As a white mom of two multi-racial kids, I was very excited to participate in Multicultural Children’s Book Day. The book I received to review was beautifully illustrated and I read it to my kids right away. “Sissy Goes Tiny” is the story of an inter-racial couple who decide to sell their house and build a tiny home to travel around the country as they raise (and homeschool) their daughter. Sissy is very relatable, and my oldest (age 7) loved the idea of having your own sleeping loft. My youngest (age 2) loved that she had curly hair like her. The girls enjoyed reading the story and were intrigued by the concept: where would Sissy go to school? How would she make friends? Wouldn’t she be lonely?
As I sat down to write the review, my children’s questions nagged at me. Living in Oregon, my experience with the tiny home movement is that it is either 1) overwhelmingly hipster white (think: expensive ultra-modern AirBnB) or 2) non-profit housing for folks who are trying to get off the street (think: houses built by volunteers in church parking lots).
I did some research to see if my concerns were unfounded. I discovered the Tiny Home Trailblazers, a group of people of color working to make the tiny home movement more diverse. I wondered what the Tiny Home Trailblazers would think about this book…and about the stories that they might tell. The authors of this book are both white women. One owns her own tiny home. The other is the project manager for Multicultural Children’s Book Day. There isn’t any information in the book to say how they came to write this story, other than an explanation for Sissy’s name (it’s taken from a Danish word; the name of the author’s house).
It is so important to present our children with books that break stereotypes. And the best antidote for a stereotype is to meet a genuine, complex, specific person. The authors of “Sissy Goes Tiny” missed an incredible opportunity to do that by introducing us to the Tiny Home Trailblazers. How powerful it would have been to have their stories shared, and photographs of their actual houses, in the book!
The hashtag for Multicultural Children’s Book Day is #ReadYourWorld. Does Sissy’s world exist outside the page? I’m not sure that the answer is yes.