R is for Ruby Roth: New book “V is for Vegan” introduces veganism to youngest kids ever

By on July 26, 2013

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Featured on CNN, FOX, Today, and other major media outlets, Ruby Roth is the world’s leading author and illustrator of vegan and vegetarian books for children. Vegan since 2003, Roth was teaching art at an elementary school when her students’ fascination with veganism inspired her to write That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals in 2009—the first book of its kind in children’s literature. Vegan Is Love and V Is for Vegan followed. Today, Roth’s books have been translated into multiple languages including German, Italian, Korean, French, Polish, and Slovenian. Roth has received international attention for her sensitive, yet frank advocacy of a vegan diet and lifestyle. Complementing her degrees in art and American Studies, she has researched animal agriculture, health, nutrition, and the benefits of a plant-based diet for over a decade.

Tell us about your new book V is for Vegan: The ABC’s of Being Kind?

V Is for Vegan is the first ABC book of its kind for this rapidly growing population of vegan children. It’s simple, bright, funny, and contains all the main tenets of veganism written in rhymes that kids will remember. I promise it will bring about learning and laughter! It’s a great confidence booster for kids about to enter school, a resource for sensitive older kids, and a fun adult novelty book, too. Try keeping it on your office desk, coffee table, or in your waiting room for people who might not pick up Food Revolution, but will leaf through this book out of sheer curiosity. It’s veganism in 26 sentences!

This is your third children’s book for vegan families. How do you come up with book ideas and concepts?

There are sketchbooks and notepads and scraps of paper full of ideas scattered around my house. But the ones that have come to fruition, the ones that ignite my drive, are those that have a purpose beyond art for art’s sake—which I’ve never gotten comfortable with. At this point, my work is driven by this growing population of vegans—I’m listening to what they need to support their families because I think it’s a crucial time for veganism. We can’t afford to wait for the next generation to grow up before we teach them how to live consciously. Kids can’t make choices if they don’t know there are any! This book is filled with ideas every family should understand in order to protect animals and the planet as best we can (and note, that’s a good way to share this book with non-vegan parents!).

Your previous book, “Vegan is Love” earned a lot of media attention, some quite vehemently against it. Were you surprised by the negative attention? Did the attention affect you personally?

I am always amazed at the intensity of some knee-jerk reactions. You know there’s something seriously wrong in society when people act like heroin addicts in withdrawal at the mere suggestion of a meat-free diet. I can’t help but imagine that all that rage is tortured animal energy manifested. A lot of people really are vessels of that suffering, I can see it and it’s painful. That’s what affects me—when someone is so obviously affected but so far removed from caring. I feel a physical urgency to tell them everything I know to save them and animals, but I’ve learned to choose battles.

I used to fight every single dumb hate mail and now I choose wisely. If someone is being reactive but I see that it’s because they’re sincerely concerned, for example, about scaring children with animal rights, then I’ll respond, because here is a person who cares about something. That person just needs more information! That person is important to our movement. The person that writes me, “All you are is a pusher, no better than a crack dealer downtown” is not. They’re totally cooked and lost—and there’s a lot of them. That’s why it’s vital to educate kids even if it’s tough stuff.

Some criticized the book by saying that young children wouldn’t be able to handle the “scary” illustrations. You say adults don’t respect children’s abilities to understand these issues. Can you explain this?

We’ve inherited a very Victorian view of childhood—that children are completely dependent, delicate creatures whose purity must be sheltered from tough issues. But it’s a total creation. There is no universal concept of childhood—it differs throughout history and the world. By avoiding or sugarcoating the truth, I think we only inhibit what our kids are capable of—and that inhibits our progress as a nation towards innovation and solutions to our most pressing problems in health, in animal agriculture, our landscape, and even our economy.

Every industry leader says we’re gravely lacking innovators and critical thinkers, yet nothing—not our educational system, not parenting magazines, not children’s literature—takes kids seriously enough to cater to their intelligence and abilities. I’ve never once seen a child overwhelmed by my books—just the opposite. They thrive on being trusted with important information and they react to the way animals are treated with great diplomacy—they think, reflect, and ask questions. They’re eager to take part in a solution. We just have to trust their capabilities enough to include them in the conversation.

We’ve spoken about how when children learn about how poorly animals are treated for food, clothing, entertainment and “research,” they don’t ask about kinder ways to exploit them. Kids understand that wrong is wrong. Can you talk a bit about your experience of this?

Children have not yet been corrupted by bad social or moral shaping. Profit does not sway their moral compass and it does not suffice as good reason for harmful behavior. When kids learn how much destruction we create by eating animals, they ask multitudes of “why?” questions. You can see the holy curiosity they’re having about people and why we would even have such a system when it hurts. And you just have to tell them the truth—that most people have no idea and others don’t care, which is why it’s ever more important that they do care and put their love into action.

In every interview and every speaking engagement, you represent animal rights in a wonderfully clear, articulate, sensitive yet strong way. Do you have any theories or perspectives on advocacy that would help others who are finding their own voice?

Thank you! I think you can’t just mimic what others say, what the movement says, what you feel you’re supposed to say. I hear a lot of vegan leaders say you have to accept everyone with compassion and love and it doesn’t ring any bells in me. I think must be respectful and patient face to face, but love isn’t always pretty. It’s a fight. We can take a break from tough stuff any time we want to. Animals can’t. So it’s vital to find a way to tell someone you disagree with their opinion so that you speak up when a moment arises. You have to give a truly authentic voice to your own thoughts and feelings about animal rights. You have to be quiet and think and formulate the words so they’re absolutely true to you. If you do that, you’ve got truth and authenticity on your side—that’s hard to argue with. I’m going to be writing more on this in my newsletters, so sign up at www.WeDontEatAnimals.com.

At your last book party, we met a little boy whose family drove four hours just so he could meet you. You are obviously a hero to younger vegans, and now there’s a generation of kids who are fortunate enough to grow up with your books. What kind of feedback do you get from parents and kids?

Thank you, it’s incredible! I get notes and emails from all over the planet. They mean the world to me and that feedback informs my next projects. Through these letters I learn that my books help boost a little boy’s confidence and pride in veganism, that they influence a 4-year-old girl to treat all people and animals and plants kindly, that a boy was inspired to collect research in a folder to share with classmates. I just received a handwritten note from a 7-year-old. He said I was the best author who has ever lived in the United States, haha! It makes my heart beat faster that kids feel these books.

Finally, what’s your favorite letter of the alphabet?

Ha! See the letter “E” in V Is for Vegan…I think that page encompasses all aspects of the message I aim to relay—the love, the humor, the truth, and the critical need for critical thinking.

For signed books and other merch, or to sign up for Ruby’s newsletter, visit www.WeDontEatAnimals.com

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