A History of Me

Adrea Theodore unpacks the experience of being the only brown or Black student in a classroom in her sensitive picture book debut, A History of Me, dynamically illustrated by Erin K. Robinson (Brave. Black. First).

The first-person narrator--a combination of Theodore herself and her daughter--is "the only brown person in class." When discussing slavery, she can feel every set of eyes on her: "I wanted to slide out of my seat and onto the floor." The girl's discomfort leads to a conversation with her mother, who tells the girl about similar experiences she and other family members encountered growing up: the girl's great-grandmother attended school only through third grade; her mother wasn't allowed to attend nursing school. The girl becomes a woman with a daughter of her own who is the only brown person in her class. The woman uses this as an opportunity to provide perspective about their racial heritage: "just because no one ever mentions courage, strength, intelligence, or creativity, that doesn't mean it isn't there." Now the new student has the work and wisdom of her ancestors to bolster her--she knows she is "free to be anything."

Theodore, as a woman of color, a parent and a pediatrician, is well attuned to the detrimental impact that being educated in predominately white environments can have on young children. The author acknowledges the prejudice and exclusion that generations of their family have experienced, while also imparting an inspirational message through culturally affirming language. Robinson's evocative digital art features soft-focused portraits in the forefront with contemporary backgrounds, and creatively rendered, abstract historical scenes. Personal notes from the author and illustrator add emotional depth. --Rachel Werner, author and teaching artist at Hugo House, Lighthouse Writers Workshop and The Loft Literary Center

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