Recently I had a meeting at Rocking Horse Bakery and arrived a few minutes early. It was busy, so I nabbed an empty table by throwing my book and jacket on it, then went to stand in line for my coffee. When I returned to the table, I could read my book title from about 20 feet away: “RAISING WHITE KIDS,” it said, in crisp 100-point red, white and blue font.
I knew the title already, of course. My book club is reading “Raising White Kids: Bringing up Children in a Racially Unjust America.” But the subheading is in tiny font, not visible from halfway across a bakery.
I was immediately stricken. Who else had noticed this book title that appeared to be a manifesto for nurturing the next generation of Neo-Nazis? Did the glaring symbolism of the font colors scream “patriotic racism” to anyone else? Should I abandon the table as if it weren’t mine?
I ended up sitting down and furtively holding the book open with the cover face down on the table, the way we all read “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” when we were in sixth grade, hoping that no one was silently judging me for what appeared to be my Aryan leanings.
I was telling this tale of public shame to former Twisp librarian Terry Dixon, and she said “Oh, I wouldn’t interpret that title as a white supremacy manual. I would just think it was a parenting book.” Terry’s husband, Steve, attributes this perception of the title to the fact that Terry thinks in literal terms, but I think it’s due to her somewhat unusual childhood.
Terry grew up north of Washington, D.C., in Maryland, raised by an African-American woman from Natchez, Mississippi — about as deeply South as a town can be. Terry’s mother died when Terry was just 18 months old, so Fannie was the primary maternal figure she knew throughout her childhood, and Terry’s family kept in touch with Fannie until her death.
Fannie couldn’t read or write, but it took Terry’s father a while to realize this. After asking her to cook certain recipes a few times, Terry’s dad finally figured out that Fannie was illiterate. But that woman sure could cook, and went on to have her own cooking show on a local television station later in her life. “She was a special person,” says Terry of Fannie, “and the white neighborhood frequently went to her for advice.” Had Fannie been able to read, Terry adds, “She might have read a book titled ‘Raising White Children’ herself!”
I could remind you not to judge a book by its cover, but of course you already know that.