As I sure most of you have noticed we have a new president. And in my view a much saner and more reasonable person. We also have a woman as vice president who is a rainbow all unto herself with her Indian, Black and probably some White European heritage because her father was from Jamaica. President Biden is of Irish heritage. All of this is important because these groups all suffered prejudicial treatment when they first came to the United States of America. But especially those ethnicities that don’t look like White Europeans. I remember reading in the “Washington Post” back in 1950s explaining why Sikh mean wear their turbans. If I remember correctly, the article included how the turban was wound around the man’s head and the religious significance of the turban. I believe there had been local complaints about the turban, though I don’t remember what the complaint was. I do remember wondering what the fuss was about, but then I was a typical self-absorbed teen in the ‘50s.

A great number of my Facebook Friends are celebrating the beginning of the next four years with a new set of leaders who tell the truth and want all of us and the world to prosper. But at least one person is concerned enough about the perceived threat of having our rights trampled upon to have commented on her worries that she wrote something to the effect of: “Yeah, just wait until they take your rights away.”

Hmm, thinks I. What rights are going to be taken away? And where did this person get that notion? Probably from lies told by leaders who want to keep us in line.

I have been accused of being a socialist because I didn’t approve of the just departed president’s aspirations. The accusation so took me aback that I couldn’t think to say: “Oh? Tell me, do you take advantage of your entitlement to Social Security income?” “Yes?” “And do you take advantage of your Medicare entitlement?” “Yes?” “Well then, you’re as much a socialist as I.” That would have been the best response if I felt the need to do something other than shrug my shoulders and walk away. Unfortunately that was not an option since the person who accused me was a guest in my house.

I suppose the person who worried about rescinded rights was thinking of the first amendment right to free speech. I’ve not heard of that being rescinded.

Or the person was thinking of the Second Amendment which gives people the right to bear arms. No, nobody’s planning to take that away, but do remember that there are restrictions to the amendment. If I recollect correctly, the Second Amendment was to allow citizens the right to protect their property or hunt for food. I don’t believe it was meant for people to use for storming public buildings. Or not let me walk down the street because I have a different ethnic makeup.

The other thing about rights is that in exercising one’s right to not wear a mask, for instance, is that one cannot impinge on another person’s right to try to stay healthy. In my view that also means exercising plain civility. You don’t want to wear a mask? Fine by me, but only if you’re not going to endanger anybody else’s health.

Non-White, Non-Christian, Non-Male citizens of the United States of America have the same rights as those White, so-called Christian Men. But even today that is not always noted.

The books I’ve included today have to do with these issues.

And like President Biden and Vice President Harris, I believe that there is room in our nation for all peoples and all points of view. But could we please be civil to each other and accept our differences.

You may remember these books, but I thought it important to mention them again.

Since 911, Muslims have frequently been looked at askance, though most are as God worshiping as the majority of Christians. So are most Jews. So are most other advocates of true religions. But one of the most egregious wrongs that White Americans have perpetrated is our continuing disregard for the rights of Native Americans whose lands we White European ethnic groups stole.

Look for some Native Americans’ stories in series such as The First Peoples series. BIBLIO: 2020, Creative Education/Creative Company, ISBN: 978-1-64026-223-2 is for the Book on the Cheyenne.

People tend to be afraid of what they don’t truly know. And it seems easier to believe what your friends or your parents or newsfeeds tell you than to find the truth yourself.

No True Believers

Rabiah York Lumbard

Salma’s best friend, Mariam Muhammad, isn’t just moving away from their northern Virginia suburb, she’s moving to a different continent. Mariam’s family is moving because her father’s medical practice is losing patients prejudiced against him because he and his family are practicing Muslims as are Salma and her family. Then a new family moves into Mariam’s house and at first they seem nice, but then things begin to be weird. The book is well written and an important contribution to our country’s discussion of ethnic prejudice. It also sheds light on the need to not trust what we read on the internet at face value. People aren’t necessarily what they seem to be. We mush be diligent in cross checking what we see to make sure we’re getting the whole truth. Salma learns important lessons about the computer hacking she’s been doing and the online so-called friendships she’s developed. The book presents lots of opportunities for classroom discussions on religion, computer information, and personal growth.

BIBLIO: 2020, Crown Books for Young Readers/Putnam Random House, Ages 14 +, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult Fiction

ISBN: 9780525644255

The second book I’ve chosen is important to repeat because of the wealth of information on our voting process. During the 2020 General Election there was a great deal of misinformation spewed forth and it is important to remember how our system works and how fragile that system can be.

