“I understand small moments of joy on a page, like a slave receiving a Christmas present, because I can place those stories into a broad landscape and see them as the exception, not the norm. I knew what it would be like to be black today because I learned what it was like to be black yesterday through books that respected my identity and recognized my intellectual capacity even in elementary school.”

writer Sarah Hannah Gomez

Sarah Hannah Gomez
Credit: Emma Mendenhall

So writes Sarah Hannah Gómez  in the School Library Journal.

Gómez, who is bi-racial, talks about absorbing stories of slavery, prejudice, disenfranchisement as a child and a young reader.

“It was made clear to me that even fictional narratives were based on painful truths, and there was an enduring heritage of prejudice and disenfranchisement that would affect my life anytime I left the house. What good would it do me to have no understanding of where it came from? You could say this is a heavy weight to place on a child’s shoulders, but you have to start lifting weights if you ever want to lift heavier ones.”

Gómez, a former librarian, studies middle grade and YA books. “My not-so-secret dream job,” she says on her web page, “is to work in TV development and turn the best middle grade and YA into the best (and diverse) TV shows and miniseries. In the meantime, I’m getting a PhD in that stuff because I’m good at racking up degrees.

“People whose cultural memory includes oppression, genocide, or disenfranchisement don’t have the luxury of avoiding those topics with their children, because they have lasting effects into today. It doesn’t lead to raising victims, but informed citizens.

“You have to earn hopeful stories about horrifying events, and you can only see what hope means if the horrors lurking nearby are visible. You don’t get to skip to happily ever after. You don’t get to show the sweet without the bitter.”

Find her on twitter: @shgmclicious