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Nic Stone in Parents Magazine

“Pack a Super-Fun Lunch!”

Though I don’t go out of my way to read parenting magazines (and I will likely never have it together enough to “Pack a Super-Fun Lunch!”), if I do see one, I’ll give it a browse. I was so glad to discover Nic Stone‘s article “My Boy and the Bus” in the February 2018 issue of Parents magazine.

Nic Stone is the author of Dear Martin. She and I met briefly (and bonded over sparkly nail polish) at the Boston Book Festival’s swanky cocktail party at the Boston Public Library last year, and I was able to hear her brilliance on the “YA Getting Real” panel with Laura Koenig, Dick Lehr, Erika L. Sánchez, and Daniel José Older.

“My Boy and the Bus” by Nic Stone.

Her Parents piece is about talking to her young son about tough topics, specifically the history of racism, segregation, and Jim Crow laws in America and what that all looks like for today. On a visit to the King Center in Atlanta, her vehicle-loving four-year-old was interested in the 1950s public bus on display:

“The thing I find most difficult about raising little black boys in our current societal climate isn’t keeping them safe. It’s figuring out what to teach them, and when. While I expected to eventually feel conflicted about stuff like when to start discussing the birds and the bees and saying no to drugs, the there-are-people-who-won’t-like-you-because-your-skin-is-brown conversations are happening way sooner than I anticipated.”

This was the impetus for writing Dear Martin, Stone explains, but with that concrete step, questions remain:

“Do I try to shield them for as long as possible and keep them innocent — and ignorant?…Do I take my kids to protest marches so they can be woke? Or keep them at home so their purity will be preserved? As the main character in my novel would say: What would Martin do? I honestly don’t know. Guess the best I can do — the best we always do as parents: figure things out as we go.”

Amen, Nic Stone, and just having this conversation out in the open, expressing this uncertainty, seems like such an important step that we can all take as parents and caregivers. And then? Choose books like Dear Martin to “leave on the bed” as Jen Mason Stott suggests. And/or read together and contextualize as Carie Little Hersh suggests. And/or put your money where your mouth is by creating an inclusive home bookshelf (Liz Phipps Soeiro). And/or lead your children to the back of the bus, as Nic Stone ended up doing with her son, and talk with them — at their level — about what that means.

For more from The Horn Book on social justice and activism, visit our Making a Difference landing page. And watch for our May/June 2018 Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: Making a Difference.

Elissa Gershowitz About Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College and a BA from Oberlin College.

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