Reviewing: “Aaron the Different: A Story of Courage, Belonging, and Acceptance” by Etty Burk. Publish Your Purpose. 2023. English. Paperback. 98 pages. ISBN-13:
Etty Burk has a pretty incredible resume. She’s an established psychologist with a PHD from Columbia who focuses on talent management and conflict resolution in the workplace. For a number of years she has worked with business professionals to promote cultures where all workers feel safe and respected. It’s a job Burk has found a lot of fulfillment in, and now she’s adding a new accomplishment to her resume, having become a published author with the release of her debut novel, “Aaron the Different: A Story of Courage, Belonging, and Acceptance.”
“Aaron the Different” tells the story of 8-year-old Aaron, an alien child who lives in a country called Premium on the planet Astron. But while Aaron is small, round and green, the other aliens in his community are tall and purple. After being teased for his differences, Aaron is left to ponder why others won’t accept him the way he is. Then, a near-disaster on a school field trip leads him to discover his inner potential and strength.
The book is illustrated by Sushmita Singh and Amal Raj and is geared toward young readers in third through fifth grade. While the plot may seem straightforward at first glance, it actually contains underlying messages of empathy and inclusivity that any child would benefit from.
“Aaron’s story is one that a lot of children can relate to,” Burk shared with The Jewish Link. “No matter what their differences are, it’s an unfortunate reality that children can find themselves teased. My goal with the book is to promote a more kind and understanding way of thinking, and maybe get readers to think about their own experiences and how they can be more caring and inclusive with other children.”
Burk, who lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, has been writing the book on and off for several years, but says she really pushed to finish it during COVID. She got the idea for the book from being a wife and a mom, and from her own experiences working with business professionals and seeing the problems that often occur.
“I have seen many biases in the workforce over the years,” the author said. “There are a lot of organizational resources we use with adults, whether for diversity training or teaching what is OK and not OK to say. It occurred to me that if we did a better job giving children the tools needed to increase tolerance and inclusion, when they’re adults we’ll see less of these biases.”
When asked what she feels is the key to a productive workforce, Burk immediately lists communication and respect. She firmly believes that without these qualities, a work environment is bound to have problems.
“We learn these qualities when we’re young,” Burk said, “and we do so from our parents, our teachers and our peers. By teaching children about respect and how to communicate our feelings, it will go a long way as they grow and mature. I’d love for children to be able to see through the eyes of Aaron and embrace their own differences and the differences of others. And most importantly, I’d hope they find the courage to move forward. I look forward to partnering with schools to make this happen.”
A portion of the profits made from the book will be donated to anti-bullying and inclusion programs. Burk reports that she is already working through ideas for a sequel to Aaron’s story but is focused now on spreading the book’s positive messages.
“Every action we take should be done with kindness and gratitude,” Burk went on to say. “We work better when we work together, and that is the message I hope readers will take from Aaron’s story. By doing so, the next generation will be more kind and inclusive, and just imagine what kind of world we could live in if we all treated each other that way.”
“Aaron the Different” is available for purchase on Amazon. If you would like to learn more about Etty Burk and how to integrate the book into your school or social cognition programs, you can do so by visiting her website, www.ettyburk.com. You can also send her an email at [email protected].
By Adam Samuel