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[Image: Illustration from ‘My Daddy’ by Martin Luther King, III. A white police officer leads a Black woman in handcuffs away from a protest.]
Quick Things You Need To Know:
- This is an unpolished book list for patreon supporters where I’m keeping my notes on books about police.
- I’m temporarily making these unpolished lists freely available for the public to help with educators & families affected during pandemic school shutdowns.
Quick & Messy Book List:
How the police system is used to maintain oppression
The ones addressing the ways police are used to uphold systemic white supremacy – those are listed specifically in the SIS Toolkit on Ending Police Brutality. Some show how the police are called in to intimidate targeted people (particularly Black folks), others validate & explain why targeted families are afraid of interactions with the police.
- Lillian’s Right To Vote
- The Youngest Marcher
- My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Momma Did You Hear The News? – See more about this in the collection about gun violence – introduces ALIVE acronym to keep Black kids safe when interacting with cops (yup, that is a thing that needs to exist, because the world is a dumpster fire).Caveat for ignoring systemic racism and suggesting this is a ‘bad apples’ issue, although I can understand the need to comfort kids and not suggest that all cops of all races want them dead. Ugh. I hate that this needs to exist so much.
- Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer
- Say Her Name
- Front Desk – I know this is a chapter book, but for some reason, we don’t talk about Asians weaponizing the police against Black folks in picture books. Someone get on that.
- A Shelter In Our Car
- A Place Inside of Me: A Poem To Heal The Heart
- Stonewall– With caveats on erasure, so check out this thoughtful critique by Booktoss first
- John Lewis in the lead – I know the cover looks…meh, but it’s actually a great book.
Books about rebellion & revolt against police states
- Daddy, There’s a Noise Outside
- Auntie Luce’s Talking Paintings
- Smoky Night (bunting) – PROBLEMATIC. Nope nope nopety nope. There is a race divide between asians and black folks, sure, let’s name it – but this is NOT the way to mend it. The white author starts the book with Black folks are rioting in the streets and stealing televisions for no discernable reason, claiming “it’s like a game,” /“It can happen when people get angry. They want to smash and destroy. They don’t care anymore what’s right and what’s wrong.” Oh good gravy. I get that there are multiple ways to talk about looting and many reasons people do it (from an intentional statement on anti-capitalism, to provoke attention to the the actual pain of oppression because MAKING FOLKS UNCOMFORTABLE IS HOW PROTESTING WORKS, or folks just being opportunistic and want a new TV, but this reductive bullshit has to GO.) The story implies that all the ‘good’ folks are staying inside, subtly suggesting that protesting and resistance is for the ne’er-do-wells. Completely ignores the strategy of planned disruption and plays into respectability politics about who counts as the ‘good’ kind of brown folks. Also no reference to how say, stealing a TV isn’t nearly as harmful as oh – police brutality, the prison pipeline, predatory loans, slavery…stuff like that. But no let’s waggle our fingers at folks breaking windows. Also fact-check me if I’m wrong, but I think this is also the same book where she depicts a Latinx dude as violent against women. Wow. This book is dedicated “For the peacekeepers” which is chilling – because it doesn’t say ‘peaceful protestors’ but the ‘keepers’ and you know what happens when you keep the peace and stay comfy? The oppressed keep getting killed. When the building catches fire and they all end up in a shelter, they realize that Mrs. Kim is a real human all of a sudden (despite her Asianness!) because her cat drinks from the same bowl as the protagonist’s cat. Ew. Bunting has a history of tone policing and even used Japanese American character to suggest Japanese Americans should ‘get over’ japanese internment. Yep. And the illustrator was metoo’d. Hard pass.
- Noodlephant (kramer) Authoritarianism & resistance. I’m not 100% wild about the coding of animals as different types of ‘people’ – which gets yucky if we’re looking at this through a racial lens. The story is supposed to be about the incarceration of LGBTQ+ folks, but it’s left vague for fragile parents in a way that swerves too far into the ‘wait, what does a magic pasta machine have to do with sexuality?’ It’s a little too all over the place to be helpful. Fun read though. illustrator is AAPI. 10% of proceeds donated to Black and Pink, supporting incarcerated LGBTQ folks. In one scene a kangaroo is either hitting or tapping (unclear) Noodlephant (this name is really hard to read aloud, btw) for doing her own thing and eating noodles (coded for gay sex or something, I guess?) In one image, noodlephant is before a court where everyone with power is a kangaroo (get it? Kangaroo court! ::cringe:: It’s like a dad joke, but I’ll take it.) The resolution is where we really get into the weeks – a kangaroo’s law book goes into the noodle machine and the kangaroo converts to reason after tasting how delicious it is (does that mean police officers should try a little hanky panky?) This leaves adults with a discussion on how it’s not okay to prosecute folks for their sexuality or how they present their gender and nothing for kids to grab on to when they ask “so what can we do about it?” Uhh… make a machine that makes everyone like noodles/gay? Errmmm.
- The Rebellious Alphabet – Starts strong, then kind of turns into nonsense. Which makes it hard to use as a book about fighting authoritarianism. There’s also some snide ableism in there – depicting the crude and immature dictator as both short and illiterate, which…yikes. Within the story, the dictator outlaws writing and letters (free press) and imprisons anyone who publishes or attempts to educate the public on what’s going on. But the execution is so abstract – using birds as printing presses, and having letters rain down. The dictator is finally overthrown by letters…falling onto his outfit, which make him feel like a prisoner, so he imprisons himself. Confusing! And also not helpful!