Myra here.

We are delighted to dedicate our Wednesdays to featuring nonfiction titles, as per usual. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, when we can.

Our reading theme for October – December is Horror and Deliverance in Books. For nonfiction titles, we are targeting the following books that fit the following deliberately-nebulous criteria:

  1. picturebook biographies of people who write creepy or scary stories
  2. picturebook biographies of people who bring to light injustices and fight for redemption and deliverance from the horrors of inequality
  3. picturebook biographies of people who are light-bearers

This picturebook biography fits our theme as it features a radiant light that was unfortunately snuffed out too soon, the radiant child himself Jean-Michel Basquiat.


Radiant Child: The Story Of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written and Illustrated by Javaka Steptoe
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers (2016) Literary Awards: Caldecott Medal (2017), Coretta Scott King Book Award, Illustrator (2017) ISBN: 9780316213882 (ISBN10: 0316213888). Borrowed via Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

I am sure it was not easy to write and illustrate a biography of Jean-Michel Basquiat that would be deemed as suitable for young children given his tortured lifestyle and tragic end. Yet, Javaka Steptoe managed to surface the parts of Basquiat’s life that made him radiant and stand out from the rest of his peers, while not necessarily averting his gaze from the difficult parts of his journey as an artist.

His close relationship with his mother is worth mentioning given how she was one of his greatest influences and one of the many reasons why he was exposed to incredible art at a very young age.

What was evident in the narrative is Basquiat’s single-minded pursuit for fame and recognition, his almost-obsessive connection with his art, and his determination to leave an indelible mark in an art community that, at the time, was slowly evolving; its standards shifting, its gaze lingering on the peripheries and the often unarticulated.

I especially appreciated reading Steptoe’s extended Afterword and his personal connection with Basquiat’s life story, and the way he conceptualized the creation of this book to serve as a homage to a man who inspired him greatly.


#SurvivalStories2021 Update: 109 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).

0 comments on “[Nonfiction Wednesday] A Radiant One Who Was Gone Too Soon

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