Picture Book Review: I Didn’t Leave Because of You, by Tyechia White, Illus. Mary Manning

Favorite quote:
“Although my reasons for leaving could be many,
You played no part in any.”

I Didn’t Leave Because of You, written by Tyechia White, and illustrated by Mary Manning, is a treasure I found at my local public library. The book tastes bittersweet. While sprinkled with love and further reassurances of love, it also offers a platform for a difficult conversation to have with children: The absence of a parent.

I Didn’t Leave Because of You is a love letter from the absent parent to the child left behind. When parents separate, regardless of the reason, children often feel responsible. They blame themselves and carry a guilt well into adulthood. The burden they feel takes on different manifestations in the classroom or the family home. Additionally, it is often hard for them to voice their pain, whether it be because they struggle to process it, or are afraid to blame the missing parent.

“Whether it be drugs, alcohol, or a case of the mental blues, there are things about me I didn’t want to put you through.” That quote only lists some of the reasons a parent could be away. Indeed, the book explores a few more causes, and hints at the absence as a mean to protect the child. The parent also asks for forgiveness, mentions fighting a battle, and thinking about the child day and night.

This is not an easy thing to tell a child, yet overall the book aims to comfort and empower the reader.

A note on the illustrations:
The first two elements that struck me were the warmth of the colors, and the glow shining through every page, as if to say, “there’s a light at the end of this tunnel.” The children are of all ethnicities, reminding us that tragedy does not discriminate. If green is the color of hope, then hope is the healing background offered by these illustrations.

Why I would recommend it:
• There’s a need for books like this for young children being raised by a single parent.
• It could be a good conversation starter to help a child process the situation.
• A child seeing a picture of another child grappling with the absence of a parent could help him feel safe, and help him about open up about his own struggles.
• The diverse ethnic background of the children within the pages of the book states that this issue affects everyone. There is no pointing the finger at a specific community, and I think this is also important for a child to see.
• As the story is written, the missing parent could be someone of any gender. Additionally, the reasons for the absence are varied, making the story easily relatable to the reader with a void in his heart.

What this book also made me wish for:
The story focuses on parents who, seemingly, voluntarily abandoned their child or children. Indeed, throughout the book the missing parent takes responsibility for not being there: “Leaving was something I decided to do…” However the current immigration climate, i.e. children being separated from their mom or dad, made me realize how much books about parents who are forced into leaving their kids are also needed. I think that there’s room for more stories on the topic. That said, I think that this book aimed to focus on the voluntary abandonment of a parent, and it makes sense to me to not try to cover all possible reasons for a parent’s absence in just one volume.

Additional Info
Author’s website: Tyechia White
Illustrator’s website: Mary Manning
Publisher: Mascot Books
Release date: September 6, 2016.
Age appropriate: 6-8 years old.

Where I got the book from: Yolo County Public Library.

Changes

It’s been a while.
Much has happened since I unofficially went on hiatus from academia, blogging and writing to take care of my family, only re-posting, or hosting a honorable guest over the past years. For reasons beyond my understanding, this blog has a life of its own: it kept getting visitors from over the world, and to my surprise its membership actually grew to over 3,000 subscribers, well approaching 4,000. This should tell anyone who still doubts it that there is a hunger for cultural diversity and accurate diverse representation in children’s books.

Since a few things have changed, let’s do a little housecleaning:

1. The list of resources has been updated. All the links in the sidebar should be working, and blogs that are defunct or haven’t been active for over a year have been removed.
2. Grants and scholarships for writers of color: It’s hard to be creative, and write or illustrate or otherwise grow as a children’s storyteller when struggling to pay bills. To make it easier to find, there is now a list of available resources focused on helping writers of color thrive. Please help keep the list growing by sharing resources that you know of. Thank you.
3. A separate twitter account: You’re invited to follow @mcrpop. MultiCulturalism Rocks! (MCR) now has a twitter account of its own. I anticipate that it will take some time for past followers to transition over and for its numbers to grow; however the separation from my personal account makes sense since I’m increasingly tweeting about more than just diversity in kid lit, and one day someone else might be tasked to maintain it.
4. A calendar of events. There is a calendar with events centered on cultural diversity in kid lit, and occasionally you might see events (fellowship deadlines) aimed at writers of color in other genres as well, such as screenwriting. I’m currently working on installing a plug-in, which will be a form that would allow readers to add events to the calendar after review.
5. Guest posts: As always, this blog loves hosting fellow bloggers and writers! If there is a piece, an essay or a book review, that you’d like to share, email info (at) multiculturalism dot rocks.
6. Follow me on Medium to read about my personal journey in publishing and in the startup world. Indeed, since I last wrote and posted a blog post here, I’ve launched two businesses (and a grassroots group for my local African diaspora and friends of Africa), revised my first novel with a freelance editor, become active again in a picture book critique group, completed an idea-stage accelerator program for startups with the goal to be equipped to do more to bring culturally diverse stories to mixed families, and anyone looking for multicultural children’s stories. One of my businesses, MultiCulturalism Rocks! Pop-Up, is a mobile bookstore that aims to primarily help connect small presses and independent authors, who are usually not sold in big chain or otherwise traditional bookstores such as Barnes & Noble, with the schools and families that struggle to grow their library. MCR was always meant to celebrate diversity in kid lit and its incredible pool of literary champions, and not myself. On this site you will continue to read all about it, as well as the bookstore’s growth; however I’m also being asked more and more to share my own experiences, so I will give it a try. If anyone is curious about that particular journey, I’m on twitter @nathaliemvondo, and Medium seems like a good platform for longer posts.

I think I’ve covered everything. Is there any resource missing from the sidebar? Please, leave a comment to share it with the community, and if you have any questions you’d like me to answer. I hope that you’re well. Thank you for reading, and for your passion for diversity in children’s literature.