Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist, which explores how to create an equitable and just society, struck a chord with readers in the wake of the widespread protests that followed George Floyd’s 2020 murder; it has, to date, sold more than 930,000 print copies. The book also prompted a question from parents: How do we pass along these values to our children?
In How to Raise an Antiracist, a June release from One World, Kendi, a National Book Award winner, suggests some answers, drawing on scholarship and his experience as a father. “Ibram points out that it’s not about the individual work you do with your individual child, but it’s also the work we do as adults to make our society one we can raise our children in,” says Chris Jackson, publisher and editor-in-chief at One World. “It’s productive and generative and loving work that asks how we make ourselves a stronger, better, more caring, inclusive society, and how we as individuals represent those ideas within ourselves. That’s what every parent wants for their child.”
Kendi’s book is one of several new titles that address race and related social justice issues within the context of parenting, a fact that Jackson finds unsurprising given the events of the past two years. “What we saw in 2020 was one of the largest social movements in the history of the world,” he says. “People were suddenly, inescapably, having to deal with issues that we’d been avoiding in this country for a very long time. These ideas were no longer things that you could just sweep aside, but parents didn’t have a language for it.”
PW spoke with authors and editors about forthcoming titles that help parents make sense of the present moment and imagine a more just future.
Several books take a practical, interactive approach to anti-bias parenting. Educator Britt Hawthorne’s Raising Antiracist Children (Simon Element, June), written with Natasha Yglesias, is divided into four sections—“Healthy Bodies,” “Radical Minds,” “Conscious Shopping,” and “Thriving Communities”—each accompanied by questionnaires, stories, activities, and tools aimed at fostering an anti-racist worldview, with input from 15 other contributors.
“It’s a book that’s community-centered and BIPOC-written and led,” says Hawthorne, a Black biracial parent. “Here, you have a connection with so many anti-racist caregivers across the country and a window into how they are doing it.” The author cultivates similar conversations with her more than 96,000 Instagram followers and in the online community Collective Liberation, which offers webinars and other anti-bias resources.
“The parenting realm is overwhelmingly white, cisgender women who are middle-class or upholding middle-class ideals,” she says. “The ideas in the book are being met with a new level of openness and connection in a way that this conversation hasn’t been met with before. People are being forced to, or being invited to, reckon with systemic oppression, with language that feels challenging to them, to think about terms like ‘white domination,’ ‘white supremacy,’ and ‘white toxicity.’ The book offers actionable next steps to minimize or mitigate harm.”
The Race-Wise Family (WaterBrook, May) is geared toward Christian parents, offering biblically sound advice for raising anti-racist children. Coauthors Helen Lee, whose books include The Missional Mom, and Michelle Reyes, vice president of the Asian American Christian Collaborative, highlight key scripture underpinning a biblical theology of race, and suggest questions, prayers, conversation starters, and activities for families to use in their homes and church communities.
Lee and Reyes, who are Asian American, have both written about homeschooling their children, but the public face of homeschooling is overwhelmingly white. Blogger and professional speaker Amber O’Neal Johnston is one of the few prominent Black parents in the homeschooling space. In A Place to Belong (TarcherPerigee, May), she expands on the tenets of her website, Heritage Mom, which details ways in which Black families can honor and celebrate their cultures.
The book encourages parents to affirm their cultural or ethnic backgrounds, and to acknowledge the similarities and differences in how others live. “Traditionally, homeschoolers have been seen as having their children in this bubble, not wanting them to integrate with the larger world,” O’Neal Johnston says. “But I see the home as an incubator to prepare our children to integrate beautifully and to become tethered within their local and global communities.”
Though her Christian faith informs her website’s content and her children’s upbringing, O’Neal Johnston stresses that her book is written for families of all backgrounds. It includes tips on fostering open dialogue, teaching difficult history, curating an inclusive library, and celebrating culturally specific art and music in the context of daily family life. “Anti-racism is not a lesson plan,” she explains. “I show parents how to create a home life of intentional natural rhythms that help build a childhood of mutuality, with a goal of raising adults who actively engage in vibrant communities of all sorts.”
Other books use personal narrative to reckon with larger societal issues. In Wanting What’s Best (Parenting Press, May), Sarah W. Jaffe, who is white, details her struggle to reconcile her family’s privilege with her anti-bias ideals. A former attorney in the foster care system, Jaffe interviewed dozens of parents like her who are questioning, and walking back from, the cultural message that parents must seek out every advantage for their children and remove every obstacle in their path, which often leaves the children of others behind. “The Varsity Blues college admissions scandal is a very strong indictment of where extreme privileged parenting leads,” she says.
The book offers guidance in making important family decisions, especially around education, while encouraging collective action that can make systems better for everyone. Jaffe profiles parent activists and addresses wealth, legacy, and inheritance. “Let’s talk about what we’re actually doing and how we’re spending our money,” she says, “and the harder things, like surrendering our advantages and not just trying to keep the status quo.”
The essay collection Raising Raffi, by novelist, translator, and journalist Keith Gessen, which Viking will release in June, considers the ways in which parenting choices intersect with political realities. “Keith is an immigrant, and everything he writes is from the perspective of having been born a Jewish person in Russia and having fled that country with his family to seek a better life in the United States,” says Allison Lorentzen, executive editor at Viking. “One of the best essays in the book is about their family’s experience in the early months of the pandemic.” Gessen and his wife, novelist Emily Gould, and their two sons lived near the intersection where one of the largest demonstrations of the 2020 uprisings took place, Lorentzen explains. “The piece is about what it was like to experience that as a parent and try to explain the dangers of being a Black man in America to a young [white] child.”
In 2018’s Like a Mother, Angela Garbes combined scientific information and personal experience to ease help readers’ anxiety around pregnancy; PW’s review called it “an empowering resource.” Her follow-up, Essential Labor (Harper Wave, May), grew out of a widely read 2021 essay for the Cut, “The Numbers Don’t Tell the Whole Story,” in which she examined the unfair burden Covid-19 has placed on women caregivers.
Using Garbes’s family’s experience as care workers from the Philippines as a jumping-off point, Essential Labor offers an overview of the current state of caregiving in America and explores the idea of motherhood as a means of social change. Her central thesis is that change begins at home, and she draws from the reproductive justice movement, Black feminism, and feminist scholarship, as well as her own life, to illustrate her points.
“I wanted to write something that was a celebration of the beauty of care work, and—this is where the social justice part comes in—I wanted to give parents a space to reimagine care work as a place where we can actually begin the work,” Garbes says. “It’s the day-in, day-out place where we can teach children about their own inherent worth and value.”
Garbes’s tone is hopeful, looking toward a world not bound by the oppressive systems we live under now, she explains. Parenting isn’t glamorous or “big picture movement work,” she says, but “we need all kinds of engagement on all levels. Parenting isn’t particularly immediately gratifying. It requires the belief that the world can be a better place, and that you have to work toward that, even though there’s a really good chance you won’t be around to see it.”
Pooja Makhijani is a writer and editor in New Jersey.
Below, more on parenting books:
Life’s Labor: PW talks with Jazmina Barrera
In 'Linea Nigra' (Two Lines, May), essayist Jazmina Barrera reflects on literary and artistic considerations of the maternal body and child rearing.
Wonder Why: PW talks with Scott Hershovitz
University of Michigan law and philosophy professor Scott Hershovitz titled his forthcoming book 'Nasty, Brutish, and Short' (Penguin Press, May) after Thomas Hobbes’s speculation on what life without government would be like.
Single Handed: Parenting Books 2022
Forthcoming books speak to the particular and growing needs of solo and single parents.