Book Bits: Books can help dispel prejudice

Susan Larson
Milton Public Library director

When I was four, my grandfather and I were sitting in his car, waiting for my grandmother to finish her shopping.  The parking meter needed more money, so my grandfather sent me out with a coin.  I tried to reach the coin slot, standing on tip toe, but could not.  A black man walking by smiled, stopped and offered to help.  He put the coin in the meter for me.

It was a life-changing moment I still remember.

There were people in my extended family who were prejudice against all non-white people, especially black people. When this black man smiled at me and helped me, I had a moment of clarity that even now I find amazing for a young child.  I realized that people are people, and that the color of a person’s skin does not matter.

Respect for diversity of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and age is yet again a hot issue in our country. Locally, the Milton Inclusion and Diversity Initiative is hosting moderated discussions at the library “intended to provide voice, clarity and opportunity to people of all ages, genders and races while coming together as a community in order to make Milton a better, safer, stronger place to live, learn and grow for everyone.”  The forums will be held at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 16, and at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 27.   

Encountering people who differ from you is helpful in dispelling prejudice. One way that’s possible is in books.  There are untold number of titles available, including fiction and nonfiction.  The biography section itself could keep you reading for years.  We currently have two diversity displays in the library, featuring books for children, teens and adults.

Some of my favorite titles include “The Invention of Wings” by Sue Monk Kidd, “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett, “Night” by Elie Wiesel and “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexi.   

Author Mary Fillmore will discuss her book “An Address in Amsterdam” at the library at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 25, in an event sponsored by the Vermont Humanities Council.  Fillmore’s historical fiction book looks at the decisions Anne Frank’s neighbors faced during World War II. 

Even the youngest can learn through stories read to them.These books were just added to our collection:

“The Skin You Live In” by Michael Tyler and illustrated by David Lee Csicsko. This rhyming book celebrates “we are special and different and just the same, too!”

“The ABCs of Yoga for Kids Around the World” by Teresa Anne Power and illustrated by Kathleen Rietz. This alphabetical listing of countries “celebrates both our diversity and oneness at the same time,” author Power writes in her introduction. 

“This is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from around the World,” written and illustrated by Matt Lamothe. “I believe the more you learn about different people, the more you see yourself in them, and the more accepting you become,” Lamothe writes.  He follows the lives of seven children who agreed to share their day for the book.

“She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World” by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger. “Sometimes being a girl isn’t easy,” Clinton writes.  “At some point, someone probably will tell you no, will tell you to be quiet and may even tell you your dreams are impossible.  Don’t listen to them.”

Books can help change the ignorance and hatred that infect our hearts, break down the walls that separate us and unite us in bonds of humanity.  Books can inspire us to be the best we can be.

For more information about the Milton Inclusion and Diversity Initiative, email contact@midivt.org.

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