As the new school year begins, I want to emphasize the crucial role that schools and classrooms can play as safe spaces where students can be themselves. Most students, hopefully, go home to families where they are accepted, but we know that this is not true for every child. In I Wish You All the Best, Mason Deaver introduces us to Ben, who is an extraordinary artist, caring friend, loving sibling, and who happens to be nonbinary. When Ben is kicked out of home they move in with their sister, Hannah, who has been estranged from her family for many years. Hannah is married to Thomas who is a teacher at the nearby high school. While Ben does not come out to anyone else at school, knowing that Thomas is aware of Ben’s truth and that he accepts it makes an enormous difference.
I Wish You All the Best is a love story in every sense of the word. It tackles the true meaning of unconditional love and what can happen when, all of a sudden, conditions seem to appear. Hannah and Thomas show Ben what familial love should be. They are also tremendous examples for readers of what it looks like to be accepting of a difference that we do not completely understand. They make mistakes, they ask questions, and they constantly try to learn and improve. Finally, there is Nathan, who becomes Ben’s romantic love interest. Ben struggles to understand their feelings for Nathan and deals with anxiety over how Nathan will react when he finds out that Ben is nonbinary.
Deaver made an excellent choice to write this book from Ben’s perspective. Deaver is a nonbinary author and therefore is able to write this story using a first person point of view, which gives the reader a different experience than reading about a nonbinary supporting character in a book written by a cisgender author. Obviously, this book is not a reflection of every nonbinary person, but it is an entry point for understanding some of their experiences. I have written about the importance of using students’ correct pronouns and this book is a wonderful testament to why that is so crucial in schools. I recently misgendered someone on Twitter and a reader was kind enough to correct me so that I was able to apologize and make changes to my post. Reading I Wish You All the Best helped me to realize that mistakes can be made and will make me more conscious of pronouns in the future. Using this book in classrooms can help to make schools safer spaces for all students.
Teaching Tolerance Social Justice Standards:
Identity 1: I have a positive view of myself, including an awareness of and comfort with my membership in multiple groups in society.
Diversity 6: I interact comfortably and respectfully with all people, whether they are similar to or different from me.
Diversity 7: I have the language and knowledge to accurately and respectfully describe how people (including myself) are both similar to and different from each other and others in their identity groups.
RL.2- Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text.
RL.3- Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed).