Race in America books

I wrote this post last week to share with audiences on various social media outlets in honor of the #blacklivesmatter movement. I have to admit to being nervous about sharing it in some Charlotte Mason communities. My experience with most CM-curricula is that they lean heavily toward white, European-American voices (which is, of course, why I started this website). I wasn’t sure if I would get push back, as though a CM-education has to be focused on the so-called “Western Tradition.” I’m happy to report that the post was very positively received everywhere! People were clearly looking for living books about race and were excited to receive a starter list. I’m posting here too so that it can be shared more widely …

Looking for books about race in America to read with your children? Below are some books that we have (or are going to) read as part of school that I quickly pulled off the shelf to share. Most are wonderful reads for adults as well!

Also, this is a good moment to take a hard look at the books you read with your children and question whose voices are represented … if you’re using a curriculum and it’s all white authors/voices, consider changing to a different program. And/or, reach out to the developer of the curriculum.

As Charlotte Mason-inspired home educators, I think it’s really important to keep our choices grounded in our present reality and be careful about how much we rely on older, sometimes out-dated (and even racist) books. Living books are still written, and there are so many excellent options available to us today. These are just a limited sample based on what I happen to have in my house right now (we’re big library users normally so I don’t own everything we read) …

Birchbark House series by Louise Erdrich – historical fiction; Ojibwe family in mid-19th century

Addy books by Connie Porter – An American Girl book about family who escapes slavery during the Civil War and restarts life in Philadelphia

Building a New Land: African Americans in Colonial America by James Haskins and Kathleen Bensen – non-fiction

Osceola: Memories of a Sharecropper’s Daughter by Osceola Mays (collected by Alan Govenar) – true memoir

Heart and Soul: The Story of American and African Americans by Kadir Nelson – non-fiction with glorious paintings

The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales told by Virginia Hamilton

Turtle Island: the Story of North America’s First People by Eldon Yellowhorn & Kathy Lowing

Many Thousand Gone: African Americans from Slavery to Freedom by Virginia Hamilton – history of slavery in the voices of those who lived it

Poetry for Young People: Maya Angelou

Poetry for Young People: Langston Hughes

Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan – historical fiction; Mexican immigrants during the Depression

Dragonwings by Laurence Yep – historical fiction; Chinese immigrants in early 1900s

Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor – historical fiction; African-American family in south in early 20th century

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai – historical fiction told in verse about family that immigrates from Vietnam to Alabama

Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston & James D. Houston – memoir of Japanese interment

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson – memoir/family history told in verse; African-American family in 60s and 70s

Hidden Figures: Young Readers’ Edition by Margot Lee Shetterly – non-fiction

The Distance Between Us: Young Readers Edition by Reyna Grande – memoir about immigration from Mexico; coming-of-age (probably the most mature content of any of these books)