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Racism Explained to My Daughter [Hardcover]

By Tahar Ben Jelloun (Author), Tahar Ben Jelloun (Author) & Carol Volk (Translator)
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Item description for Racism Explained to My Daughter by Tahar Ben Jelloun & Carol Volk...

Writing to respond to his ten-year-old daughter's questions about racism, the author skillfully distills this complicated issue for a child, offering parents advice on how to explain bigotry to their own children.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: New Press, The
Pages   207
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 7.56" Width: 5.29" Height: 0.84"
Weight:   0.65 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Jun 1, 1999
Publisher   New Press
ISBN  156584534X  
ISBN13  9781565845343  

Availability  0 units.

More About Tahar Ben Jelloun & Carol Volk

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Tahar Ben Jelloun, poet, novelist and professor, was born in Fez, Morocco in 1944. He has lived and worked in France since 1971. Winner of the Prix Goncourt in 1987, he received the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2004. Author of numerous works of fiction, poetry, and critique, he writes regularly for diverse journals and newspapers, including Le Monde.

Tahar Ben Jelloun was born in 1944.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > Discrimination & Racism
2Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > General
3Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > Sociology > Race Relations > General
4Books > Subjects > Parenting & Families > General
5Books > Subjects > Parenting & Families > Parenting > General

Reviews - What do customers think about Racism Explained to My Daughter?

Companion book for a class turned out pretty good  Sep 13, 2007
I purchased this book for a diversity in education class and actually quite enjoyed it. Jelloun's prose is almost lyrical and a pleasure to read, and the other authors complemented his writing well.
Excellent read for parents and their children  Oct 31, 2005
Another review on here rated this book as 1 star. Maybe that person should write their own book on racism. I believe the person who made this rating failed to see the perfect summation this book provides for parents who are struggling with a way to explain racism to their children. There are always more reasons, more explanation, and more views to be given, but in the big picture, this book hits all the bases. I think it does convey the message that any person, any color, any religion, can be racist.
How to hate racism and still think like a racist  Dec 20, 2001
"Racism Explained to My Daughter" is a maddening read. Its creditable intentions and seemingly careful explanations draw you in quickly, and Ben Jelloun's economical prose has all the virtues of a well-prepared lesson with none of the overwhelming preachiness. And it is this patience of demeanor that makes this such a dangerous book, for Ben Jelloun's argument here ends up reproducing, with a gentle and seductive touch, the same limited and limiting mindset of the racism he sets out to "explain."

The topic is, of course, timely, and as acclaimed a writer as Ben Jelloun is perhaps more prepared than most to take on the task. He proceeds step by step with his clarifications, defining difficult terms in often sensible ways, all the while using a form of prose that has very long roots as an expository genre: the dialogue. This format allows the daughter's voice to anticipate the very questions and demands for greater clarity that are simultaneously arising in the reader's mind. And her father is happy to simplify.

And that's just the problem. Racism is not a simple thing. Ben Jelloun is to be commended for his attempt, but there is strength in not knowing, and greater strength in admitting that one doesn't know-just ask Socrates, the ancient master of the dialogue. Socrates would have paled trying to explain racism. To his credit, Ben Jelloun includes numerous critiques (letters sent to him from readers, things said by students during his tour of schools in France and Italy) of the earlier edition of "Racism Explained" and, while these afford an opportunity for showing the real complexity of racism, they also reinforce the poverty of his own argument.

And what's wrong with his argument? Ben Jelloun wants to break things down very carefully and be fair, and he gives every appearance of doing so, but it is only an appearance. The problem with this project ultimately revolves around the fact that, in order to discredit racism, Ben Jelloun relies on the same reductive worldview that causes racism in the first place, the same lack of vision that only sees things in opposed pairs: black/white, good/bad, us/them. Thus can his daughter, at the book's end, declare that "racists are b**tards [salauds]." She has learned well how to ignore multifarious causes and use instead blanket judgments. Substitute any sub-group for "racists" in her equation, and you've got the beginnings of hate: for Hitler, it was "Jews," for Falwell it's "homosexuals," etc. Racists are many things, but not all racists are one thing.

Ben Jelloun once said of James Joyce that Joyce's work is so revolutionary because it "works on language," and Ben Jelloun's own novels have performed this revolution often over the last decade. Sadly, when a fine author decides to take on social issues at a more explicit and obvious level, the humanity and nuance fade, and all we're left with is a choice between two worldviews: that of the reductionist explainers, and that of the racist b**tards.

Precisely because of its pretensions to fairness, sober-mindedness and tolerance, this could very well be one of the most dangerous books I've read. It gets three stars for the discussion that forms around the critiques included at the end (the only sustained dose of reality in the book) and for the discussion I hope it will provoke here in the USA.

a very one sided vision of "racism"  Sep 7, 2000
Mister Ben Jelloun means to talk simply about racism, yet, he has a very one-sided view on this problem. Indeed, while he spends great lenghts in talking about europeans or Euro-american racism, he stays mostly silent about others people's racism.

Exemple one. Mister Ben jelloun mention black slavery in the americas, but he is much more reluctant when it comes to talk about slavery in Marocco. Better yet: he carefully avoids to mention that many slaves in North Africa, up to the early 1800's, were Europeans abducted at sea, on the mediterranean shores of France, Spain and italy. He doesn't mention either that slavery was widespread in africa.

Exemple 2. The author spends much time dealing with colonialism. There again, why wouldn' he mention the current genocide in tibet? The japanese colonial policy until WW2? The invasions of Spain during the middle age?

Exemple 3. Mister Ben Jelloun mentions the crusads in 1095, but describs them as solely motivated by the will of christians to kill muslims. That's a historical falsehood! However, his book was written while fundamentalist Algérian muslims made several bombs explose in France, killing and wounding tens of people; that's a matter he quickly waves off. How come he is so willing to talk about intolerance that dates back a 1000 years when it gives him an opportunity to trash Europeans, but he's so unwilling to take as example of religious intolerance the fundamentalit muslims who put bombs in France, who veil women in afganisthan or iran?

In most depictions of racists, Ben jelloun allmost allways present auropeans as racists: about 20 exemples show them as racists. This should be opposed to Arabs who are depicted as racists in only 3 exemples...

Ben Jelloun book amounts mostly to white bashing. It's very sugarcoated with lofty feelings, but when one closely reads the book, one cannot but notice that exemples are carefully, selectivelly chosen. It is very surprising that Mister Ben Jelloun is so knowledgeable about european racism, but so forgetfull about Marocco's own past as slave traders, about marocco's discrimination against jews, about marocco's history of religious discrimination.

I do not recommand this book at any rate. It will either leave you and your child with an undue feeling of guilt. It is very One sided. Any Man, regardless of his origins, racial or ethnic, can be racist. Mister Ben Jelloun's book totally fails to pass that message.

A must read  Jul 6, 2000
Everyone must read this book. Especially people working with children, families and each other.

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