Q & A with Tiffany Jewell, author of This Book is Anti-Racist

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Tiffany Jewell is an anti-racism educator from the United States.

Her debut book is an accessible introduction to race, history and society for children and young people. With powerful illustrations from Aurélia Durand, the book has 20 lessons to give all children the tools to create a community that honours everyone.

When she is not teaching, Tiffany enjoys baking bread and watching British Detective shows. She currently lives with her 2 children, partner and pet turtle in Western Massachusetts.

Tiffany joins us to discuss her inspirations and why anti-racism is an important topic for young readers.

  1. Describe yourself in 3 words or phrases. 

Filled with vision. Disoriented among details. Secret extrovert.

  1. What does the term “anti-racist” mean to you? Why do you think it’s important for children and young people to read about this topic?

To be anti-racist means to always work on building and developing my consciousness of injustice and oppression. It’s seeking truth and growing with that knowledge. It’s actively defying racism, white supremacy culture, and the status quo that have been established by the dominant culture for so long. Anti-racism allows us to understand and reckon with our past so we can build a just future for ourselves and repair the damage that has been done. I truly believe anti-racism is how we regain our humanity. 

I felt completely powerless when I was young. I was able to identify racism and injustice, but did not have the language to talk about it and definitely did not know how to stand-up, especially against racist adults. Being able to read about racism and anti-racism is empowering. Reading is not only a way to share knowledge with young readers, it also allows them to know they are not the only person wondering about what’s happening in the world and gives them the momentum to seek further knowledge. One of the things I love most about books and reading is the amount of knowledge available to me and [nearly] anyone and everyone. I continue to rely heavily on our libraries for paperbacks, e-books, and audiobooks. I can learn at my own pace, re-read, and find more books on a similar topic. Reading is an act of love and resistance. 

  1. What were your favourite books to read as a child? Were there any authors that inspired your writing? 

Some of my favourites included A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams, the Baby-sitter’s Club series by Ann M. Martin, My Teacher Is An Alien by Bruce Coville, the Ramona series by Beverly Cleary, and Matilda by Roald Dahl. I read a lot, but didn’t see myself as a writer and definitely not a future author until very recently.

The authors who inspire me are Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum (Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race.), Danzy Senna, Ijeoma Oluo, and, most recently, Jewell Parker Rhodes, Ibi Zoboi, and Tommy Orange.

  1. This book discusses 20 lessons in anti-racism. How did you decide which lessons to include? 

Many of these lessons/reflections/prompts are ones I’ve used to help me in my own anti-racist work and/or are ones I’ve used with students throughout the years. The lessons really support the information learned in each chapter and allow readers to pause and reflect and build on what they just read. The lessons are like a path you’re on with the book. Each one moves you along with a deeper understanding of racism and anti-racism and what your role is in dismantling the unjust system we exist in. I really wanted to share this sense of movement and growth with readers and each lesson really helps to extend the work further. 

  1. For you, what is the most important lesson in the book? How do you hope to inspire your readers?

The most important thing for folks to get from this book is that anti-racism isn’t a moment in time, it’s lifelong work and it is possible.

My hope is that readers will feel empowered. 

Empowered to learn more about their own social identities and about racism- its historical context and the present day reality. 

  1. Happy New Year! Do you have any New Year’s Resolutions or exciting plans for the year?

Happy New Year! I do like New Year’s Resolutions- they keep me on track and, other than the one year I resolved to fold laundry as soon as it was out of the dryer… I’ve been pretty successful with them. My resolutions include continuing to read books by BIPoC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) authors/creators and to keep flossing every day. (Flossing can extend your life expectancy by over five years!) I also resolve to be a better listener and to keep my eyes on my growing children more and less on my screens.