Where have we been?

“You know where you’re going if you know where you come from.”

Michele Norris was talking about her book, The Grace of Silence, with Kerri Miller on MPR with the words above.  She spoke of how her parents, who were among the first African-American families in their South Minneapolis neighborhood in the 1940’s, passed on their hopes and dreams to their children instead of their angst.  This sounds lovely, but it also meant that there was much that didn’t get discussed in Norris’ family.  Her memoir, which I have yet to read, explores the un-talked-about aspects of her family, the way race has played a role in her family’s story, and the way the way we talk about race is changing.  I am excited to read the book, and I hope to join in the conversation around the book that is going on as part of the One Minneapolis One Read program.

I wrote some time ago about how we can use books like Let’s Talk About Race to open a discussion about diversity with kids, and this photograph of a display at a Hennepin County Library Branch shows that there are many books that bring alive African-American history for kids, including Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson.

You might also use All the Way to America by Dan Yaccarino or Grandpa Green by Lane Smith to share family history stories, and don’t forget to share your own mini-autobiography on the Hennepin County Library’s web site.  Your life in 50 characters or less.

Share your story with the community, and share it with your children.  This is how we determine where we are going to go from here.  The stories of our parents and grandparents may not be easy to talk or write about, but one of my favorite writers, Jonathan Safran foer, who took on a fictionalized version of his family history in his book Everything is Illuminated, offered this advice:

“I was always writing from a position of loving my family so I knew I couldn’t betray them. The worst that could happen was that the execution of my writing wouldn’t be as good as my intentions. So if you have good intentions — to be forthright and honest — you can’t really fail.”

 

Disclosure: I am not affiliated with MPR, Hennepin County Library, or One Minneapolis One Read. I have not (yet) read Michele Norris’ book. Amazon links are affiliate links. I may earn a percentage of purchases made through those links.

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