top of page

Our Differences Are a Good Thing with Tiffany Jewell

Tiffany Jewell shares The Antiracist Kid, a book that teaches young children the words, language, and methods to recognize racism and injustice--and what to do when they encounter it at home, at school, and in the media they watch, play, and read.







Listen along:

The Children’s Book Podcast

S6E03, Our Differences Are a Good Thing with Tiffany Jewell

[2:27] Introduction

Matthew: Welcome to the Children’s Book Podcast. I’m Matthew.

I am a teacher, a librarian, and a fan of kids.

And today we are talking about racism and injustice. We’re talking about how to spot racism and injustice. And we’re talking about how to confront and challenge racism and injustice. But we’re also talking about, plainly, how to talk about racism and injustice.

Today’s featured book about identity, justice, and activism comes from a gifted teacher and advocate and is written to honor and empower its readers.

[3:11] Book Summary

Matthew: The Antiracist Kid: A Book about Identity, Justice, and Activism by Tiffany Jewell; illustrations by Nicole Miles

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of This Book Is Anti-Racist, Tiffany Jewell, with art by Eisner-nominated illustrator Nicole Miles, The Antiracist Kid is the essential illustrated guide to antiracism for empowering the young readers in your life!

What is racism? What is antiracism? Why are both important to learn about? In this book, systemic racism and the antiracist tools to fight it are easily accessible to young readers.

In three sections, this must-have guide explains:

Identity: What it is and how it applies to you

Justice: What it is, what racism has to do with it, and how to address injustice

Activism: A how-to with resources to be the best antiracist kid you can be

This book teaches young children the words, language, and methods to recognize racism and injustice--and what to do when they encounter it at home, at school, and in the media they watch, play, and read.

[4:26] Meet Our Guest: Tiffany Jewell

Tiffany: Hi, my name is Tiffany Jewell. I'm a teacher, a mama, a kitchen dancer, and a pet turtle owner. I also am the author of the book The Antiracist Kid.

[4:41] A Working Definition of Antiracism

Matthew: First things first. We have used the word “antiracist” six times since beginning the podcast, but this might be the first time you’re ever hearing it. Let’s make sure we have an agreed upon understanding of what “antiracist” means before we walk any further into this conversation.

Tiffany: So I use a definition in my book for what anti-racism is, and I like to share. So, it's making a choice to be active and resist racism.

For as long as there has been racism, there has been anti-racism. There have always been people working for justice and fighting against racism. And to resist means to not give up on something, to stand up for what you believe in, to sit tall.

And some examples of anti-racism, it looks really different for everybody. Sometimes it's calling someone out when they make a racist comment. Other times it might be going to your principal or your school board and letting them know that the curriculum and the books that are being used in the classroom are kind of one-sided and not stories about Black folks and brown folks. And it can also be getting a bunch of people together and having a protest or writing letters. There's so many different ways to be an, uh, anti-racist person.

[6:07] How Readers Like You Helped to Create a Book Like This

Matthew: This Book is Anti-Racist, Tiffany’s first book, was written with a sort of learn-and-practice approach. The chapters included lots of great definitions and explanations and context. And then each chapter ended with a prompt activity or think-about. This format works well for its slightly older audience.

The Antiracist Kid is a book written with elementary school-aged kids, with you, listeners, in mind. Actually, you might even say that kids like you had a direct influence in how Tiffany wrote this book.

Tiffany: Yes. So, pretty much all of the questions, cuz there's about like 50 questions in the book, from questions like “How does racism affect our lives?” to “Is one race better than another?” to “What is racism?”. All of those questions have been questions that real kids have asked me over time, my own students, my own kids, kids I've come across, worked with my friend's kids.

So, when I look at certain questions, I am picturing very specific people, which is really awesome, too. And I'm so glad you noticed the difference between the two books.

It's a book I wanted in my classroom, but never had. I want it in my home. And now it can be.

[7:27] Tiffany Shares Her Identity

Matthew: This is not my first time talking to Tiffany. We have met a few times in person and we’ve done a handful of podcast interviews together. Tiffany is well-aware that she is one of my favorite people. I am constantly learning from her, being challenged by her work, and growing because of the way she walks through the world and the way her work and similar educators in this space influence me.

One thing I love so much about Tiffany is how much she loves to talk about identity. So I asked if she would mind sharing with all of you how she identifies today.

Tiffany: I identify as Black biracial. My mom is white. My dad is Black. Throughout my life it's been named differently. Sometimes it was like mixed or other or biracial or multiracial. And as an adult, I come to the expression, the term of Black biracial, because it's how my experiences of life have been.

