Thursday, October 20, 2011

Busing Brewster

I remember when my family moved to Denver, Colorado in the early '70's. I remember my parents talking about which schools we would attend and how my mother the teacher didn't want us living in the midst of a giant transition Denver Public Schools was going through: desegregation. While I kind of understood what she was saying about the changes the district was going through, I didn't understand the energy beneath her words. Inside of me, I couldn't figure out what made her so worried.

Now I get it: now I am a mother who cares deeply about her daughter and doesn't want her to experience bad things just like my mom didn't then. I know I shelter Alysa from some experiences in life and hope like crazy some things don't happen to her. And although I try to be transparent with her, telling Alysa ALL about how certain issues make me feel inside just doesn't always fit for me. She pushes me, and for the most part, I tell her honestly where I stand and how my stance makes me feel. While it is still not always comfortable, my partner and I try to share our fears when we can. But these are my decisions, and I believe that Alysa can handle what I share with her. This is now though, not then, not a time in history where out of fear, people hurt children regularly because of fear.

This book pushes up against desegregation issues, namely forced busing, of the early '70's in the United States. First-grader Brewster is excited about attending his neighborhood school but learns the day before school starts that he will be going to a different school. While excited and nervous, it is the actions he experiences on the bus that begin to unseat him. He enters the newly-segregated school, only to notice some dramatically different features within it. Because of a fear-initiated action, Brewster must stay int he library with his brother all day. Lucky for him, an advocate under the guise of a librarian (awesome: powerful role models who worked as educators of social justice in the '70's!!) begins to work positively with Brewster. Readers like me will appreciate connecting to our memories of those early-to-us segregation days within schools. Readers who are younger than me likely will have multiple ways to connect with this text, given our current- day experiences with racism and fear.

Fear: there it is again. As an educator, a parent, a human, I have found some ways to be transparent about fear. It is simply part of our world, and I believe the more ways we find to talk about it, meander within it, and make sense of it, the more we will find our ways to bridging from the fear that separates us to the presence and peace that can come from connecting honestly and openly with others. This book will be one I add to my collection on social justice, for those moments when conversations of fear come up with kindergarten AND graduate students, for those moments when fear can be our teacher and love can enter into the bridged moments to possibility.

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