For those reading The Skin We’re In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power, Dieulita Datus has a request.
“If you have have the opportunity to read it, check your skin,” said Datus, who championed the book by Toronto’s Desmond Cole, which was announced as the winning Red Deer Reads choice Wednesday at the Red Deer Public Library’s Timberlands branch.
Her purpose, she explained, is not to blame or to show that one person has it worse than another. It is about reflecting on one’s place in the community.
“In your position, in your skin, and in your community and your family, what is the role you’re playing? Are you making changes for the better or are you contributing to bringing our communities backwards?” challenges Datus, co-founder of Ubuntu Mobilizing Central Alberta, a non-profit focusing on equity, diversity and building community alliances.
Cole’s book recounts struggles against racism over the course of a single year in Canada. The former Toronto Sun columnist shines a light on the country’s entrenched inequality.
“It’s always very humbling when we read stories of survivors,” Datus said.
“I would like for us to remember all of the different stories in all of the different books, and the tragedies and the hardships and the overcomings that so many people had to go through in order to be able to write their stories.”
“When I was asked why I decided to champion this book, it’s because we all have skin, we all have our own stories, our own experiences and our own songs to talk about and to sing about.”
Datus could identify with the experiences that Cole recounts.
“As I was reading it, I cried. But I also felt seen, heard, because now when I’m telling people about things that happened I can reference a book. It’s there.”
It is disheartening that too many people’s voices are not being heard and the needed changes are not happening, she said.
“When you’re reading, I would hope that you would read books that aren’t always about your story. So, read books about people who don’t look like you or don’t sound like you or you have to look up some of the words.”
Tatiana Tilly, program and community engagement manager with Red Deer Public Library, said it has been a challenging year. The province was in complete lockdown while they were trying to decide whether they could proceed with Red Deer Reads, which is held on a two-year cycle.
They decided it was too important not to go ahead.
“It is an opportunity for the community to get together and read one book. It doesn’t matter if we’re closed, we can make it work,” said Tilly.
When they chose the three titles, they made sure they were available in all formats so people could read the book, listen to the audio book or download it from the library’s digital collection.
New this year, were the community champions.
“We know that these three books are really, really great. But we thought wouldn’t it be nice to have someone from the community step up and say, You know what, I feel really strongly about this title and here is why.”
Mayor Tara Veer went to bat for By Chance Alone by Max Eisen and Suzanne Hermary chose Why Birds Sing by Nina Berkhout.
Tilly said the winning title was chosen by community online voting.
The author will be coming to Red Deer to talk about his book on Oct. 21. More details are to come.