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Writers Against Racism: Brent Hartinger

Let’s face it: if there’s one thing that racism isn’t about, it’s reason. If it was, we’d have eliminated it by now. 

Racism, of course, is about emotion — and emotion can be stubbornly resistant to facts. 

So what do we do? Well, we fight emotion with emotion. And there is literally no better way to do that than by telling the stories of racial minorities. Once you see the world from the point-of-view of someone who has experienced racism, once you’ve experienced that emotion first-hand, it’s awfully hard to be quite so stubborn on the subject of one’s own racism.  

I know this, because when I was 16, I read one of the best books I’ve ever read: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. By this point in my life, I’d heard all the facts about racism — I remember my dad being a wild-eyed liberal from a very young age, and I’d seen the respectful way he dealt with other races in his own life.

My dad’s example was important, but it was nothing compared to reading that book, to "becoming" that character. Talk about shaping one’s point-of-view! 

I received some criticism for my first few books, from people who said I was being "politically correct" by including racial minorities. That made me laugh. There are racial minorities in my books, because there are racial minorities in my life.

Would it have been different if I hadn’t read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings? I don’t know, but I’m glad I’ll never know.


BRENT HARTINGER is the author of many books for young readers, including Geography Club, The Last Chance Texaco, and his latest, Project Sweet Life Visit him online at


  1. Monica Hayes says:

    I think Mr. Haringer’s openness to being in the character’s situation was in part due to the environment, the language, and the values experienced while growing up. The die-hards we are dealing with and many who don’t even realize they harbor these ugly feelings and thoughts are also products of their environments. We have to begin with education and move outward so as to impact the greatest number of people. Respect and inclusion have to be a part of the fabric of our lives. . .all of our lives if there is any hope that we can heal from centuries of this evil. Do you remember the hue and cry when her book was published? Mr. Hartinger’s enlightened family allowed him to read, stretch, and grow. Bless them. It won’t just be about reading though. We have to have the conversations.

  2. George Edward Stanley says:

    Your website is fantastic – and you are a fantastic writer. I know for a fact that your books have helped a lot of young people get through really rough times when no one else seemed to care about how much they were hurting inside.

  3. I don’t think any book I’ve read has spoken to inclusion and diversity like Geography Club did. I have to tell you I was attracted to it because I was teaching Geography at the time, kinda like the students in the book! It’s definitely a book that should be read and discussed.

  4. Brent Hartinger says:

    How kind. Thanks, all!

  5. you know Amy I don’t like your comment box. It eats my comments. ha ha I am so major non techie.
    Thanks for growing my TBR stack! I’m gonna read your book. I also like your answer to those who ask why there are minorities in your books. Hey, we’re here. All around you. You just don’t see us.
    Jo Ann Hernandez
    BronzeWord Latino Authors

  6. Mayra Lazara Dole says:

    Hey Brent, thanks for paving the way and gracias again for the Blurb on my book. you know i LOVE all your books, especially Geography Club. it’s always great to hear about white authors having POC close friends they can accurately/authenitcally represent in their writing.

  7. Hello,
    Amazing! Not clear for me, how offen you updating your

  8. Amy Bowllan says:

    Bodyc, I am not sure what you are asking?

  9. I’m so very grateful that Brent Hartinger’s novels include ethnic minorities because there’s sometimes this… belief that “we” don’t have that, or “we” don’t do that. And I feel for the kids who don’t have that mirror of their own lives in terms of GLBTQ people of color. Thank you, Brent, for polishing up that looking glass, and reflecting reality.