Publishers' Preview: Spring 2022: Five Questions for Layla F. Saad

This interview originally appeared in the March/April 2022 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Spring 2022, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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Layla F. Saad explores the foundations of racism in Me and White Supremacy:
Young Readers’ Edition

1. What was the biggest challenge in adapting your own book for young readers?

Early on, I realized I couldn’t just adapt the adult version as is because that book was written for people with white privilege. Antiracism work looks different for those with and those without white privilege. If only young white people are given the tools and resources to understand racism and white supremacy, then young Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Color are left struggling to talk about their own experiences and internalized oppression. I had to figure out how to rewrite the book so that young people of all races could benefit.

2. How do you imagine your book being shared with young people?

The wonderful thing about so many adults having read the original is that they’re primed to help walk young people through the work. I see parents sharing it with their kids, teachers with their students, book clubs with their members, and, of course, young people with their friends.

3. What was the most surprising fact you discovered in researching this book (including its companion for adults)?

How young we humans start to recognize race. Babies’ brains notice race-based differences as early as six months; by ages two to four, children can internalize racial bias.

4. What was the most difficult thing for you to “unlearn” about race?

Unlearning my own internalized oppression and internalized anti-Blackness; this idea, this white supremacist lie, that Black people are inferior and need to prove we are worthy of existing. This lie sits really deep in the subconscious minds of so many of us and is a lifetime of work to undo.

5. What book best spoke to young you about racism?

The first time I read a book by a Black author, I was fifteen. It was also the first book that taught me about the transatlantic slave trade and the horrors of white supremacy. The book was Roots by Alex Haley.

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Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton

Editor Emeritus Roger Sutton was editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc., from 1996-2021. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his MA in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a BA from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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