May 2, 2023
Darshana Khiani shares I'm an American, a beautifully depicted, thought-provoking look at the many ways we define what it means to be an American.
BOOK DESCRIPTION: I'm an American by Darshana Khiani; illustrated by Laura Freeman
Page Length: 48 pages
Ages 4to 8, Grades P to 3
I'm an American by Darshana Khiani; illustrated by Laura Freeman
What does it mean to be American?
A classroom of children across many races, cultures, and origins explores the concept of Americanness as they each share bits of their family history and how their past has shaped their own personal American experience. Whether as new immigrants, or those whose family came to this country generations ago, or other scenarios, these children's stories show some of the broad range of cultures and values that form the history and identity of our nation.
A beautifully depicted, thought-provoking look at the vast expanse of cultures that exists in America, the values that bring us together as one people despite our differences, and the many ways we define what it means to be an American.
(7:01) “This book, honestly, I think it's for ages eight to a hundred. I think it's a conversation starter. What does it mean to be an American?”
(8:32) “There's a term that I learned and I hope we hear it more in the media. It's called “representational belonging”. And it's about when you see yourself in history, it makes you feel that, “Oh my God, I'm an American, too. I belong here.” Right? “I'm not just that immigrant or part of that immigrant family that came post 1965.”
(8:59) “I'm hoping it can open up discussion about what are the challenges we have of living up to our American values, cause we certainly have plenty. And where have we succeeded as a nation and where do we still have work to do?”
(11:23) “And I also wonder if it's the fear of the unknown, right? Because we understand ourselves and so if we see people talking and we don't understand what they're saying, then, you know, we might worry, “Oh, are they talking about us? What do they think about?” You know, it's just that fear of the unknown.”
(12:29) “Being in the writing world has allowed me to diversify and to learn. I've learned about so much about other cultures by being a writer because I just have the ability to come into contact with more people. So, I personally am grateful of how it has changed my life by being a writer.
(13:27) “I'm hoping now we're at a time where we can really broaden our definition of American. Obviously, we can't get away from the colonial history and our foundings, but I think as we talk about the other groups and their achievements during those times, which were, you know, in the 1800s or in the early 1900s where there's just so much focus on white history. And if we talk about the accomplishments and the contributions of these other people, I think that will then help ingrain into kids from an early time that America was diverse from the beginning.”
(22:01) “No group of people, you know, ethnicity or religion or class, is a monolith. And to truly learn about anyone, you have to dig deeper. So like, if you see something that's interesting, don't assume that that represents the kid next to you that might be from that culture, because it may, but most likely it may not.
So it's always best to go into a conversation about something with an open mind and rather than assumption.”
(21:08) “No matter your skin color, religion, ethnicity, or even your citizenship, if you feel America is your home, then you are American. And for those of you who have a stronger connection to another country and don't consider yourself American, that's okay too. You still belong and are welcome here.”
TALK ABOUT THE EPISODE:
Who do you consider an American? What qualities, characteristics, or qualifications do you think one must possess in order to be considered an American?
What is a part of your identity for which you feel pride? This could be literally anything from the place where you live to a skill you have or an identifying feature. Anything at all. What makes you proud about this part of yourself? Is it something you’ve shared with others?
What does it feel like to share something about your identity with someone who is different from you? Have you ever felt like a part of your identity has kept you out of being included? If so, in what way? Have you ever felt like a part of your identity was the very reason for being included? If so, what was that experience like for you?
Name three ways that our differences can actually make us stronger together.
This podcast episode of The Children’s Book Podcast was written, edited, and produced by Matthew Winner. For a full transcript of this episode, visit matthewcwinner.com.
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Fellow teachers and librarians, want a way to explore building a stronger culture of reading in our communities? In The Reading Culture podcast, Beanstack co-founder Jordan Bookey hosts conversations that dive into beloved authors' personal journeys and insights into motivating young people to read. And I am a big fan! Check out the Reading Culture Podcast with Jordan Bookey, from Beanstack. Available wherever podcasts are found.
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