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Reviewed by Lois J Wickstrom for Readers' Favorite
Biddy Mason Speaks Up by Arisa White and Laura Atkins is both history and a call to activism. It is the story of a woman who was born a slave, won her freedom in the courts and went on to start businesses and contribute greatly to her community in Los Angeles, California. A victim of racism herself, she worked with people of all races. She delivered babies, learned about herbs, started a church and taught people the value of an open hand. She is famous for the quote, “If you hold your hand closed, nothing good can come in. The open hand is blessed, for it gives in abundance, even as it receives.”
Arisa White and Laura Atkins had a challenge putting this informative and entertaining picture book history of Biddy Mason together for young readers. Because she was black, Biddy Mason was forbidden to learn to read and write. Thus she left no personal written records of her work. But the church she founded, the people she fed, her advocacy for education and community support affected far more than the hundreds of babies she delivered and the families she helped directly. This book is part of Biddy Mason’s legacy. It not only tells her story but asks young readers relevant, thought-provoking questions: What are you doing to bring justice into the world? Why does freedom matter to you? The authors show how Biddy Mason’s work persists in modern organizations like the Polaris Project and Black Women for Wellness. It advocates that we “extend our hearts, hands, and resources to those who are in need of care and compassion.”