Cover image for Racism explained to my daughter
Racism explained to my daughter
Ben Jelloun, Tahar, 1944-
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Racism expliqué à ma fille. English
Publication Information:
New York : New Press : Distributed by W.W. Norton, [1999]

Physical Description:
207 pages : portraits ; 18 cm
General Note:
Rev. translation of: Racism expliqué à ma fille.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HT1521 .B39813 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



A translation of French novelist, poet, and critic Tahar Ben Jelloun's dialogue with his 10 year-old daughter in which he explains racism. Includes essays by Williams Ayers, Lisa D. Delpit, David Mura, and Patricia Williams, as well as an introduction by Bill Cosby. 5.7.5". Annotation copyrighted by Book News, Inc., Portland, OR

Author Notes

Controversial winner of the prestigious French Prix Goncourt (1987), Tahar Ben Jelloun is a Moroccan writer who has not found much favor at home, despite his growing popularity abroad. According to some North African critics, Ben Jelloun intentionally sets out to please foreign readers. The critics contend that his writing reinforces European stereotypes by pandering to western tastes for quaint folklore and traditions, and exotic scenery. Moroccan critics have accused Ben Jelloun of creating artificial, fabricated stories that fail to convey a true picture of Morocco. They have also been offended by his criticism of Morocco, and the fact that he reveals sides of Moroccan life that are usually kept hidden. Ben Jelloun's story of a girl dressed as a boy, L'Enfant du Sable (The Sand Child) (1985), was scandalous in their eyes.

After Ben Jelloun won the Prix Goncourt, a number of critics changed their minds and have begun to praise his work.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Jelloun, a French writer of Moroccan descent, wrote this book in response to his 10-year-old daughter's queries about racism. The queries came at a time when France and other European nations were exploring how to absorb--or not--people from their former colonies. Jelloun discusses cultural differences, genetics, and religion, all the things that make us different. He examines the social, political, economic, and psychological aspects of racism. Although the topic is fairly weighty, Jelloun articulates the issues without being pedantic. He tells his daughter, and the reader, that racists are deeply troubled people. Jelloun's essay is aimed at guiding children from 8 to 14 and could help young people appreciate the complexity of racism. Other writers offer their own responses regarding how to explain racism: a black female professor, an Asian poet, a white male professor, and a white female children's author who has adopted a black child. The introduction to this interesting book is written by Bill Cosby.--Vanessa Bush

Library Journal Review

If its success in Europe is any indication, this book should be a best seller in America. Attempting to explain racism is challenging enough, and it is even harder when one is explaining it to a child. Prize-winning author Ben Jelloun (Corruption, New Pr., 1995) meets the challenge, as Bill Cosby acknowledges in his introduction. Written in question-and-answer formatÄhis daughter's questions, Ben Jelloun's answersÄthe book is appropriately brief. The author does not consider his words final, and so the four responses, from William Ayers, Lisa Delpit, David Mura, and Patricia Williams, parents and writers all, are important in continuing the discussion and applying it to the American scene. The book is easy to read and provocative, touching on discrimination, religion, genetics, stereotyping, immigration, xenophobia, and more. Rare should be the library that does not have it.ÄJohn Moryl, Yeshiva Univ. Lib., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Tahar Ben JellounBill CosbyTahar Ben JellounPatricia WilliamsDavid MuraWilliam AyersLisa D. DelpitTahar Ben Jelloun
Acknowledgmentsp. 6
Introductionp. 7
Racism Explained to My Daughterp. 10
Racism Explained to My Sonp. 80
Explaining Racism to My Daughterp. 90
To the Bone: Reflections in Black and Whitep. 138
A Letter to My Daughter on the Occasion of Considering Racism in the United Statesp. 174
Afterwordp. 195
About the Contributorsp. 201