Why?: A Conversation about Race (Taye Diggs)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Why?: A Conversation about Race, written Taye Diggs and illustrated by Shane Evans, a timely title about racial and social justice.

A series of child characters have complicated questions for their caregivers: “Why are those people shouting?” one asks his father, seeing a group of protesters. “Why are those people crying?” another questions her mother as they pass mourners at a sidewalk memorial. Their caregivers do their best to answer tactfully yet honestly, explaining that their communities are fighting back against systemic oppression and violence. “Oh,” the children reply, before one pair decides to take matters into their own hands.

Racial injustice is obviously a complex topic, especially for a picture book. However, as disenfranchised groups continue to fight for equality and justice, it’s a subject in need of representation in kidlit, especially as kids find themselves with questions about current events. Diggs’s text approaches this conundrum in a bold manner, with varying results. The first half of the story is strikingly powerful, and has the added benefit of giving real-life caregivers a script for dealing with tricky questions their own kids may have. However, when the topic of property destruction comes up, adult readers may have mixed opinions on informing young bookworms that “sometimes buildings must burn”. The resolution has very strong religious overtones that, while appropriately hopeful, also seem to suggest that faith and prayer will be the thing to fix civil unrest. It feels like an odd stance to take, especially after the candidness of the preceding section. Evan’s artwork is flawless, especially in his use of color to suggest both twilight and dawn, endings and beginnings. The length is good for a storytime, but while JJ was very invested, she definitely struggled to grasp the more serious themes. I won’t attempt to speak on the black experience or review this one on the basis of its message to black audiences. However, I will say that it’s worth checking out and deciding for yourself – it’s a book on a complex topic with a realistic yet optimistic tone. Overall, Baby Bookworm approved.

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

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