I was recently approached by some of my tweeps (@DosBadDads) to review their latest “baby” book, entitled FYI:Great Grandma is Racist. Being that uno of the dos is an English Lit professor, or something, perhaps he can remind me what the rule is regarding how to properly denote that you are discussing a book. I seem to remember you are supposed to underline it, whereas an article is italicized, but underlining isn’t an option in WordPress, and the title should clearly indicate that it’s a book. So there you go grammar police! Anyway…
I really like this book. The only reason I can’t say that I love it is because I think that people who fall within the racial categories discussed might take offense at the fact that it is essentially making light of the fact that our majority culture (read: white people, though this is slowly changes to a glorious amalgam, or melting pot as we’re taught in elementary school) accepts racism rather than addresses it, in order to make it through the uncomfortable moments when it rears its ugly head. However, keep in mind that I live in one of the most radically liberal areas, and thus I’m probably oversensitive. Also, it’s not like the authors created the phenomenon, it just exists. With that in mind, we shall continue.
There are several things that I love about this book, and I mean that broadly.
- It accurately centers on the awkward relationship between parents (though this could apply to any individuals, since it is a book intended to be read to babies that don’t quite understand what you’re saying to them, I’ll assume it is aimed at parents) and older relatives and their inappropriate behaviors. While the broader message is that we must subvert our impulse to control or correct others’ behaviors due to their racist tendencies because of the fact that there isn’t much longer we must put up with them, it isn’t only racism that parents have to deal with, and it isn’t always restricted to people who are nearing the end of their living spectrum. Subverting feelings of rage towards relatives for their inappropriate, unwelcomed, or otherwise unhelpful advice, input, or unsolicited information is one of the most common recurring problems parents face in the real world, IMO. Close relatives and even complete strangers will give you advice on your parenting when you didn’t even realize you were inviting their input–because of course you weren’t. (I have a good friend that lives near the Haight and regularly gets advice from transients who are most likely probably under the influence, bless her heart!) Additionally, it highlights the struggle between using an example of undesirable behavior to teach your children what’s right (for example if they called someone a racist term you would correct them and explain all the reasons it’s hurtful, etc.) versus the fact that you should respect your older relatives’ feelings, and not embarrass them or attempt to speak for their behaviors. Hopefully you are still following me at this point 🙂
- The overall style of the tone is incredibly evocative of Carrie Bradshaw’s pitch to Mr. Big’s ex in the Sex and the City series. Ladies are you with me? She goes into the meeting knowing that the woman is a publisher, but not realizing that she exclusively publishes children’s books. So she comes up with an idea off the top of her head regarding a girl named Cathy that can travel anywhere in the world when she lights up one of her magic cigarettes. A children’s book for adults, Carrie musters to explain. The publisher loves the idea and praises her ingenue. FYI GGIR falls squarely within that genre.
- It exposes the incredible hypocrisy prevalent in American culture that individuals are comfortable being racist in any number of facets of their lives, yet accept entertainers (or those in other professions) that fall within a race that they would ordinarily hate on because of some plus factor. The book describes how GG loves Eddie Murphy, presumably for his Shrek movies, but shows her being rude to an African American librarian. I bet GG would be shocked to learn of Eddie Murphy’s roots and how he earned his claim to family fun fame. Also, in researching the name of his first standup show (it’s Delirious, in case you didn’t want to follow the link, which you should it’s HILARIOUS, though incredibly vulgar), I read in his Wiki entry that he is the second highest grossing actor in the U.S.! I was too short on time to discover who number one was, but OMG, I would NEVER have thought Eddie Murphy was so high up there.
- Lastly, this is sort of a tangent, in case I haven’t already taken enough of those in this post, this book highlights the importance of discussing race with children. I’ll take this opportunity to recommend another book to parents, called NurtureShock by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman, which has an entire chapter dedicated to talking about race with children. Apparently, the common tactic taken by us “cultured” liberal accepting parents is to not address race for fear of putting artificial labels in our childrens’ heads. We think that by hanging out with muliticultural families or sending our children to “diverse” preschools that they will learn acceptance by osmosis, but apparently this is not the case. Children have an inherent need for everything to fit neatly into its own category, and when we don’t supply them with these labels and tell them that just because their friend has dark skin, he still likes the same things, feels the same feelings, etc. they will automatically assume that those who look like them must like the same things, whereas those who look different must not be the same as them. (The exact term for this is escaping me.) Thus our attempts backfire, and sometimes kids can run into problems. There is a fascinating discussion about the parents of children who were involved in a study that was attempting to gauge the effectiveness of diversity teachings, you’ll have to read about that one on your own if you’re interested.
Overall, I would definitely recommend this book, if for no other reason than it will only cost you $2, little more than the price of a song on iTunes (they raised their prices to $1.25 a song, in case you didn’t know!), and a little less than $2 Chuck (which by the way has also had its price raised, to $2.49).
In addition to buying a copy for yourself, because you know you’ll need a laugh to accompany your copy of Go the F**k to Sleep, I would DEFINITELY buy a copy for all of your friends when you attend their baby showers. It’s my personal feeling that modern parents can be too uptight and serious, and not laugh at the incredible unreasonableness that parenting can sometimes entail. Let’s keep it real and take a break in between the debates of EBF, rear facing car seats, homemade baby food, eliminating food coloring, corn syrup and GMOs, and poke fun at some of the realities we have to deal with.
Also, go follow @DosBadDads, they’re funny for realz.