#DecolonizeBookshelves2022 Books Early Readers Features Genre Lifespan of a Reader Non-fiction Wednesday Nonfiction Picture Books Reading Themes

[Nonfiction Wednesday] Faith is Hope Made Visible – as Illuminated in Corita Kent’s Art

... in Jeanette Winter's "Sister Corita's Words And Shapes."

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 theme throughout the year, when we can.

This year, we hope to feature books that fit any of the following criteria:

  1. Postcolonial literature and/or [pre/post] revolutionary stories
  2. Stories by indigenous / first-nation peoples / people of colour
  3. Narratives of survival and healing, exile and migration, displacement and dispossession
  4. Books written or illustrated by people who have been colonized, oppressed, marginalized

Sister Corita’s Words And Shapes (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written and Illustrated by Jeanette Winter
Published by: Beach Lane Books (2021) ISBN: 1534496017 (ISBN13: 9781534496019). Borrowed via Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

This is the first time I am hearing of Sister Corita, a nun who is known for her activism and her art that is inspired by pop art. The story begins with a girl named Frances Elizabeth Kent who lived in Hollywood and went to the nuns’ school as a young child. Even then, she was already deeply committed to drawing and her art.

When she entered the convent, she changed her name to Sister Mary Corita which, as can be seen in the image above, means “little heart.” I love the joy she evidently infused into her teaching and the way that she made young people perceive the world a bit differently.

It came as no surprise to me how her exuberance of spirit and the influence she had on people were perceived as threatening by the “system” that is highly traditional and conservative. Her art and practices were labeled as blasphemous, which eventually discouraged her so much that she eventually left the order and led a quiet life as a private citizen and artist.

I was especially taken by Jeanette Winter’s brief Afterword where she wrote about how Sister Corita’s art gave her hope:

While planning and working on this book, I pinned up many postcard images of Corita’s prints. Seeing them around me every day was a joyful and inspiring experience. Then in March 2020, COVID-19 descended on New York City. It wasn’t until that dark and terrifying time that I felt the full impact of her faith made visible: HOPE.

This particular picturebook biography does not really fit our current reading theme per se, but it does feature the life of a woman who has lived a life of love and light and beauty – and was persecuted for it. I believe there are solidarities among people, women in particular, as they find their place in the world, and make something of their lives. Moreover, this message of love and hope is something we all need this Valentine’s week (and beyond).

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).

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