But I also am a person. I have very light skin, so I have light skin privilege, too. I'm a cisgender woman. And so the way I walk through the world is how people perceive me based on the stereotypes that they know about people's sex and gender that they've gleaned from, from life. And I also identify as a first generation American. First, one of the first people in our family to be born in this country and to also graduate from college.

So those are kind of like big things in my life and how I identify. Also as a mama and a teacher and a writer and curly hair and brown eyes.

[9:11] Loving Talks About How We’re Different

Matthew: There are things that people often avoid talking about because the topics might feel uncomfortable or unfamiliar or a little unknown and scary. Our differences, all of them, how we look, the language we speak, the members of our family, the different ways we learn, the things we celebrate in our homes and places of worship, the injustices we’ve experienced, our histories and the histories of our ancestors… all of these differences are what makes us, together, stronger.

Tiffany: I really have started really enjoying loving talking about how we're different. But it's, I think it's really hard in this country because we've spent so much time being taught that we shouldn't talk about differences, and we should focus on the ways that we're similar, like, “Hey, we're all in this classroom together and we're all learning these things together even though we all learn differently and our experience of learning something is different.”

And I also... I loved writing the part in the book about our differences, cause, first of all, I love the three characters: Ruby, Danny, and Sean. And I love how they express how their differences actually make them better friends because they can help each other problem-solve and they can share things in a different way. They're, you know, because they even like different colors. They're not all fighting for the same color marker.

And I see that in my own children, like their friends that are, they're the things that they like and the things that are, make them different, make their friendships stronger. And I think of my own friendships and, of course, with my friends, we have similarities that brought us together, but then it's the things that make us different that keep our friendships going. Otherwise, I think we'd get bored with each other.

[11:09] BREAK

[11:22] We’re All A Family Under One Sky

Matthew: When talking about the work of justice and of antiracism, some individuals default to the line of, “I’m doing the best I can.” And that may absolutely be true.

Where Tiffany is pushing, and where I’m pushing as well, is to challenge you to spot those places where we might say that’s us doing the best we can do, and then challenge the people involved to do just a little bit better. That might mean adjusting the language you use or the examples you incorporate.

Tiffany: Yeah. I always think of the song that kids sing in elementary school, “We're all a family under one sky.” Which is really nice. But then it goes into “We're mothers/ we're brothers”, you know? And I'm like, “But like can we talk about the cool things that make us different and go deeper than just the labels? I know it's just a song, but no, sometimes we don't feel like family, but we can be friends and I think that's really important, too.

And we don't even have to be friends. We just have to like know that other people exist and we're not the same.

[12:25] Making Identity Bags

Matthew: Listen as Tiffany shares a memory she experienced with her child where differences were celebrated in a healthy and impactful way.

Tiffany: Last year I got to work in my own kids' school. And we started, I think the previous year we made identity maps. And then last year we made identity bags where, on the outside of your bag, you draw or write the things that people kind of notice about you right away.

So like when I walk into a room, people notice that I am an adult, I have curly hair, whatever. And then the next thing is on the inside goes all the things you can't tell and you would have to spend a lot of time with somebody. And even like, there might be things you don't wanna say or share or anything.

And so those are… we did that and then we came together. So everyone did that as individuals. And then we came together as a class. And we talked about our classroom identity, what we're like all together kind of on the outside, right? Like people notice all the fourth grader, we're all the same age, or, you know, the, like there was one class where like every kid like wore green, like all the time. Totally funny and weird.

But then on the inside are all the things that kind of made us different, that made us a classroom community. And we did it not just for the classroom, but then for the whole grade and then the whole school. And it was really cool to see how all of the things that made us different, made us a whole community. It was really special and really awesome.

Matthew: I, I could almost get chills just feeling it the way that the ripples could go out.

Tiffany: Mm-hmm.

Matthew: You do that work and you to go out to a school and be like, the special thing about our school is that we're not just like every other school because in here we do this thing and it's a special thing. It's a tradition, it's a part of our school identity that I go to this school and we do this here. We treat one another this way, or we, whatever. It's a cool thing. I can feel the, I can feel the power going there.

Tiffany: You're like, the thing that makes us really special is we're all really different and we know how to be together and get along even though we're different.

Matthew: I love that phrase. Yeah. We know how to be together and get along as a neat skill that I feel like mm-hmm.

That's a good social skill to work on. Are you, oh my gosh, do you know how to be together?

Tiffany: Yeah.

Matthew: Right on.

[14:55] Reading Aloud From The Antiracist Kid

Matthew: I asked Tiffany if she would mind sharing a page from The Antiracist Kid with us and she was more than happy to oblige.

