Lois Leveen


July 17, 2013

From Oregon to Florida

This past weekend, I had an amazing time leading a series of workshops about American history at the Josephine Community Libraries in rural Oregon.

One point I made, which I often do in talks about my novel, is to ask the audience to imagine what Mary Bowser's parents (and other enslaved parents) must have experienced: how would you protect a child when you have no legal right to do so? How could you teach a child to survive such totalizing racism?

I can't help noting that as we were having this conversation, many Americans were experiencing similar anguish because of verdict in the Zimmerman trial. What can the adults who love young people of color today teach them to make them safe? How is it that in the 21st century, we've come to a point where laws in the country leave an unarmed teen with no way to walk home without being taken as a threat and paying with his life? (There was a very good piece about this in the New York Times).

As someone who writes and teaches about race in America, I work so hard to understand our history. I am always profoundly touched by what readers say about how my book helps them understand race in America's past. And yet, like so many people around the world, I'm disturbed so often about how race still functions in America today.
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