It’s been awhile since I’ve completed an entire book but staying true to my word about writing these reviews is everything to me. So here’s my review of the second book I’ve read this year, “At Mama’s Knee: Mothers and Race in Black and White” by April Ryan. It did not disappoint.
Well-renowned author and former White House correspondent April Ryan wrote this book that I think many should read to receive a more thorough examination of race in American and how mothers transfer messages of inspiration, diversity and wisdom to their children. Let’s be real for a second, we all know that most mothers play a significant role in how their children think and act. Being a mother herself, Ryan considered all that she’s learned from her own mother and what she has taught her daughters about race as problems arose in their environment. Being in Baltimore during the Freddie Gray incident is a prime example of one of those problems she had to discuss with her daughters; the aftermath involving the riots were another. Although Ryan was serving as a White House correspondent at time, none of her career advancements voided her and her children’s “blackness.” Because of her experiences, she posed a great question to America in her book. How do you save black kids from the harshness of this world?
In “At Mama’s Knee: Mothers and Race in Black and White,” Ryan called for America to take a look at the lessons they are forcing people of color and black mothers to have to teach their children at far too early of ages. She analyzes the complexity of living in a racially divided world with children that are considered naturally unacceptable. The feeling of hopelessness I felt while reading this book for current and future black and brown children in this nation was partially resolved with practical applications offered by Ryan and her prominent peers such as former POTUS Barack Obama. I’m still quite nervous about having my own kids one day, but thanks, Ryan, for the insight!
To keep from giving much away (I HATE SPOILERS), here are only a few of my favorite quotes from the book and my personal annotation to them. Note: I limited my shared quotes to the ones from the earlier half of the book!
“Four hours of an adult being in a child’s life dramatically lowers their involvement in crime. Dramatically lowers their unsafe sex practices and dramatically elevates their success in school. But yet we have waiting lists all around the country of mother’s looking for mentors for their kids” (Ryan 43).
“‘If you’ve got one parent who loves you, that’s more than most people have. Cause some people have two parents, they’re not both good, or neither of them are good.’ Every child deserves someone pulling for them” (Ryan 31).
“Race can be legislated, but it is really a heart issue. As the Bible says, ‘As a man thinketh so is he.’ So who better to hep us navigate the waters of this sometimes-murky issue than mothers, as they are a child’s first teacher, nurturer, protector, and influencer? A mother’s love is awe-inspiring, but the power does not always have to come from the birth mother. You will read in these pages of women who have given birth and some who have not, but who still have helped in ‘the village and the sisterhood’ of mothers and how they can and do shape the mind-set of generations” (Ryan 2).
My annotation: I fully believe every child deserves love and guidance. In theory, both of these things should come from the child’s biological parents. However, we all know how life works. How about we make it our job to be a community leader that offers the love and guidance to those particular kids? We need to make it a point to not only follow them through school but keep up with them in life. If we all do our part, the world may actually start to look the way we desire it to look. At this time in my life, I’m learning that no one makes it in life alone. The human experience omits most forms of isolation. Eventually, everyone needs someone.
Secondly, I don’t understand why some of the most impoverished communities lack mentorship programs but the affluent ones have plenty. Systematically, it makes sense. It is the perfect way to keep one community down while another thrives. Whose job is it to disrupt this system, though? You could be the “one” for a child in need. Watch your actions and words around the kids you encounter. You never know what impression you’re leaving with them. If nothing else, transfer good energy!
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I’d love for y’all to give a response to one of the questions below:
Check out “At Mama’s Knee: Mothers and Race in Black and White” by April Ryan at your nearest library branch. Hey, you can rack up on points for the Nashville Public Library’s Summer Challenge while you read, too!
Remember “What Am I Reading?” is devoted to literacy awareness. Encourage others to read. The world depends on it! Share what you’re reading with me in the comments below or tag me on my socials @UrbanThreads615 everywhere. Let’s make 2019 one heck of a reading year!
*If you need help learning to read, visit Nashville Adult Literacy Council (NALC) (http://nashvilleliteracy.org). They take pride in teaching everything literacy. For more information, visit their homepage or office at Nashville Adult Literacy Council (http://nashvilleliteracy.org).*
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