Ways to Find a Home: stories of migration

Ways to Find a Home:

stories of migration

Some Favorite Children’s Books for 2019

illustration from Birdsong by Julie Flett, Greystone Kids

Julie Flett’s picture book Birdsong runs away with my blue ribbon for picture books this year. All of these books are about migration of some kind and in the case of Katherena in Birdsong, her migration is to a new home away from the sea and across generations. Ever since I read Flett’s earlier book, Wild Berries, I’ve loved the spare beauty of her storytelling. I’ve loved reading the native Cree language that she offers young readers in her books.

Agnes is working on a pot that’s round and bright. She tells me about waxing and waning moons. I tell her about Cree seasons. This month is called pimihawipisim – the migrating moon.

A Wolf Called Wander by Rosanne Parry is a middle grade novel with extraordinary page drawings by Monica Armino. Parry’s fictional recreation of the documented journey of a wolf through the Pacific Northwest could spellbind a reader from the first page. I was spellbound. She guides the reader to understand the physical world through Wander’s wolf senses and the life or death basis of wolf loyalties. Parry establishes parallels to human migrants among the migrations of all living beings, writing in her author’s note, “Migration is the heartbeat of the world.”

Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border is by Mitali Perkins and illustrated by Sara Palacios. It’s a picture book of one story of the thousands of stories unfolding on the U.S. – Mexican border. In Palacios’ illustration above, you see families approaching the wall on La Posada Sin Fronteras (Inn Without Borders). It is one day of Las Posadas, a celebration of the birth of Jesus, when people gather on both sides of the wall to remember stories of migrants traveling to cross over. This is a fictional story of a reunion of a child with her grandmother who meet for the first time in five years at the wall.

The vibrant Leila in Saffron is a picture book by Rukhsanna Guidroz, with illustrations by Dinara Mirtalipova published by Salaam Reads, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. With Pakistani-American Leila, we go on her journey to see what she sees in the Pakistani culture that help her discover the wonderful immensity of her own life. The stars of this book are Mirtalipova’s depictions of Leila’s family, swathed in color and joy, their arms open wide in appreciation of this little girl.

In Jasmine Warga’s Other Words for Home, Jude is a young girl who loves movies and French pastries from the bakery shop and her older brother, Issa, where they live in a town by the sea in Syria. But very soon she and her mother, carrying Jude’s unborn baby sister, leave Syria to find safety in her uncle’s home in the U.S. Other Words for Home is a middle grade novel in verse in the voice of a daughter of Syria telling her journey story to America and an American school while longing to see her brother again.

Monica Kulling’s Ruby’s Hope is another book to offer context to all of us who have migrated to a new home, for economic hope, for our children, for a future. The is a fictional account of a child, her siblings, and her mother who would become the subject of Dorothea’s Lange’s ionic photograph of the Great Depression, “Migrant Mother.” When Ruby and her family pack up from their farm in Oklahoma where nothing grew and the cow had died in the dust, they finally leave for California. “The car rumbled west toward Route 66 – the road that crossed the country.” Kulling and illustrator Sarah Dvojack have created a gritty, determined little girl in Ruby, loyal to the landscape of her home and her family.

It’s true that picture books are poetry, but Sea Prayer is even more truly poetry. And one so steeped in grief and a hunger to speak these words for a child and for the thousands of others who have died at sea seeking a home. Sea Prayer is an illustrated poem more for middle school and high school readers and adults. It is Khaled Hosseini’s gift to the UN Refugee Agency for whom he is a Goodwill Ambassador. Let me just give you his words in the voice of a grandfather speaking to his grandson who is three years old: “I look at your profile/ in the glow of this three-quarter moon,/ my boy, your eyelashes like calligraphy,/ closed in guileless sleep./ I said to you, “Hold my hand.”

Mexican and American writer and illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh has won the Pura Belpre Award and the Sibert Medal for his storytelling and distinctive art. His illustrations are based on pre-Columbian art of the native Axtec and Mixtec people of Mexico. Soldier for Equality is a picture book biography of Jose de la Luz Saenz, who fought for equality and the rights of Americans of Mexican heritage. This is a brilliant historical biography of a man who was a teacher in the early 1900s, a soldier in World War I, and a civil rights leader all of us life. Take a look at all of Tonatiuh’s books to revel in how he offers us the depth of a culture through the art of his storytelling.

In this bilingual picture book, Jorge Argueta and illustrator Alfonso Ruano tell the story of children leaving Central America to seek refuge in the United States. Argueta was a refugee from El Salvador’s horrific war in the 1980s. He writes that when he saw the children fleeing from wars in Central America in such great numbers beginning in 2014, he visited some of children in a shelter in San Diego and heard their testimony. Somos Como Las Nubes is a collection of poems, surreal and dreamlike, as are Ruano’s illustrations. The style invites young readers to inhabit the emotional world of the child travelers, alone, only with each other, and their dreams to hold them. For older children and adults to understand this reality of the Americas.

