Review: Bringing Up Race by Uju Asika (2020)

Bringing Up Race by Uju Asika

Blurb:

You can’t avoid it, because it’s everywhere. In the looks my kids get in certain spaces, the manner in which some people speak to them, the stuff that goes over their heads. Stuff that makes them cry even when they don’t know why. How do you bring up your kids to be kind and happy when there is so much out there trying to break them down?

Bringing Up Race is an important book, for all families whatever their race or ethnicity. Racism cuts across all sectors of society – even the Queen will have to grapple with these issues, as great grandmother to a child of mixed ethnicity. It’s for everyone who wants to instil a sense of open-minded inclusivity in their kids, and those who want to discuss difference instead of shying away from tough questions. Uju draws on often shocking personal stories of prejudice along with opinions of experts, influencers and fellow parents to give prescriptive advice making this an invaluable guide.

Bringing Up Race explores:
– When children start noticing ethnic differences (hint: much earlier than you think)
– What to do if your child says something racist (try not to freak out)
– How to have open, honest, age-appropriate conversations about race
– How children and parents can handle racial bullying
– How to recognise and challenge everyday racism, aka microaggressions

A call to arms for ALL parents, Bringing Up Race starts the conversation which will mean the next generation have zero tolerance to racial prejudice, and grow up understanding what kindness and happiness truly mean.

Review:

Uju Asika’s book caught my eye amid the flurry of September releases, and I immediately pre-ordered it. Like so many of us, I am trying to educate myself as much as I can about antiracism, and while I still have a very long way to go, I feel like I am ready to think hard about how I can engage my kids in these vital conversations. My two are very young, only 3 and 5, but as Uju explains in her book, it is never too early to start the dialogue.

The structure of the book makes it extremely easy to read. Chapters are divided into short, snappily-titled subsections contain an engaging mixture of facts, personal anecdotes and testimonials from other parents/those who have been affected by racism. At the end of each chapter there are Talking Points, in which the author answers questions that may arise from the previous pages. I especially liked these sections, as it illustrates the uncertainty that many of us might have about approaching this topic, and shows that there are no stupid questions: the most important thing is that we do not let our fear of saying the wrong thing lead to us saying nothing at all. The complicity of silence is referred to several times, and is a danger I am becoming more aware of thanks to my reading on this subject. We’re not going to get it right every time, but this isn’t a test: it is a vitally important learning experience for both us and our children. The talking points and the handy reference section at the end of the book further emphasise that this is a process, and give the book a very practical feel.

What struck me most of all was the tone of this book: it is informal but informative, warm and wise, driven by a desire to help others implement change, not to berate them. This is also a very kind book: Uju’s mantra of “Be cool, be kind, be you” runs through her prose – her personality and sense of humour lift the mood of the book, while her empathy and generosity shine out of every page. Yes, the anger at injustice is there, how could it not be, but what the author shows us is how to channel that anger into something positive.

Bringing Up Race is useful, informative, thought-provoking and, above all, hopeful. Like Uju, I have faith in the next generation, and am heartened by the changes I see in the way they view the world. But we, as parents, have a very important role to play in this: we need to have the difficult conversations, challenge our own assumptions and inbuilt biases, learn and explore alongside our children. This book has already prompted me to have some really interesting discussions with my five year old, and I’ve noted down several of the reading suggestions from the back of the book for Xmas pressie ideas! I would recommend this book to every parent, without a moment’s hestitation.

Bringing Up Race by Uju Asika is published by Yellow Kite Books and is available to purchase here.

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