Dinner Table Talks create the opportunity for families to have important conversations centered around books. These discussions will build our capacity for talking about race and define our roles in fighting against both every day and systemic racism.
This 2014 John Newbery Medal Winner and Coretta Scott King Honor title poetically and rhythmically tells the story of twelve-year-old Josh Bell, also known affectionately as Filthy McNasty, who is a star on his school's basketball team. His twin brother, Jordan (J.B.), is a revered player on the team, and the two have grown up to be close siblings and friends. To make things a little complicated for them, their mother, Dr. Crystal Bell, is the vice principal at their school, and their father, Chuck, is a legendary basketball player who always preaches to the boys about how family is the most important thing "in this game of life." Little do Josh and J.B. know how these lessons from their father will prove to be true.
Do you engage in conversations about race with your friends or family?
What were your thoughts while reading the book? How did you feel about the book overall?
Why do you think the word “Race” has become such a hot button word in today’s society?
In reference to Kwame Alexander’s 2015 National Book Festival interview about The Crossover, he discusses the poets he grew up reading and listening to wrote poetry “to change the way the world viewed Black people and to change Black people.” Does Alexander’s blend of free verse and hip-hop poetry accomplish this in his book?
How does the author’s use of verse contribute to the audience’s ability to connect with the different themes including race, health disparities, and basketball?
Have you ever had someone assume that you are good at something because of your race or ethnicity? How did that feel? Why do you think people make those assumptions?
Josh’s mother, who is also the assistant principal of his school, expresses concern after Josh expresses frustration at school. She says” Boys with no self-control become men behind bars.” Do you think this is true for all boys? Why or why not?
Josh covers for his brother when passing notes and, as a result, is accused of cheating. He gets in trouble again later when he lashes out at his brother during a basketball game. Do you think the punishment he receives would have been different if he was not Black? Why or why not?
Have you ever witnessed or experienced a similar situation where race or ethnicity played a role in punishment?
What are some things that happen to Black men and Black boys that express their anger or frustration? Are their feelings typically well-received? Why or why not?
What are some things that happen to Black women and Black girls that also express their anger or frustration? Are their feelings typically well-received? Why or why not?
When Josh and his father get pulled over by the police officer, he fears that his father will get arrested. Is this a feeling that most people feel when they interact with an officer? Why or why not?
Throughout the book, Josh expresses his love for his locs (which he also wears to differentiate himself from his twin brother, JB, who wears a shorter hairstyle). Josh eventually has to shave all of his locs, after JB cuts some of them off. Do you think it’s fair to discriminate against players because they have locs or natural hair styles? Why or why not?
Have you witnessed or heard of other forms of discrimination against Black hair and Black hairstyles? Can you describe the situation and the overall reaction toward it?
In the book, Josh’s father, Chuck, has health problems and hesitates to openly discuss his health issues with his sons? Why do you think Chuck does this?
Why do you think Chuck didn’t trust doctors? Was this solely because of the death of his father? Where else could this possibly stem from?
Do influential figures in sports have a responsibility to use their platforms to speak up about social justice issues? Why or why not?
Is there more pressure for people of color in sports to speak out against racism or other social justice issues? If so, how so? Why?
After reading this book and answering the questions above, what are you inspired to do? What actions can you take to make your school and community more antiracist?
These questions were created by our Let's Talk Race Teen Book Group Team:
Hartley M. | Edgewood
Ashley S. | Main
Brittany C. | Teen Center
Kim J. | Eastover
Heather M. | Children's Room
Taelor J. | Edgewood
Jocelyn T. | North Main
Begin by going through and think about the different people in your life and who surrounds you on a daily basis. You can answer these questions in your head or on a scratch sheet of paper, before sharing your answers. The idea is to think about the diversity of your daily interactions.
Start the activity (read out each scenario)
On a scale of 0-5 (with "0" being very uncomfortable and "5" being very comfortable), how comfortable would you say you are discussing race with others.
My race is....
My romantic partner’s race is…..
The majority of the people that live in my neighborhood are…..
The majority of the people at my school are....
My primary care physician’s race is…..
My hairstylist’s race is……
My favorite author’s race is…..
My favorite music performer is…..
Think of your biggest mentor (This could be a teacher, a boss, a coach, etc…..Ideally, this would not a parent or guardian). My biggest mentor’s race is……
What did you think of your overall answers? How did this activity make you feel?
Do you think your answers have an impact on how you view race and racism?
Want to continue the conversation? Need more resources about race?
Check out the blog posts below for more thoughts about The Crossover: