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News & Features » February 2020 » “Brown Crayon” by Tamar Jacobs

“Brown Crayon” by Tamar Jacobs

Are you a parent going through the Terrible Twos? Did you live through them and survive? Terrible Twosdays is a place to commiserate over the unending shenanigans of your Darling Children (as the online parenting communities say). Nonfiction stories will be considered, so long as names have been changed to protect the guilty. Inspired by our best-selling gift book for parents, Go the Fuck to Sleep, Terrible Twosdays joins the roster of our other online short fiction series. Unlike Mondays Are Murder and Thursdaze, we’re looking for stories with a light and mischievous feel, all about the day-to-day challenges of parenting. As with our other flash fiction series, stories must not exceed 750 words.

This week, a son’s assigned reading raises serious questions . . . 

Brown Crayon
by Tamar Jacobs

Last week was the third consecutive 
book of the week with which school 
sent my son home to practice reading and
the family it’s about is black. 

Black boy gets a kitten. 
Black family has a picnic.
Black brothers learn to share. 

Do they think we don’t recognize white people. 

Do they understand I am white and I grew him. 

Do they think his father’s blackness erases my whiteness
or the relevance of whiteness to him.

Isn’t this kind of “one drop rule” of them. 

Have the white kids in his class ever been sent home
with a book about a black family or are the black family books
saved for homes with black people inside.  

It’s nice though, that there are black people books, 
my husband says.  I mean, isn’t it? He is amused.  

Maybe they are excited to pull them out when a 
student of color comes along which is
not so very often. 

I am tired of the perfectly color-matched
families forcing on our son an assigned category.

My very light, not-even-very-brown-at-all boy is
drawing his self-portraits with the dark brown crayon. 

His father laughs and I do too, a little, but 
mostly I am angry seeing him try to parse 
what he is from how he looks trying to
read between all our lines
to figure for the truth of this 
strange thing. 


TAMAR JACOBS is a writer and teacher based in Philadelphia. Her short stories have appeared in Glimmer Train, Hayden’s Ferry Review, the Louisville Review, New Ohio Review, Grist and other publications. She placed second in a Glimmer Train “Short Story Award for New Writers” contest, and is a Katherine Anne Porter Fiction Prize winner. She is seeking a home for a collection of poetry which is centered around her experience of parenthood, birthday parties and all.


Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Terrible Twosdays flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should focus on the challenges of parenting. Ideally, stories should be about children aged 0 to 5, but any age (up to early teens) is acceptable. Stories may be fiction or nonfiction.
—Include the child’s age at the time of the story next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Feb 25, 2020

Category: Original Fiction, Terrible Twosdays | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,