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Racism Explained to My Daughter by Tahar Ben…

Racism Explained to My Daughter (1998)

by Tahar Ben Jelloun

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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I bought this book ages ago but didn't get around to reading it. Now, with all the racist bullshit swirling around the election I figured it was high time. The title essay is pretty much what it sounds like: an essay in Q&A form, written in conjunction with his daughter, then fine-tuned after leading a series of discussions with school children on race. Jelloun's writings are from the lens of an immigrant from Morocco in Paris. His essay does an excellent job addressing the aspect of racism that is the prejudice of the individual, and how it robs us all of the fullness of our humanity to lazily believe stupid bullshit about each other because of the color of our skin. Jelloun's daughter was ten at the time, and it is very accessible to this age group. I fully intend to lend this book to Jefferson to read. However, this essay does not address institutional or systematic racism at all - a strange failing since it was born from conversations with his daughter at a demonstration protesting anti-immigrant laws in France. I was disappointed, and had this essay been the only essay in the book, I probably would have given it 4, or maybe even 3 stars.

But the essays that follow add such breadth and complexity to the issue as to jack this book up to a 5 star rating. These four other essays expand upon the idea, examining intersections with national and religious identities as well. The David Mura essay, in particular, addresses systemic racism.

The best thing about the book is that it acknowledges that talking about race with your children is scary, messy, and very, very necessary. ( )
  greeniezona | Dec 6, 2017 |
Tahar Ben Jelloun wrote racisme expliqué à ma fille1997 in dialogue with his then 10-year old daughter; also two of her school friends read and contributed to it. He says he had to rewrite the text many times so as to achieve clarity, simplicity and objectivity; this, I think he achieved (a few misplaced formulations were pointed out later by correspondents and included in the appendix). The text is aimed at 8- to 14-year-old children as racism, he says (and he is right of course), needs to be fought by educating the young. Appended to this edition are reactions – questions and comments - of pupils in discussions following talks he gave as well as a selection of positive criticism from the many letters he received –not all of the comments can be easily answered.

«La montée des haines» : The first dialog with his daughter is, in this edition, followed by a second dialog 7 years later. Both, father and daughter try to understand why racism, anti-semitism and islamophobia has grown in these years.They discuss the terms integration, acceptation, assimilation, identity …and their consequences. Relevant to France is the strict separation of state and religion (the law of 1905 concerning «laïcité») which is not the case in other European states e.g. Britain and Germany where each group has the right to live their differences with the risk of being enclosed in their own small community. Britain could never adopt «laïcité» as long as the monarch is the head of both, the State and the State-Religion.

It is a thoughtful introduction to this complex issue written for children (but not just for children!) and should be part of the curriculum. (III-17) ( )
  MeisterPfriem | Apr 12, 2017 |
Ben Jelloun wrote this book in response to questions his daughter asked following public demonstrations in France over 1997's proposed laws to further regulate immigration. That sparked the idea to write a book about racism specifically for French young people. The author rewrote draft after draft to simplify language and clarify concepts. He states that racism will never vanish because racism is a typical human behavior. To reduce racism is to educate young people rather than adults. His book is a work of art that has been translated into many languages and is used in schools around the globe. Of course, parents can read the book, too. This expanded edition includes a Dossier on racism which defines and explains many aspects of the topic ( )
  everblues | Jun 26, 2016 |
I started this book expecting to have my expectations of racism to be realized. What I encountered was a well-written, thoughtful examination of what racism is and how difficult it is to pin down to certain places and actions. As a Canadian, I found Ben Jalloun's experience as a Morracan immigrant Parisian to contain a lot of information I am familiar with. The responses (and Ben Jalloun's postscript) reminded me how little I, as a Canadian, understand of the continuing racial strife between whites and 'browns' south of the 49th parallel (or even in my own country). I would have thought that time and progress would have address the 'colour line' in American society. Apparently some segments of American society want to see the 'colour line' continue. Not that I am pointing a finger at America (United States), it is just that racism takes on different forms in different societies and to try and pin it down in a short 200 page book is, well, just not possible. I love the fact that the book starts out with Ben Jelloun's French-living perspective of racism. As he points out, immigration into France is a rather new thing, whereas North America (both Canada and America) are very much build based on an immigrant society. Even America's founding fathers were immigrants. But even these two neighboring countries have cultural differences, and it is these cultural differences that may explain the differences between the two countries and the complexity of racism as a whole. While I have no answers - in fact, the book is wonderful in providing the reader with the information to start and continue a cultural awareness journey - I appreciate the responses provided by William Ayers, Lisa D. Delpit, David Mura and Patricia Williams to present their own personal American views regarding racism in response to Ben Jelloun's French immigrant view. As a personal note, as much as I appreciate Affirmative Action (especially in the context of the United States), I cannot help but question it role (as being a possible case of reverse racism) in the following example of someone I know: Their recent (post- 2014) original application for a job position did not even elicit an interview. When the applicant in question saw the same job (with the same organization) posted three months later, they re-submitted their application (with no changes - except for name) and replaced their given name with a name that was of a more culturally immigrant name (not John Smith). They were contacted by within 7 days for an interview. Yes, they did attend the interview and explain the name subterfuge. Unfortunately, the organization (I am horrified to say) was more concerned that the person was not of a noticeable (visible) immigrant nationality than that they had completely overlooked his credentials the first time around (which were word-for-word from their previous submission).

I think that racism is a very complex issue and something that deserves more attention than it currently receives. This book is a wonderful starting point - for both children and adults - to start examining the racism question and to generate awareness of an issue that is as old as humanity itself. ( )
4 vote lkernagh | Apr 4, 2016 |
This book contains some very intelligent conversations on race in America. Jelloun begins the discussion with a dialogue with his daughter and then five other social commentators take it up. I found William Ayers' and Lisa Delpit's essays to be particularly thought-provoking. Both look closely at the historical context of racism and then apply it to today's social environment. If you live in America, you should read this. I'm currently trying to work this book into my 11th Grade English curriculum. I'm looking forward to the conversations it is bound to produce. ( )
1 vote danconsiglio | Apr 1, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 156584534X, Hardcover)

In the tradition of Marion Wright Edelman's "The Measure of Our Success," a best-selling author speaks frankly with his daughter about racism. A runaway best-seller in Europe, Tahar Ben Jelloun's Racism Explained to My Daughter has been translated into more than a dozen languages and sold more than 300,000 copies. Writing in response to his ten-year-old daughter's questions about racism, the prize-winning author has created a unique and compelling dialogue, speaking to racism as a problem not only in France, but around the world. Elegant and sensitive, "deceptively simple" (New York Times), Racism Explained to My Daughter is for all parents who have struggled to engage their children in discussion of this complex issue. It also includes personal essays from four leading U.S. writers who are also parents.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:32 -0400)

Suite une manifestation lie au racisme, Tahar Ben Jelloun, crivain et pre, s'est mis en frais d'expliquer ce qu'est le racisme sa fille de dix ans. Son approche est structure et la porte des jeunes. Il dfinit simplement des termes complexes comme diffrence, tranger, xnophobie, discrimination, ghettos, etc. Un petit livre d'une grande richesse. Dans cette nouvelle dition, l'auteur ajouter un texte rdig sept ans plus tard, ##La monte des haines##, n d'un constat selon lequel le racisme s'est banalis et dans certains cas aggrav avec le temps. Il tente d'expliquer la monte de l'antismitisme et de l'islamophobie dans les collges et lyces franais et milite en faveur de la loi sur la lacit. [SDM]… (more)

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