Brave in the Water by Stephanie Wildman, illustrated by Jenni Feidler-Aguilar, is a picture book about a small boy who takes his first steps down into a pool. He had been so afraid. But despite his fear, he dips his face into the water. This was his first step in learning how to swim. I wanted to write about Brave in the Water because in my work with refugees, I’ve learned that many children and their parents who come to the US had not learned to swim in their home countries. In Nepal, for examples, the rivers aren’t for swimming, families told me. They are for bathing or for sacred rituals. Brave in the Water shows how a boy and his grandmother give each other courage. Grandma works on her balance with Diante, her grandson. Diante learns a strong way to breathe. With his breath, he learns to put his face under water. It’s fun and he feels like a fish.
Even more, this book is about a bond between a grandson and a grandmother. Diante and Grandma trust each other. The illustrations show Diante as Black and Grandma as white. I read that Wildman, the author, also wrote Privilege Revealed: How Invisible Preference Undermines America, (NYU), a book that has been reprinted in an updated edition this year. Wildman wrote it in collaboration with Margalynne Armstrong, Trina Grillo, and Adrienne Davis. The book develops the term “color insight” to better understand the profound impact of all skin colors including white on US society. In an interview with WNBA, Wildman and Armstrong said that collaboration across racial lines based on trust deepened their thinking in the book. Maybe Wildman was building on the idea of trust across racial lines in Brave in the Water.
Lawley Publishing who published Brave in the Water also published it in Spanish, Valiente en el Agua, translated by Cecilia Populus-Eudave.