Sometimes I struggle to address with my students the race and inequality issues that are so prevalent in the news right now. The conversations are emotional and important, but sometimes my students don’t handle those feelings in a manner that promotes dialogue.
Answer to that problem: books.
Specifically Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt. Starting hard conversations from a neutral place of characters and places we aren’t connected to is a powerful way to handle topics that are hard for kids (and adults). In Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, Turner Buckminster leaves Boston with his mother and father to take up residence in Phippsburg, Maine at the turn of the century. Turner’s father has been hired as the town minister and from their first day in town, it is obvious that Turner doesn’t fit in, and he begins to dream of lighting out for the Territories, leaving the sleepy town behind for good.
But Turner doesn’t run away and instead forms a relationship with a black girl, Lizzie Bright, from the wrong side of the river. Phippsburg, suffering economically, plans to tear down Lizzie’s home and small shanty town so that tourists can have a better view from the soon-to-be-built hotel. The racial injustice, bullying, and use of religion to push an agenda is heavy in this book and brought about a lot of great conversations with students.
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt is a beautifully written story about a town’s decision to treat others wrong, how to stand up for those without voices, and what justice really looks like. This book is profound and painful, definitely a good read.