The Conversation Circle Series is an opportunity for Park School faculty and staff to come together and discuss a current event related to diversity, equity and inclusion. These topics tend to be the ones that are “trending” on social media or in the news, and these conversation circles allow us some time and space to talk about these issues face to face.
Born out of the frustration that there simply is not enough time in the day to talk about important and relevant current events, this group gathers from 2:05pm-2:25pm (the time between dismissal and the start of faculty meetings) on Tuesdays in rotating rooms. It’s amazing what you can discuss in 20 minutes!
I have to admit, when Mr. Porter said he wanted to talk about a fine dessert, I thought he was inviting me for tiramisu or flan. Alas, no. He, as our talented and brilliant library faculty member, was talking about the NY Times Book A Fine Dessert. You see my dilemma here, right?
On Tuesday, December 15, a dozen faculty and staff at Park School discussed the children’s book A Fine Dessert by Emily Jenkins and Sophie Blackall. This is the story of dessert — Blackberry Fool, to be exact — as seen through the lives of families living in different times and different locations.
The controversy with this book is within the first few pages. Part of the story takes place in the south during a time when Black slaves cooked the meals of White families. You can read a fuller description here of an NPR critique of the book as a “whitewashing” of slavery.
Our faculty brought up so many great points in the discussion: context and age of those reading it; how adults process the book with children; opportunities to provide discussion questions; implicit vs explicit messaging; and even how older students might read the book and critique it from an illustrative perspective and a social issues perspective.
If you are interested in reading the book and engaging in a critical race discussion, here are some helpful guided questions you might ask/answer:
- What do you notice are some similarities of the people on this page? What do you notice are some differences?
- (for older students): Let’s just look at the pictures. What story does this tell? What do you think the characters are saying or conveying in these illustrations?
- (for older students): Let’s just look at the text. What picture does this create for you? If you were to illustrate this story, how might you tell the story?
- Why do you think the two young Black girls are hiding in the closet while eating the dessert? How might you do this differently if this were your house?
- What are meals like at your home? Are there times when everyone sits down to eat together? Are there times when someone does not join you?
- What do you wish would happen differently in this book?
- Do you think this story would have been told differently if the authors were people of color (they identify as White women)? If so, what would have been different?
- Would this story have been different if it were told through the voice/eyes of a Freed slave?
Thank you to Mr. Porter, Ms. Black and Ms. Lane for hosting our Conversation Circle today!
Peace and Park,