantation outside of New Orleans, near the largest revolt of enslaved people prior to the Civil War; to Louisiana’s Angola State Prison, site of a former plantation; to the Confederate burial ground of Blandford Cemetery in Petersburg, Virginia; to Galveston Island, where the first non-Native enslaved person arrived in 1528, home of the first Juneteenth commemoration; to New York City, which on the eve of the American Revolution had the highest proportion of enslaved Black people to Europeans in the North; to Gorée Island in Senegal, a center of the trade in enslaved Africans from the 16th century to 1848; and finally, Smith returns to his own family, whose ancestors were enslaved, to make sense of the intimate, close-to-home impact of the “crime that is still unfolding.” A suite of discussion questions and lessons developed by the Zinn Education Project draws on How the Word Is Passed to help students listen for the “echo of enslavement” in the world around us, and in our own lives. 

Determined to Stay: Palestinian Youth Fight for Their Village

By Jody Sokolower
(Interlink, 2021)
240 pp.

Jody Sokolower, former Rethinking Schools managing editor and now co-coordinator of the Teach Palestine Project at the Middle East Children’s Alliance, has written an intimate book about the young people in Silwan, a Palestinian community just outside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City. What a treasure this book is. In story after story, Determined to Stay invites us into the lives of Palestinians. We witness their struggles and the daily outrages that make life for young Palestinians so hard. But Sokolower’s book is also a story of resilience and people’s remarkable tenacity to braid lives of dignity. And the book does not leave these issues “over there.” An Indigenous activist in California tells Sokolower: “To decolonize is to tell the truth.” And young people here tell us what Palestine and occupation mean in their lives. Poignant and personal, Determined to Stay brings Palestine to life for U.S. students.

Palestine with Rashid Khalidi
Throughline podcast

Hosts: Rund Abdelfatah and Ramtin Arablouei
(NPR, aired May 28, 2021)
56 min.

Although this Palestine episode of the NPR podcast Throughline might not be a resource to use with students, it may be the most succinct and valuable primer on Palestine that we are aware of. If you teach — or hope to teach — about Israel-Palestine, this episode will spark countless ideas for curriculum. Hosts Rund Abdelfatah and Ramtin Arablouei interview Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University and author of The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance, 19172017. In the podcast, Khalidi looks at the history of Zionist settlement in the region and the ideology that justified Jewish domination in an area that was overwhelmingly Arab — “an outpost of civilization against barbarism,” in the words of the Austrian Zionist leader Theodor Herzl. Spend an hour examining the roots of the ongoing Israel-Palestine crisis in this excellent podcast.

Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts

Written by Rebecca Hall
Illustrated by Hugo Martínez
(Simon & Schuster, 2021)
208 pp.

In this graphic novel, historian Rebecca Hall documents the process of her own research — and what she learned — about women who organized to challenge slavery. It’s an ideal text for high school students to learn about resistance, led by women rebels, during the Middle Passage and the slave revolts in colonial-era New York. Readers also come to appreciate that primary documents can tell different stories, depending on who is reading them and the perspectives they bring to their reading. As Angela Y. Davis notes, “Not only a riveting tale of Black women’s leadership of slave revolts but an equally dramatic story of the engaged scholarship that enabled its discovery.”

We Do This ’Til We Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice 

By Mariame Kaba
(Haymarket Books, 2021)
206 pp.

Against Punishment: A Resource by Project NIA and Interrupting Criminalization  

Published on Dec. 2, 2020  

Abolition has become a hot word in progressive education circles. Bettina Love’s 2019 We Want to Do More Than Survive was one spark; the 2020 Rebellion was another. Mariame Kaba is probably not a household name among most educators. But with her op-ed “Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish the Police,” published in the New York Times in 2020, and her enormous social media presence — writer Clint Smith has called her “the best person you will follow on Twitter” — she’s getting there. Kaba, a longtime organizer, educator, and prison-industrial complex abolitionist, recently published her first book, a collection of essays, interviews, and even a short story. These pieces are short, written in clear and accessible prose, and offer powerful distillations of many of the tenets of abolition, which in her words envisions a world where “we have everything we need: food, shelter, education, health, art, beauty, clean water, and more things that are foundational to our personal and community safety.” We Do This ’Til We Free Us would be powerful material for a teacher study group; its essays also belong in middle and high school classrooms tackling issues of policing and prisons. Kaba is also an educator and has adapted a number of her workshops and lessons for K–12 educators in her free booklet Against Punishment (www.surveymonkey.com/r/AgainstPunishment). In one activity, Kaba asks students to write about a time they felt safe, which inspires recollections of family gatherings and meals, being in nature, music, and community. Afterward, Kaba asks, “In your recollection of feeling safe, were the police part of your memory?” This prompt opens a lesson called “Another World Is Possible,” in which students answer the question “What is safety?” Critical lessons and questions for us all. 

Picture Books

Alejandria Fights Back! / ¡La lucha de Alejandria!

Written by Leticia Hernández-Linares and the Rise-Home Stories Project 
Illustrated by Robert Liu-Trujillo
(Feminist Press, 2021)
48 pp.

