Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers

Note: I don't think I've ever reviewed a book on this blog, but I've always meant to. So hopefully this is the first of several. And I feel I should say that I received a review copy of this book, because that's something an independent reviewer is supposed to say, right? 

OK. That's enough of this italics business. 

All parents (hopefully) teach their children about fairness. It's a rather simple concept, though it can be made complicated when you add tradition and prejudice into the mix. Fairness doesn't have to be hard, but the unfortunate truth is that it often is.

Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers, by Sarah Warren, illustrated by Robert Casilla, is a great entry point into the ideas of justice and fairness and tells the inspiring story of an amazing woman. 

Anna, who will be six in July, was really interested in this book. She's a lover of non-fiction, especially when it tells a good story.

And the story of Dolores Huerta is a heck of a story. The book focuses on how Huerta felt strongly about the rights of workers to receive fair pay and treatment. This meant organizing strikes and boycotts.

Warren explores these weighty concepts (justice, strikes, boycotts) with simple language that is somehow far from simplistic. I usually find myself adding explanatory sentences to books like this so Anna can better understand the content. But I didn't have to do that here. It's all laid out in easy-to-understand concepts and language.

But then, justice is sort of that way for kids. They get fairness. They get that when something is wrong, it should be made right.

One part of the book that I thought really would hit home with kids is where it touches on the fact that these organizers and striking workers weren't able to spend as much time with their families as they would have liked.

I asked Anna what she felt about this part, and she said, "Kind of sad."

I asked, "Do you think the parents should stop striking so they can spend more time with their kids?"

She replied, "No. Because they want the bosses to be good and it's more important to get more food than to be with their kids."

"Do you think that was an easy decision to make?"

"Kinda hard," she replied.

This is an issue that I struggle with as an activist (though I am under absolutely no illusions that I sacrifice anywhere near as much with my activism as Huerta and her fellow activists did). While I think there's nothing wrong with bringing my kids with me to activist opportunities whenever possible and appropriate, I'm not always able to do that. I spend less time with my kids because of my activism. I'm always up-front with them about where I'm going and what I'm doing (for example, that I'm tabling at an event, trying to get people to consider choosing to be vegan). My hope is that they'll glean a couple things from this: 1. I'm doing work that I feel is important, and 2. It's perfectly normal for parents to volunteer for a cause they feel is important.

If you can't tell, I'm really happy that Warren included this section in her book. I feel that it's there for the adults as much as it is for the kids.

The book also touches on the fact that Huerta was told to be quiet and let men do the talking. Of course, she doesn't listen.

Hopefully our children are already surrounded by strong women. And even if they are, it's a good idea to occasionally point out that women haven't always been able to freely express themselves; that it's been a struggle and that the struggle is ongoing. I talked to Anna about this, of course. But I also plan to talk to Liam about it once he's a bit older. Boys need to hear this message as loudly as girls do, in my opinion.

Anna said her favorite part of the book was, "Telling people to do what they want." Which means that she liked how the workers told the bosses to treat them fairly. She turned the book to the page of Huerta on a bullhorn, surrounded by striking workers.

Anna wanted to see if we could find any videos of Dolores Huerta online. I found this interview on Democracy Now! and we watched it together.

Anna was super excited to spot a photo in the video that was recreated in the book - the same one that she had turned to when I asked her about her favorite part:

I love my observant daughter.

This is the part of the review where I would critique any speciesist messages in the book; any images of people eating chicken's legs, or images of farmed animals in confinement. But there isn't any! It's a wholly vegan-friendly book, which means it's consistent in its message of fairness.

And speaking of vegans. I wanted to say that I really do feel that it's of the utmost importance for vegan parents to teach their kids about the intersections of oppression and that being vegan means that you want justice and fairness for all animals, including humans. Books like this do a great job of driving that point home.

This book will fit comfortably into the collection of anyone who wishes to teach their children about justice and equality. It's a great conversation starter. In fact, it may start multiple conversations which are just as worth having now as they were having then. 


Lucas said...

Thanks for the review Al. The topic of nurturing the sense of fairness that young children "get" is of great interest to me. I'll certainly check out the book.

I think you make a lot of great points here, and I look forward to the next review.

Jessica @Vegbooks said...

Awesome possum! This book wasn't even on my radar until you reviewed it. I wholeheartedly agree with you about the intersection of social justice issues and veganism. Will definitely check this out for my 6-year-old kiddo!

Al said...

Thanks Lucas, I'm glad you liked it.

Jessica, 6 seems like a great age for this book. Maybe I'll see a review from you on Vegbooks?