Meet the Author: Tiffany Jewell Quarto Kids | 6 January 2020 Share article facebook twitter google pinterest Tiffany Jewell’s debut book This Book is Anti-Racist is the first book about anti-racism published for teenagers and aims to empower young people to disrupt racist systems that previous generations have put in place. We caught up with Tiffany to talk about her work in dismantling racism among today’s youth. *this interview first appeared on We Need Diverse Books on July 19, 2019. How do you define anti-racism and why do you think it is important? Anti-racism is always building and developing one’s consciousness of injustice and oppression. It’s seeking truth and growing with that knowledge. It’s actively defying racism, white supremacist culture, and the status quo that have been established by the dominant culture for so long. It is not achieved by taking a one-day training or even a semester long course. It is lifelong work. Anti-racism is how we regain our humanity. It’s how we exist in community (small and large) that truly honors everyone. It allows for us to understand and reckon with our past so we can build a just future for ourselves and repair the damage that has been done. How did you come to anti-bias, anti-racist education? I feel like it has always been within me… I just didn’t always have the proper term/label to describe the way I interact with children and families. There were some clear moments that lead me to use my Anti-Bias Anti-Racist (ABAR) lens in education- from my own experiences in the Syracuse City Schools, to working with toddlers and preschoolers in West Philly, and growing as a Montessori elementary teacher have really led me to the work I do now. (You’ll be able to read about some of these experiences in the book!) For a long time, I felt like I was doing the work of Anti-Racist and Anti-Bias education on my own [in our small independent school]. In 2016 I attended my first Montessori for Social Justice Conference and felt so held and loved by a community of educators who, not only, work in the Montessori pedagogy (like me), but are also working for freedom and justice. I’ve been able to gain deep and solid friendships with folx within that community and they continue to inspire, educate, share, listen, and support me in my own growth as an ABAR educator. (There’s an amazing poem in the book written by an ABAR Montessori colleague and friend!) How has anti-racism education influenced you as a parent and as a teacher? Anti-racism has helped me to have a clearer understanding of the world around me, how we got here, and it has helped me to shape a clear vision of what an anti-racist, just society could and will be like. As a teacher, this lens of anti-racism has helped me to see, hold, and support every child who walks through the classroom doors. I have become a much more flexible teacher who trusts my students. I am able to build strong relationships with families and support the whole child, rather than trying to fit the child into the box of normalcy. In parenting (and as a teacher), anti-racism has empowered me to be able to have open and honest discussions with my children. I am a [light] Black biracial mama raising two white presenting cisgender boys. My children (ages 3 and 7 ½) have conversations about race and racism, power, white supremacy, injustice, freedom, and white, cisgender, male privilege. We don’t hide the truth from our little ones because they can handle it. If we say nothing, we’re telling our children we are complicit with racism and oppression… and we are not. Who did you write this book for? I wrote this book for EVERYONE. This is the book I wish I had when I was nine years old, sitting in a classroom with a racist teacher. I wrote this for all my former students who always want to know more and want to know that, even though they’re young, they do have agency to make impactful change. And, this is the book I want my children to read. I wrote this book for parents and families, for educators and administrators, I wrote it for all the students and children who live in our racialized society (which is everywhere). This book is for our ancestors. It’s for our futures. And, it’s for all the young BIPoC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), like Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice, who suffer the consequences of systemic racism and violence and should not be simply memorialized in our hashtags. What effect do you hope this book will have on the reader? I hope this book opens up a door for a deeper understanding of our collective history of racism. Everyone who reads this will have the opportunity to reflect, grow, and move towards working in solidarity with others. Readers are encouraged to build their anti-racist capacity and create action that disrupts racism. I hope every reader will see themselves in this book and be moved to work towards liberation. Who has had the largest influence on you as an educator and writer? My mom and my sister have always been my biggest advocates and fans. My sister (my twin) has always been my reflection and my sounding board. My mom raised us to be conscious of race and class and helped us to establish a solid framework for justice in our youth. As an educator, my biggest influences are children and families. They are always at the core of what I do. Entrusting teachers and schools to care for our children (who are, basically, our walking hearts) is enormous and I believe I owe it to all the families to speak truth and fight for them. I always look to the work and wisdom of Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum; her book Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together In the Cafeteria and Other Conversations about Race is one I go back to nearly every year and has really helped me to develop a clear understanding racial identity development in children (and adults). As a writer… I am just now coming into my writer self and often reflect on James Baldwin and his role as a truth teller. I look to all the Black, Brown, and Indigenous authors and writers who share their stories, speak our truths, and honor our past histories, our collective ability to mobilize and move forward, and resist the dominant culture of assimilation. Currently, I am always inspired by Malcolm X and Alex Haley, Dr. Brittney Cooper, Christine Platt, Jane Austen, Danzy Senna and Zadie Smith. What are some other anti-racist books for children or teens that you can recommend? We are finally coming into an era of our #OwnVoices being honored, heard, and read. There are a lot of great books for young folx that share and amplify the voices of people who have been silenced and marginalized for so long. Some of the books we’ve loved and are most excited for in our family are: *For the littlest ones: Be Boy Buzz by bell hooksCounting on Community by Innosanto NagaraAn ABC of Equality by Chana Ginelle Ewing. *For the young readers: We Came to America by Faith RinggoldYou Hold Me Up by Monique Grey SmithABCs of the Black Panther Party by Chema Morales-James and Khalilah Brann *For the YA readers: Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker RhodesA Different Mirror for Young People: A History of Multicultural America by Ronald TakakiColor Me In by Natasha DíazWatch Us Rise by Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan I love children’s and YA books… I could really go on and on with book lists! About Tiffany Jewell Author Tiffany Jewell is a Black biracial writer, parent and Montessori educator who has been doing the work of dismantling white supremacy through education for fourteen years. In addition to her job as a teacher, she has designed curriculums, given workshops, and presented at conferences on her work addressing social inequity through the lenses of race, class, immigration, and gender. She is also the cofounder of #AntiRacistBookClub, an Instagram (@tiffanymjewell) campaign that recommends anti-racist books. You can learn more about Tiffany Jewell and access her free ABAR resources for educators at her website: anti-biasmontessori.com Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.