One Little Book
Many times over these last months I have doubted the power of books; I have scrolled through so much news my thumb aches; I have allowed my kids more screen time during their school closures than in their entire lives before; I had a week when I could only read satirical news, and a week when I read no news at all, emerging from eight media blackout days to discover that my very own county had one of the worst outbreaks in my state and my state one of the worst in the nation.
These months in quarantine, my family and I have read the books we already owned so many times we have memorized half of them; we have had dozens shipped to us by loved ones; we have read sanitized versions of Shakespearean Comedies and brutal adaptations of Greek Myths; we have read books about boys learning to whistle, girls coding sandcastles, girls who hate and love their hair, Founding Fathers my kids think are hilarious white versions of the Founding Fathers they know from Hamilton, and finally, this week, after over three years in the making, a new book arrived. “This is the one Mama made on the computer,” my son said.
I didn't make it. Khloe Thompson lived it first, then wrote it in my creative writing workshop, and she's just getting started. Yesterday, Khloe, now 13, hosted a virtual rally for a movement she's calling Black Kids Matter. Seriously, we need to clone this kid. Which is sort of my plan in publishing this book, to show my kids, and all kids who read it, that they can become the change too.
Compared to murder, and plague, and white privilege and white blindness and tear gas, books are not the most obvious things we need to survive. But for us, books have helped our hearts make it this far. They are escapism, a refuge from the headlines, deadlines, and fear. They are windows and mirrors. They are places to pretend to be people we are not, and places to find ourselves. I know this little book about and by the remarkable Khloe Thompson will not change the world in the ways it needs to change, not by itself. But no matter how many times I read it, Khloe's story teaches me that justice starts with the opposite of blindness. Khloe saw people in pain and she did not look away; she moved closer, tried to understand, and did one small thing to bend the moral arc of the universe in the right direction.
May we all learn from the eight-year-old hero of this book how to use whatever power we have for righteousness.