The Talk. It happens in families of color all across the country, as caring adults prepare their children for a world that doesn’t love them the way it should. In their anthologyThe Talk (Crown, Aug. 11), Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson gather together some of today’s top writers and illustrators for children—including Shadra Strickland, Traci Sorell, Minh Lê, and others—for a series of tough, honest conversations. The Hudsons are also founders of Just Us Books, an independent press dedicated to creating “positive, vibrant, Black-interest” children’s books since 1987. We talked with the couple via Zoom from their home in East Orange, New Jersey. The conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

This anthology is full of love and lessons. Can you talk about striking the right balance?

Wade Hudson: I think it has a lot to do with the way that we were raised, growing up in the South. Both of us grew up in Jim Crow segregation. We both went to segregated schools, lived in all-Black communities. [But] there was so much love around us. So it was, on one hand, love and support and nurturing from our community, and then, obviously, having to deal with the challenges of racism and being seen as less-than by the White portion of the town.

Cheryl Willis Hudson: They were literally two different worlds. So when you were in your own community and surrounded by your church and the Girl Scouts and the band, it was just a regular world. And then on the other side were these people that somehow were discriminating against you and you didn’t understand why.

WH: It’s so important that the love be lifted up.

CWH: The thing about racism is that it’s a part of the world. It's built in. So when you talk The Talk, it’s very relevant today. How do you raise a child with love and truth about what’s happening in their surroundings, what's happening in the streets, what’s happening in schools, what’s happening in institutions? And in spite of the harshness of the truths, they can navigate the world, and here are some tools to do it.

WH: You have to do it in such a way that your son or your daughter does not feel less-than. You still want to promote positive self-esteem while at the same time equipping them with as many tools as possible so that they can come back home after an encounter with a police officer. So it is indeed a balancing act.

In your introduction, you talk about how you were so determined that your two children feel safe and loved. But your entire life mission has been to bring that same feeling to other Black children.

WH: That’s [also] the way we grew up. The tightness of the community is important. I think oftentimes those from the outside don’t really see or understand that sense of community.

CWH: It’s the same kind of principle as “It takes a village to raise a child.” And that was not the Hillary Clinton version [laughs]. That goes back to Du Bois and the Talented Tenth and lifting as we climb.

I was interested in the variety of voices that you included in The Talk.

CWH: Having The Talk is something that we know as Black parents. You know that at some point in time your son is going to be profiled by the cops or somebody is going to accuse your daughter of being fresh even though she’s 11 years old. But we realized that the same [kinds of] stereotypes happen in [other] communities. So we just started asking our friends in the kid-lit community to share their experiences. For example, Duncan Tonatiuh has encountered the same kinds of situations as a Mexican American that we [do] as Black Americans.

WH: We felt that to not have a White author involved in this anthology would render it incomplete. I think this conversation needs to include all of us. If people of color could have solved the problem, we would have solved it a long time ago. White people need to be a part of the solution too, and [to do that] they have to also be a part of the conversation. So it was important that we include a White voice, and Adam [Gidwitz] did a fantastic job, I think.

CWH: Meg Medina’s piece is “Habla,” and that’s the whole issue of [people] being offended because you speak another language. So again, it’s not a single story. It’s not a single talk. It’s not a single conversation. There are multiple conversations.

WH: Yeah, different kinds of talks. This is a period that’s ripe with possibilities because of what’s happening in response to the murder of George Floyd from the White community—obviously, Black people have been dealing with this forever. So we are hopeful that The Talk is a part of this movement to get us to a better place as a nation.

Vicky Smith is a young readers’ editor.