Tiffany: There's one that I'm reflecting on because a former coworker of mine, a teacher I used to work with, is reading my book with her kids at night. And so they read a little bit and she has been texting me every now and then when she's like surprised by something or excited. And one part, one of the “Did you know?”s… I have like all these little “Did you know?” sections. She texted me and she took the picture of it and she was like, “I didn't know this. And whoa!”

And I love not just teaching kids new things, but I love when the adults have those a-ha moments, too.

So it's on page 53 and we're talking about some examples of oppression and it's “Did you know?”

“Did you know?” Did you know the United States is the only country in the world that has not accepted the United Nations Convention and the Rights of the Child, also known as UNCRC. It's a human rights agreement between almost all the countries in the world, and it states that all children have rights. Everyone who is 18 years and younger should have access to education, healthcare, and safety. Children should be able to grow in a place where they're cared for, loved and understood.

And I really… So, when I had a classroom we would start the school year every year talking about the rights of the child. And then talk about our rights in a classroom, like what we should have, what we deserve. And just like, I wanted to share that with readers.

And I think now as we are moving into a place in our country where a lot of adults are trying to have even more rights over children and, you know, like now there was like one state, I can't remember where, where they passed a law that like, employers don't need to check how old a child is.

Matthew: From an NPR article published March 10, 2023 that I will link in the show notes:

“Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed a law this week rolling back requirements that the state verify the ages of workers under 16 and provide them with work certificates permitting them to work.

Under the Youth Hiring Act of 2023… the state no longer has to verify the age of those under 16 before they take a job.”

Tiffany: So children may be hired or whatever at 12 if their parents want them to work and it's like whatever. There's no accountability.

Or like banning books in classrooms and taking curriculum away and thinking, if our country had signed that Convention and the Rights of the Child, things might be a little different and we could actually get the UN involved in supporting children. But because we haven't signed it, the UN, the United Nations, is not able to interfere in the way that we may need them to.

[17:58] Hope for the Opportunity for More

Matthew: Listeners, I hope you have learned so much from Tiffany today and I especially hope that you just feel a connection with her as an advocate. She is big time on your side.

Tiffany: I just really loved working on the book. It was really fun. And I'm hoping there will be other books in a series. Yeah. Because I'm attached to Ruby, Danny, and Sean so much.

[18:26] A Message from Tiffany Jewell

Matthew: It is that time: when we say goodbye for now to Tiffany Jewell.

I am grateful to Tiffany for making the concept of antiracism something we can more easily picture. I love the identity bag activity she shared. And something that’s really going to stick with me is the idea that we don’t need to be a family in order for us to all get along. Those differences are strengths and are reasons for us to lean into one another.

As I prepare my library for the next time it is full of children, and as you prepare for whatever is coming next in your day, I asked Tiffany if she had a message she would like me to share with all of you. And, of course, she did!

Tiffany: First of all, you're so lucky that you get to see a library full of children tomorrow. Like, amazing. My message to all of the kids that you work with is they're amazing and wonderful. And there are, there's always some grownup, whether it's me or you, Matthew, or somebody, who is there, ready to listen and redistribute some power. Cuz, like, we got you and we trust you to move us along in a direction that is like more liberatory and anti-racist than where we are now.

[19:51] Closing

Matthew: The Children’s Book Podcast is written, edited, and produced by me, Matthew Winner.

Follow the show wherever podcasts are found, and leave us a rating or review when you do. That helps us out a whole lot because it helps the show get discovered by and recommended to new listeners.

Tiffany? Where can listeners find you?

Tiffany: I'm usually on Instagram just under my name, Tiffany M Jewel. And I don't post that much often, but I'll get back to it at some point.

Matthew: Visit for a full transcript of this episode plus some questions that you can use as you think about this episode.

You can also reach out and let me know what ways you celebrate identity, differences, and community in your spaces.

Write to me or send me a message at That’s M-A-T-T-H-E-W M-A-K-E-S P-O-D-S at gmail dot com.

Our podcast logo was created by Duke Stebbins (

Our music is by Podington Bear.

Podcast hosting by Libsyn.

You can support the show and buy me a coffee at

Don’t forget to check out the Reading Culture Podcast with Jordan Bookey, from Beanstack, if you are a fellow teacher or librarian. It’s the perfect podcast to explore building a stronger culture of reading in our communities. It’s available wherever podcasts are found. My word! That recent episode with Jacqueline Woodson was outstanding!

And on that note…

Be well. And read on.

End Of Episode

57 views0 comments


bottom of page