Brookfield resident Deanna Singh wrote the book she wishes she’d been given as a child: A Smart Girl’s Guide: Race and Inclusion, published in July and sold through American Girl.
Singh’s biggest thrill, beyond the book’s byline, is its illustrations of people of color. Singh recalls, at age 13, the first time she spotted someone who resembled her in a book. “I still own the book,” she says. “The librarian gave it to me because I checked it out so often.”
How might this book have been helpful to you as a young girl?
My peers and I were taught that you don’t talk about race or gender. You pretend like it doesn’t exist, that this is actually the most inclusive. It made me feel invisible and very alone … like who I am and what makes me unique were things to be ashamed of. When I think about the young people who pick up this book, my greatest hope is they don’t feel isolated.
Why is it more important than ever today to teach young people about race and inclusion?
We are becoming more global. Experiences we have on a daily basis are with people who look different than us, have different languages, cultures, food, backgrounds and histories. To put our head in the sand and not give our children the tools they need to thrive seems counterproductive. Don’t wait for something bad to happen [to talk about race]. Children will get it in their mind that the only time we talk about race is during a tragedy.
How is talking about race, racism and inclusion different with children than adults? Or is it the same approach?
When you can ground something in a story and help understand the connection back to their own experiences, that’s when you see transformation. It was fun to figure out ways to bring stories about race and inclusion into a context that would make sense for children [like only sharing cookies with certain people].
What do you want readers to walk away with?
They have the power to be able to start, carry and lead conversations. They have the power to teach. I really want the people who read this book to feel like they can be part of the conversation.