Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness

illus. by Anastasia Higginbotham. 64p. Dottir. Sept. 2018. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781948340007.
OrangeReviewStarGr 4–6—In this call to action, a young white child catches news fragments of a police officer shooting an unarmed black man. They witness their family members' discomfort, avoidance, and eventual dismissal of the shooting (and the resulting protests) while claiming, "We don't see color." The child's confusion leads them to the library for answers about the history of racism in the United States. Ultimately, they vocalize feelings of frustration to their parent. Told in second person to an assumed white audience, the text intersperses firm declarations that the structure of whiteness oppresses people of color with gentle reassurances that growth and change are possible—when bolstered by honesty and accountability. Higginbotham's trademark collage connotes the sweet simplicity of homemade crafts sharpened with the candor of radical zines, and adds layers of meaning that can serve as conversation starters for keen-eyed readers. A page discussing economic oppression, for example, depicts white hands with shirt sleeves made of U.S. dollar bills. The inclusion of a relatable narrative alongside age-appropriate language and direct explanations make this an essential text for young readers, and adults, unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the role of white people in dismantling racism. Back pages include an activity section that is visually rich but structurally vague; each page reads more as a discussion point than an exercise. In an image depicting racial profiling, the security guard closely observing a black child also appears to be a person of color; in a book on whiteness, this feels like detraction from an otherwise consistent message.
VERDICT A much-needed title that provides a strong foundation for critical discussions of white people and racism, particularly for young audiences. Recommended for all collections.

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