Once a week I compile the reflections I’ve offered on Facebook into one blogpost. Here are the thoughts from the past five days:
Monday, January 15, 2018
I realized a few years ago that because we were only reading “classic” children’s books out loud to our kids, we were only reading books with white children and animals as main characters. (It’s not to say there are NO classic children’s books with people of color as main characters, just that they are few and far between. My journey to figure out why and wrestle through this issue is chapter two in White Picket Fences, so you can read more on that when the book comes out!)
Since that time, we’ve been more attuned to populating our bookshelves with images and stories that reflect the diverse nature of the human story. Two books were added this year that deserve mention because not only do they involve women of color, but they also demonstrate the powerful and courageous actions these women have taken throughout history. First, there’s the story of Ruby Bridges, a 6-year old girl who not only endured the taunts and hatred lobbed at her every morning on her walk to her newly-integrated elementary school, but who did so with peace because she had been taught the love and forgiveness of Jesus. She prayed for the people who screamed at her. This picture book tells her story.
Second, Little Leaders, a book that tells the (brief) stories of 40 black women throughout history and the change their lives brought through social activism, artistic expression, and accomplishments in other fields.
Books can be a portal into different times and different experiences that open up our sense of wonder and compassion. And they can connect us through time, place, and experience to those we haven’t had the privilege to meet in person.
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
There’s an old saying, which I think is attributed to Joan Didion, that if you are a writer you are going to need to “kill your darlings.” There will be sentences, paragraphs, maybe even whole chapters that you just LOVE, but they don’t actually support the work you’re doing as a whole.
In some ways, the whole process of writing White Picket Fences has been killing my darlings. First, I abandoned the idea of a book about reading books to our children in favor of a book about privilege (the fascinating part, though, is to see how much reading comes into this book about privilege). Then I wrote a draft I was really happy with and handed it in last May. I spent the summer rewriting it, which meant throwing away about half of it. I “killed” the story about my grandfather and birdwatching, about summertimes at the shore, and about the time I didn’t speak up in the face of a racist comment in college. I handed that draft in at the end of September, again really satisfied with where things had ended up.
I got it back again in mid-December. My editor only had small suggestions, but enough time had passed for me to see that there were whole chapters that needed to be pushed further. And there was more content that needed to disappear. So in this round, I eliminated stories about New Orleans, added a story about a prayer group in the town where I grew up, and added the story about a chapel talk I gave last spring.
I sent the document last night, this time with far less confidence than the other two times I have sent it in, even though it should be a much better book by now. I’m just more aware that when it comes to healing the wounds of privilege–the wounds I believe have been inflicted upon people who are excluded from positions of privilege by virtue of race, wealth, and ability, to name a few, and the wounds that come to the people of privilege through being cut off from the whole of humanity–when it comes to healing, I am a very small voice with a very small offering.
From here, the book goes to the copy editor, and within a few months it will take its final shape. I look forward to sharing it with you next fall.
Friday, January 19, 2018
Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche communities, writes, “To love someone is not first of all to do things for them, but to reveal to them their beauty and value.” (from From Brokenness to Community)
Earlier this week, Penny received a birthday card from our pastor, in which our pastor reminded Penny that she is loved by God. Without any prompting, Penny wrote back. She said, “Thank you for remembering me on my birthday. It brought tears to my eyes when you said God loves me. He loves you right back.”
He loves you right back. Penny and our pastor, loving one another, revealing their beauty and value that emanates from the love of God.