Saludos, todos! Our featured book for this week is Sélavi / That is Life: A Haitian Story of Hope, written and illustrated by Youme. This creative non-fiction book tells the story of young orphan children living in Haiti. Left parent-less due to fighting, violence, and poverty, these children band together and become a family of their own. This beautiful tale of love, compassion and goodwill narrates the real-life story of an orphan boy, Sélavi, and other children like him who created their own orphanage, extending a hand to all those other children in need. Eventually these same orphaned children began a radio show called Radyo Timoun, where they, to this day, advocate for children’s rights.
At the back of the book is an essay written by Edwidge Danticat, one of the most prominent and prolific contemporary Haitian writers, sharing some personal experiences and historical context to frame Youme’s story. As many of you know, we frequently feature Danticat’s books on our blog. In this particular essay, she notes that “My birthplace, Haiti, is a land of incredible beauty, but for many, it is also a place of great sadness.” Youme’s tale does a lovely job of embodying these two dualities—the laments of many of Haiti’s children, as well as their inspiring courage, hope and beauty.
Danticat also shares some historical facts: “In 1804, the slaves (of Haiti) revolted and won their independence, making Haiti the first black republic in the Western Hemisphere. Along with the American Revolution, Haiti’s was the only successful rebellion in North America.” Danticat’s essay continues with additional information on both Haiti’s history and contemporary Haiti, contributing a valuable component to this story and especially to the use of this story in the classroom. Finally, Danticat’s essay concludes with one final wish: “Being a child of Haiti myself, I can only hope that Sélavi’s story will be repeated in the lives of many other children, among them future writers, radio and television journalists, who will continue to tell—and show—their stories in such moving and powerful ways that the rest of the world will no longer be able to neglect them.” Youme’s story is one attempt at elevating and drawing attention to these children’s powerful stories. Continue reading
Saludos, todos! This week’s featured book is Running the Road to ABC, written by Haitian author Denizé Lauture and illustrated by Reynold Ruffins. With stunning illustrations and compelling lyrical prose, this wonderful picture book tells the story of six Haitian children and the miles they travel to get to school. In doing so, Lauture’s tale takes readers on a visual and poetic journey of Haiti’s various landscapes, both geographical and social. While exposing some of the present-day hardships in Haiti, such as running barefoot over rough terrain to get to school, Lauture proudly depicts values such as strength, determination, and a love of learning.
Lauture introduces his book by dedicating it “To all children who, smiling and laughing,/ laughing and singing,/ singing and smiling,/ stand tall at the golden thresholds of their lives/ and welcome learning and teaching,/ and teaching and learning,/ as the two most endearing experiences in life.” A love and dedication to learning is certainly at the crux of this tale. As Lauture openly embraces the beauty in teaching and learning, his lovely, undulating prose is in itself didactic. Throughout the tale Lauture makes ample use of repetition and symmetrical sentence structures (such as “learning and teaching,/ and teaching and learning”), which can help young readers remember new vocabulary, keep up with the story, and witness the flexibility and playfulness of words. In addition, his long, flowing sentences tend to continue on and on without punctuation, reflecting the long and persistent, yet melodically joyful journey of the schoolchildren. Moreover, the lack of punctuation may reflect the cadence of Haitian Creole, which is generally not a written language. As a result, Lauture’s prose suggests a melody that would make the story perfect for reading out loud—a treat for listeners, and a celebration of Haiti’s rich oral tradition. Continue reading
Photo by Flickr CC User: DrStarbuck
In 1994 the United States launched Operation Gatekeeper, effectively militarizing the US-Mexico border. Within three years, agents strapped with M4 rifles and .40 caliber submachine guns patrolled their newly-installed fences 24 hours a day. The INS budget and the size of the Border Patrol doubled during the same period and the easiest routes north were sealed. Policymakers envisioned human action in economic terms, expecting that people would make a “cost-benefit decision” before deciding to journey across more dangerous terrain. They believed that no rational actor would assume the “cost” of crossing Arizona’s Sonora Desert in the summertime.
Policymakers were wrong. Each day this summer, countless migrants will begin 4-5 day treks in 110 degree heat for a chance to live and work in the United States. Many will never make it out of the desert. Continue reading