Votes of Confidence, Second Edition: A Young Person’s Guide to American Elections

Jeff Fleischer

This is a fascinating book. Any person over the age of ten should read it, including so-called “grown-ups.” Chapter 1 focuses on how the United States of America has evolved since its inception. The trick was to get all the states to agree to who could vote and how and where. That has changed over the years since originally only land-owning white males were permitted to vote. But there were, and are, many other people whole live in our country. Shouldn’t they have the right to help determine who is going to govern? Chapter 2 discusses how voting works and why it’s important. Chapter 3 is about the role of political parties and the history of how we got them. The book focuses on issues such as the Electoral College and what its function is and whether that is still relevant.  Chapter 4 explains how to vote and why your vote counts. Chapter 5 is about how to learn what’s being discussed by candidates and Chapter 6 lists ways to get involved. Teachers could spend several months discussing the whys and wherefores of elections and voting using this book.

BIBLIO: 2020, Zest Books/Lerner Books, Ages 11 to 18, HC $37.32, PB $14.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Non-fiction

ISBN: 978-1-5415-7896-8

ISBN: 978-1-5415-7897-5

I included this one because we’ve just gone through a phase where the power of rumor can lead to utter chaos.

If the Fire Comes: A Story of Segregation during the Great Depression

Tracy Daley

Illustrated by Eric Freeberg

Consultant: Andrew Lee Feight, PhD

A book the whole country should read, this tells the story of more unnecessary discrimination against people just because of their skin color and ethnic makeup. Joseph McCoy shines shoes in Elsinore, CA, to support his uncle and sister, Maya, who is crippled by polio. His parents are dead and his uncle is jobless as is most of the world during the Great Depression. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt has started a program called the Civilian Conservation Corps or CCC as part of his New Deal. CCC workers were sent all across the U.S. to do things like fight wildfires. Such as group is sent to Elsinore, but most of the townspeople are not happy. The town is predominately white, but the camp is all black. Joseph and Maya show why the prejudice is wrong. The book is well written and full of lots of information for teachers to use with their students.

BIBLIO: 2020, Jolly Fish Press/Northstar Editions, Ages 8 to 12, $19.99 (Lib. Bound), $8.99 (PB), $8.99 (eBook).

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle-Grade Novel

ISBN: 978-1-63163-371-3

ISBN: 978-1-63163-372-0

ISBN: 978-1-63163-373-7

I have been told that I’m going to Hell because I don’t go to a particular church or believe that the Christian Bible is the literal Word of God. In my view how can it be? It was cobbled together from different languages and has been rewritten many times to kowtow to the rule of particular leaders, some secular and some religious. My French forebears had their lands confiscated and the first born son of at least one family was brutally murdered all for religious differences. The bottom line, IMHO, is that we should honor each other’s right to disagree, but be civil about it. Here’s to our country surviving the whims of those who would like to dominate. And here’s to our world living in harmony.

Children Trying to Save the World, Or at Least Their Particular Worlds

Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe

Jo Watson Hackl

It’s amazing the number of children who are put in situations where they feel they need to solve their families’ problems. Or, at the very least, not make the problems worse. Children who have a parent off to war feel the tension and either silently try to be perfect or take over parenting their younger siblings or some show some other behavior that leaves the children with stunted emotional growth.

Ms. Hackl’s wonderful book deals with the troubles of twelve-year-old Cricket whose father is dead and whose mother is probably bi-polar. From the opening sentence the book pulls the reader right in: Turns out, it’s easier than you might think to sneak out of town smuggling a live cricket, three pocketfuls of jerky, and two bags of half-paid-for merchandise from Thelma’s Cash ‘n’ Carry grocery store. Well, wouldn’t you keep reading?

Cricket’s mama has gone off on another of her quests to find a room she remembers seeing as a child. The room is full of birds. Well, actually they’re paintings of birds, but the paintings are so alive the viewer is sure the birds will fly right off the wall and out the window. Mama has been obsessed with finding that room ever since. Other people say the room is not real. That was just her imagination. And the reader can just hear the people sniggering and whispering “See? She really is crazy.”

Cricket is sure if she can just find that room Mama will come back for good and never feel the need to roam again. Any child who has had a parent go missing for what ever reason will relate to, firmly, to believe that the child can find the parent and make things right. So Cricket runs away from home to find the room and her mother. She takes with her the cricket she rescued from Thelma’s Cash ‘n’ Carry to help her find what she needs. Along the way the pair have many adventures and lots of emotional growth. No, I’m not telling you the ending, you’ll have to read the book. But you’ll indeed enjoy the journey and the people you meet along the way.

I personally can relate to feeling the need to make things better and to find my missing father. Actually, he really was killed in WWII and I never knew him, but I always fantasized that he would show up at Walter Reed Army Hospital with amnesia and I would reunite him with our family. That is until I had grown up myself and knew that I had no real connection to him.

Do read this book, it will show you how children stay strong.

BIBLIO: 2018, A Yearling Book/Penguin Random House, Ages 8 to 12, $7.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Grade

ISBN: 978-0-399-55741-5