In this bilingual picture book, 9-year-old Alejandria is horrified when she learns that gentrification may force her family out of her beloved neighborhood. Along with her grandmother, she researches her options at the library and meets with a tenants’ rights group. Reluctant at first to speak out, she learns the power of her voice when she shares stories of what her neighborhood means to her. We won’t reveal the ending, just that we recommend this book to help young people learn about the devastating impact of gentrification and how to fight back.

Your Name Is a Song

Written by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow
Illustrated by Luisa Uribe
(The Innovation Press, 2020)
40 pp.

This picture book’s powerful images, message, and lines linger. “Sing your name. Your teacher will learn to sing it too.” “. . . some names have fire.” These are just a few of a mother’s responses when her daughter recounts how her teacher mispronounced her name. On the walk home from school the girl opens up about the ways classmates made fun of her name and questions her mother’s response to each: “You can put fire in a name?” “Names are that strong?” The girl and her mother — and the reader, with pronunciations incorporated in parentheses — sing and say names from a variety of languages and cultures throughout the story, which ends with the girl teaching her teacher and classmates how to sing her name and theirs. With its clear path from injustice to pride and agency, this book would be a wonderful beginning of the year read-aloud and essential addition to elementary curriculum and classroom libraries.

Graphic Novel

We Hereby Refuse: Japanese American Resistance to Wartime Incarceration

Written by Frank Abe and Tamiko Nimura
Artwork by Ross Ishikawa and Matt Sasaki
(Wing Luke Museum and Chin Music Press, 2021)
160 pp.

We Hereby Refuse weaves together the real-life stories of three different Japanese American resisters to incarceration during World War II into a stunning and powerful graphic novel. Aimed at middle school and up, in We Hereby Refuse readers learn about Jim Akutsu, who refused to be drafted out of the Minidoka incarceration camp; Hiroshi Kashiwagi, who resisted the government loyalty oath; and Mitsuye Endo, who became part of a lawsuit that could potentially challenge the constitutionality of incarceration. This graphic novel was meticulously researched and produced by the Asian American community, and all the authors and artists had family members imprisoned in the U.S. WWII concentration camps. Given reports that Asian American history is rarely taught in our classrooms, We Hereby Refuse could not be more timely. These are legacies of resistance that all of us should learn about.


Work Won’t Love You Back: How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted, and Alone

By Sarah Jaffe
(Bold Type Books, 2021)
420 pp.

“The labor of love, in short, is a con.” This is the central thesis of Sarah Jaffe’s new book, which seeks to reveal the exploitative underpinnings of the treacly adage “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” A labor journalist by trade, Jaffe depicts the modern U.S. economy as one in which more and more of us find ourselves in jobs requiring “some version of the labor-of-love ethic.” The gendered work of nursing, food service, teaching, home health care, and nannying demand the “all-sacrificing love of the mother,” while the jobs of so-called “creatives” — computer programmers, nonprofit employees, unpaid interns, video game designers, entertainers, and athletes — carry the presumptions of romantic love, that “passion” and “drive” should alone fuel and justify your work. Love becomes a mighty anti-worker discourse to paint legitimate demands for a humane economy as selfish. Teachers demanding safe schools before a return to work in the middle of a pandemic? How selfish! Don’t they love the children? Game developers organizing for a less brutally long workweek? Don’t they know how lucky they are to have snagged the dream job of millions? The joy of reading Jaffe’s book is found in her profiles of workers — like Ann Marie Reinhart, a retail worker at Toys “R” Us and Kevin Agwaze, a British video game programmer — who have pushed back against this insidious ideology, and “discovered the pleasures that are to be found in rebellion, in collective action, in solidarity . . . to change the conditions of their labor.” Particularly interesting to Rethinking Schools readers will be Jaffe’s chapter on teachers, defiantly titled “We Strike Because We Care.” 


Challenge Islamophobia

By Alison Kysia
(Teaching for Change)

Sept. 11, 2021, will mark the 20th anniversary of the horrific attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. The U.S. response to these was war in Afghanistan, followed by the invasion of Iraq — and, domestically, an explosion of Islamophobia. Anniversaries are when we remember — and often distort — our history. To help teachers address this upcoming commemoration and the ongoing plague of Islamophobia, Teaching for Change created “Challenge Islamophobia,” an assembly of lesson plans and resources. As the site’s introduction points out, “Most teaching resources and teacher workshops about Islam and Muslims focus on increasing knowledge of religious texts, beliefs, and rituals rather than addressing the root causes of Islamophobia. Challenge Islamophobia . . . addresses that gap by placing Islamophobia firmly within a U.S. context and shared cultural history.” Project coordinator Alison Kysia’s lessons are astute and pedagogically imaginative, focusing on hate crimes, the nature of “terrorism,” the untold story of Black Muslims in the United States, the difference between structural and interpersonal discrimination, and more. Other activities to engage students in critically thinking about this 20th anniversary can be found in the Rethinking Schools book Teaching About the Wars, available as a free download at the Rethinking Schools website.

Reviewed by Bill Bigelow, Ursula Wolfe-Rocca, Wayne Au, Elizabeth Barbian, and Deborah Menkart