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

[Nonfiction Wednesday] Knowing Juneteenth’s Mother: Opal Lee

"Freedom is a golden coin. Struggle makes it shine." - Opal Lee.

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

Opal Lee And What It Means To Be Free (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by Alice Faye Duncan Illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo
Published by: Thomas Nelson (2022) ISBN: 1400231256 (ISBN13: 9781400231256) Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

I only came to learn about Juneteenth fairly recently – especially since it is an event that is being celebrated in my daughter’s university (Seattle University). This story is a primer on how the celebration came to be: that is, 19th of June 1865 when General Gordon Granger marched through Galveston, Texas with the Union army troops declaring and enforcing the proclamation that “All Slaves Are Free.”

What I especially find to be noteworthy as I read more about abolitionist stories is how freedom is a double-edged sword: that a law or a policy means nothing unless it is successfully implemented, with scaffoldings and adequate support – not to mention, reparation – in place to narrow the existing social divide.

My favourite image is the one of Opal Lee, as a young girl, reading poetry books on her grandfather’s porch – before the pivotal event that has turned her into a teacher, an activist, a “story keeper.” I feel grateful that picturebooks like this one now exist. Find it and share this inspiring story of how activism and storytelling are intertwined with your community.


#DecolonizeBookshelves2022 Update: 65 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).

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