For 2022, our reading theme is #DecolonizeBookshelves2022. Essentially, we hope to feature books that fit any of the following criteria:
Postcolonial literature and/or [pre/post] revolutionary stories
Stories by indigenous / first-nation peoples / people of colour
Narratives of survival and healing, exile and migration, displacement and dispossession
Books written or illustrated by people who have been colonized, oppressed, marginalized
Most people coming from developed countries value personal space – or the idea of having one’s territory established within specific parameters – and ensuring that this is protected at all costs. While these two stories demonstrate how this may not necessarily be the case for people of color (may be due in part to lack of means, opportunity, resources, or even inclination) the idea of being welcoming or providing space for all seems to be a concept espoused by most everyone who value this sense of shared humanity across all types of people.
The Cot In The Living Room [Amazon | Book Depository]
Written by Hilda Eunice Burgos Illustrated by Gaby D’Alessandro
Published by Kokila (2021)
ISBN: 0593110471 (ISBN13: 9780593110478) Borrowed via Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.
There is a cot in the living room of this young girl that is reserved for regular evening guests who are hosted by the girl’s Mami and Papi. She thinks it isn’t fair that the guests get to enjoy having the television to themselves all night, and having quick access to snacks in the living room – while she is sharing a room with her older sister who snores.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that these young guests who frequent the cot in the living room are young children whose parents or caregivers are unable to be with them for one reason or another:
One parent works at a night shift in the hospital, while another has a mom who sings somewhere until 3 in the morning, while another child has a grandmother who cleans offices all evening. These details do not really matter initially to this young girl who feels resentful that she is being deprived of something that the guests who sleep in the cot are “enjoying.”
I love how the gradual sense of realization has dawned on this young girl – not so much because of what her parents say to her (I especially appreciated the fact that the author did not take this opportunity to pontificate through the girl’s parents), but by simply walking right into their shoes one night, and having a firsthand experience of what it must be like to sleep in this coveted cot in the living room.
I truly enjoyed the subtlety in this narrative and the credible growth of this young girl who eventually made space in her heart for these occasionally displaced children in their neighborhood.
Room For Everyone [Amazon | Book Depository]
Written by Naaz Khan Illustrated by Merce Lopez
Published by Atheneum / Caitlin Dlouhy Books (2021)
ISBN: 153443139X (ISBN13: 9781534431393). Borrowed via Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.
Inspired by the real life experience of multicultural author Naaz Khan (who was born in India, grew up in Saudi Arabia, studied in Egypt, and now based in the US) while she was in Zanzibar, this is a delightful, exquisitely-illustrated tale that should find its way into your bookshelf, stat!
This rumbling daladala reminds me of the jeepneys in the Philippines or even the occasional tricycle that oftentimes holds more people than it could possibly carry. The image above is not unfamiliar to those who have lived in (or visited) Southeast Asia – the jostling, laughing crowd, who can always manage to eke out space where one thinks there is none.
The story also reminds me of the common practice here in the United Arab Emirates of strangers/ hitchhikers standing on the side of the road (sometimes with a camel or two in tow), hoping that a truck, a vehicle, a car, would take them in. The image above is even more delightful for me as it has an Arabic term that is often used here: Alhamdullilah!
Reading this story reminded me of other tales that I have read previously, and I tried to find them in my bookshelves. While I did not manage to find my copy of John Burningham’s Mr. Gumpy’s Motor Car (Amazon | Book Depository), I did find this Scottish tale based on a Scottish folk song, passed on via oral tradition, and preserved through this book originally published in 1965. I believe I have a first edition copy of the book, thanks to my librarian friend, Katie Day.
Similar to Room For Everyone, this “wee house in the heather” welcomed all stranded travelers to take refuge from the stormy weather outside. Unlike the daladala in Zanzibar, however, this wee house was inevitably torn apart in the end, but gradually rebuilt by the travelers who took refuge in this home.
It is truly very interesting to see how this concept of “welcoming people” or “providing space for everyone” has endured over the years in children’s literature, and explored in a variety of ways (I am sure a thesis has been written about this somewhere).
Perhaps what makes Room for Everyone distinctive for me (apart from the gorgeous art that I can just stare at for days) is that despite the young boy Musa’s evident and articulated reluctance in welcoming more and more people in the daladala, there is joy in the growing discomfort and absolute delight in making the impossible, possible.
Do you have any suggestions for our reading theme? We will be happy to hunt your recommended books down.
#DecolonizeBookshelves: 5/6 out of 100