To be a citizen, Dave Eggers and Shawn Harris tell the youngest children, is to have the power to make the choices to shape our lives and our migrations. The first line is “What in the world can a citizen do?” This book is a followup to Egger’s and Harris’s Her Right Foot, – why is the Statue of Liberty’s right foot forward – she’s on the move. Her Right Foot is about America playing its role in the wider world. The breadth of thought of What Can a Citizen Do? includes: “A citizen cannot forget the world is more than you. We’re part of a society one full of joy and pain. A land of latticed people. None of us the same.” And then finally, “”Everything makes an impact on a bigger big than you.”

A Celebration of African Publishing

This is not a new exhibit but it is an unmissable exhibit about the publishing of children’s books in African countries. Here’s a link to IBBY’s – International Board of Books for Young People – virtual exhibition, A Celebration of African Publishing for Children.

You’ll see lists of books from Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, and many other countries. Makwelane and the Crocodile, by Maria Hendricks, is from South Africa. I love the vibrant illustrations by Piet Grobler, especially the one of Makwelane after she outsmarts the crocodile.

Thanks, New Hampshire Humanities

Me with U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen. Sen. Shaheen presented me with an award for Creative Achievement in the Humanities.

“Tell Me More” – a profile that appeared in Engage: New Hampshire Humanities’ Magazine by Rebecca Kinhan

https://www.nhhumanities.org/news/new-hampshire-humanities-bids-farewell-terry-farish

“You could say Terry Farish is a story whisperer.

For Farish, a writer, poet, and author, life is about words and storytelling.  But perhaps one of her greatest gifts is the ability to gently coax and nurture words and images from those who don’t know how to tell their story– or believe that their story even matters.

This fall, Terry leaves her post as our Connections book discussion coordinator to devote herself to her writing life and other projects. The ripple effects of her time here are profound. 

From 2008-2013 Terry led the Connections book discussion program, working with Adult Basic Education and English language learner classes. Using children’s and adult books, New Hampshire Humanities facilitators enhanced literacy classes using writing, drama, cooking, art, music, and more to explore surprisingly sophisticated themes.

Across the state, Terry’s leadership and vision are admired by many, including Linda Graham, Connections facilitator and visual artist: “Terry helps make each session resonate, like the artist she is. She leads with deep determination and initiative but thoughtful appreciation for the individual skills of a facilitator,” said Graham. “Her focus stays on the importance of literature, art in our lives. I have benefited from my work with her as she values each program she works with and is generous with her support.” 

After a four-year hiatus, Terry returned to New Hampshire Humanities in 2017 and while continuing to lead Connections, imagined a new trajectory for the program.

“When I came here originally, it was purely for the love of reading,” she says. “I just wanted to bring the stories to people. Since then, I’ve learned so much from teachers, facilitators, and the students. It has become much more about building community.”

She conceived of “A Year of New Voices,” an initiative that encompassed new ways of working with English learners. Gathering a team of ESL teachers, facilitators, artists, and writers, she created a handbook of essays called Tell Me More: Encouraging and Developing the Voices of English Learners. Published by New Hampshire Humanities last year, the guide is a resource for teachers that includes tips for helping students discover their stories and write with clarity.

A more community-oriented component, New Voices, was a program in which ELL students and local writers worked together and presented their poems and stories at public readings. “The idea I was imagining for New Voices,” she explained, “was small, casual readings in local venues where U.S. born people might also come to listen and read.” 

New Voices invited new Americans to write, read, and hear reactions to stories. Writing gave refugees the chance to heal from unspeakable horrors and immigrants a way to adjust to a new home and a new language. They spoke of food, art, music, dance. About grandmothers, growing up, violence and death, and saying goodbye. An immigrant from China who participated in the Lebanon New Voices event marveled, “No one ever asked me to tell my story before.”

New Voices brought together new writers/storytellers with enthusiastic audiences this year at free public events in Manchester, Portsmouth, Lebanon, Keene, and Concord. Marianne Philbrick, Adult Education Director at Concord’s Second Start, shared: “Students, families, staff, and volunteers were thrilled to attend the New Voices poetry reading at Gibson’s Bookstore this spring. Audience members had a chance to realize the immigrant experience and they laughed and cried, both at the emotion and fun of the presentation.”

Farish believes the program’s success is because storytelling breaks down barriers and allows us to build empathy and understanding. “When you begin to write, you’re going places in your imagination you’ve never gone before,” she says. “Reading others’ stories provides a safe space for people to meet one another, to cross into unfamiliar territory.” 

We thank you, Terry, for living the work of New Hampshire Humanities in the deepest, most joyous sense of the word.