In case you missed Keira’s Sobre Enero post, this month’s theme honors the many individuals, real or imagined, who populate the rich landscape of Latin@ literature for children and young adults. This month’s Reading Roundup brings together a few of these heroes, both sung and unsung, whose actions inspired positive change. While it is a monumental task to choose just a few of the many wonderful books that are out there, I’ve narrowed down the list to books that will encourage our students and children to honor their own truths. I also hope that these books will help expand the literary canon beyond those heroes whose stories are taught repeatedly. The books below encompass a diverse panorama of experiences, accomplishments, and outcomes. To name a few, these remarkable figures displayed their passion through art, literature, activism, and even by simply passing on their knowledge to new generations. May you enjoy these works as much as I enjoyed finding them!
Happy New Year!
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