Back in 2017, two teen authors, Winona Guo and Priya Vulchi, set out to change the way students confront issues about race when they developed the textbook “The Classroom Index” with the help of Princeton University’s department of African American studies.
The attention the textbook garnered allowed Guo and Vulchi, who are Chinese American and Indian American, respectively, to visit all 50 states and speak with Americans from all walks of life about race and identity. The collection of stories are now part of their latest deeply inspiring book, “Tell Me Who You Are,” in which the duo recount their experiences on the cross-country tour.
“Tell Me Who You Are” features “interviews with over 150 Americans accompanied by their photographs, and offers a deep examination of the seeds of racism and strategies for effecting change,” indiebound.org writes.
“We consider the book as a five-years-in-the-making social justice endeavor,” Guo tells Teen Vogue. “The youngest person [we interviewed was] a five-year-old, who told us that their role model was Beyoncé, and the oldest, a Japanese American internment camp survivor whose role model was also Beyoncé. Those fun facts are captured in the book too.”
Guo and Vulchi picked 115 of the 500 stories that they captured to feature in the book “and they all are centered around a theme,” Guo added.
“In the book… we also talk about how the goal here is not to grab the nearest person of color and force them to talk about race. It’s about equipping yourselves first with racial literacy in order to be able to apply that lens to every part of your life [and] doing the work first. [It’s] about self-activating before you can show up as an activist for others.”
Guo and Vulchi are now college students (Guo attends Harvard University, while Vulchi is a student at Princeton.) According to Teen Vogue, all profits from their latest work will go back into initiatives for the pair’s nonprofit organization, Choose.
In the book, the authors outline “10 concrete steps” for how to share your story about race and the often unexpected ways people of color are impacted by racism. Guo and Vulchi are hoping educators use this guide to change the way students are taught about race.
“Our long-term goal as a nonprofit is legislative change [and a] required racial literacy curriculum [in] K-12 curriculums in the United States,” said Vulchi.
Adding, “We have a team of around 41 educators in a fellowship. We started testing the story-stats model in the book [with them], developing lesson plans around all subject areas. How does the science teacher integrate conversations about race in the classroom? How does an English teacher? [This is for] all grade levels and we’re going to be releasing those lesson plans and developing them further.”