#SurvivalStories2021 Books Early Readers Genre Lifespan of a Reader Picture Books Poetry Poetry Friday Reading Themes Stories Of The Dispossessed

[Poetry Friday] “Unfurling People” by Elizabeth Acevedo

"People leave their homes even when they love their homes because people are like flowers..."

Myra here.

Thank you to Carol at Carol’s Corner for hosting this week.


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Woke: A Young Poet’s Call To Justice [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written by Mahogany L. Browne with Elizabeth Acevedo and Olivia Gatwood Illustrated by Theodore Taylor III Foreword by Jason Reynolds
Published by Roaring Brook Press (2020).
ISBN: 9781250311207 (ISBN10: 1250311209) Borrowed from Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

I have been meaning to read this poetry picturebook for awhile now and was delighted to see it on Overdrive. Jason Reynolds provided his stamp of approval in the Foreword, indicating how absolutely imperative it is for more young people to be more aware of what is going on in the world around them.

It was especially instructive for me to read about the history of the word woke in Mahogany L. Browne’s Introduction – especially since the word is currently being bandied around by millennials as a supposed ideal. There is also an acknowledgment of how the poems in this collection came about:

The poems in this collection come from three women writers with varied perspectives of justice. These poems serve both as instruction manuals and anthems, as literary heartbeats and blueprints of survival for young people everywhere. The ideas they tackle are layered and nuanced, but the message is simple: Don’t sleep.

I appreciated how all the poems are written by women of color who have been historically silenced and marginalized. The poems tackle important themes on activism, ableism, intersectionality, resistance, silencing, stereotyping – among others.

For today’s Poetry Friday offering, I found a poem that fits our current reading theme on migrants perfectly: “Unfurling People” by Elizabeth Acevedo.

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I cannot help but wonder, though, how the tone and the message would have been slightly more varied if there were also women poets coming from Asian ethnicity. The voice of justice here is one that puts a premium on talking back and confrontation – which is not necessarily the only voice that there is in our multifaceted world riddled with complexity, and thereby not the only manual or anthem that exists out there. Sounds like a book project in the making!


#SurvivalStories2021 Update: 63 out of target 100

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

6 comments on “[Poetry Friday] “Unfurling People” by Elizabeth Acevedo

  1. Myra, it sounds like you are thinking of a great follow-up volume to this book. Thank you for the review. “Unfurling People” is a beautiful poem by Acevedo. I hope it created rich discussions in your classroom. In the U.A.E., I’m sure there are many immigration stories to share.

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  2. I read WOKE last fall and actually wrote about it in a Poetry Friday, then I kind of forgot about it. Thanks for reminding me! I also love your idea of a picture book written from an Asian woman’s perspective. It seems like you have a good start on it, with your survival stories.

    I’d love to hear more about your immigration unit. The majority of my sixth graders immigrated from Mexico and we did a unit on that this year. They loved EFREN DIVIDED by Ernest Cisneros, and THE LAND OF THE CRANES by Aida Salazar. We also read REFUGEE by Alan Gratz and WHEN STARS ARE SCATTERED by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohammed. I highly recommend any of them!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. lindabaie

    Although I don’t have a classroom anymore, but am sharing with my granddaughters and with customers at the bookstore when varied books for kids come in about other kids with varied backgrounds, I have read the books Carol shared & lately some with Asian voices, like Front Desk and A Place to Belong. I have Woke & have read it. You’ve made a good point for more inclusion, Myra.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. haitiruth

    I love what the poem has to say about immigration. And your final words are very thought-provoking. Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Myra, thank you for sharing about the book, Woke. While I have heard much about it and the word itself, I have not read it. The poem is a great teaser for a remarkable book.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. maryleehahn

    Your lens is an important one. We need to look at what books do, but also what they don’t do, and could do. The more voices the better!

    Liked by 1 person

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