The heart and soul behind heritagemom.com and a proud contributor to the Wild + Free homeschooling community, Amber O’Neal Johnston has woven her experiences into a beautiful narrative in her book, A Place to Belong.
Amber’s book serves as a rich resource for families across the spectrum, exploring homes that are:
- culturally rich,
- and socially conscious.
Today on the Brave Writer podcast, we’re diving deep into this narrative with Amber, talking author to author and homeschooling mom to homeschooling mom about the essence of A Place to Belong.
Inspiration for “A Place to Belong”
A heart-wrenching personal awakening around her eldest child’s struggles with self-worth and identity spurred Amber to pen this literary gem. Recognizing the gaps and unintentional omissions in her child’s education about race and identity, Amber addresses the need to move beyond extreme colorblindness, emphasizing the importance of embracing our unique roots, culture, and identity. As Toni Morrison beautifully put, “If there’s a book that you want to read and it hasn’t been written, then you should write it.” And so, Amber did.
What the Book is About
In A Place to Belong, Amber delves into the significance of introspection and awareness for parents. It’s not merely about understanding our children but also diving deep into our emotions, biases, and beliefs. She underscores that confronting and navigating through the emotional discomfort of parent-child conversations, especially those revolving around race, identity, and culture, is paramount. Amber also takes us on a journey through the tapestry of family culture. She emphasizes that it’s not just about annual traditions or favorite family pastimes but delving deeper into the realms of cultural heritage and background. What messages are we unconsciously sending our children through our chosen way of life? Importantly, she reminds us that these discussions and introspections about cultural heritage aren’t exclusive to any particular racial or ethnic group. White families, black families, brown families – every household has a story, a history, and a culture worth exploring and celebrating.
Evaluating Family Culture
Every family is unique, and every child should feel at home in their family culture. To truly embrace inclusivity, parents should:
- Reflect on their social circles and children’s friends.
- Ask if these circles reflect diversity or are they insular?
- Evaluate their stance on race, stereotypes, and biases.
Inclusivity isn’t just about certain months dedicated to specific histories. It’s about making inclusivity a way of life, not just a topic of discussion. It’s about moving from compartmentalization to integration.
Being an “Askable” Parent
Coined by Dr. Gordon, the term “askable parent” is a badge of honor. It signifies a parent’s commitment to be available, open, and honest with their child. From answering unexpected questions to addressing bold or “inappropriate” topics, being an askable parent means creating a safe space for your child to grow and learn. And sometimes, it means saving those pressing public questions for a private chat in the car.
3 Types of Books
Every book holds a lesson, but not all books represent every reader. Amber classifies books into:
- Mirrors: These reflect a reader’s life.
- Windows: These give insights into others’ lives.
- Sliding Glass Doors: These are so relatable that readers envision themselves in the narrative.
While many families have ample mirror books, the challenge lies in balancing these with window books, enabling kids to see the vibrant tapestry of our world. For Amber, this realization came when she noticed her child’s library was lacking diversity. It’s not about blame but about continuous learning and updating our bookshelves.
The crux of our journey with Amber is simple yet profound: To promote joyful inquiry and introduce our children to a diverse literary realm. Let’s embrace this vibrant world, hand in hand with our kids, leading them towards a brighter, more inclusive tomorrow.
- Learn more at HeritageMom.com
- Read: A Place to Belong
- Follow Amber on Instagram: @heritagemomblog
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