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

[Nonfiction Wednesday] The Aesthetic Of (and Sense Of Pride In) Working With One’s Hands

"I will use my art to tell the stories of hardworking, passionate people who make the world more beautiful. I will tell their stories. I will tell my story." - John Parra, Growing An Artist

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

Growing An Artist (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written and Illustrated by John Parra
Published by: Simon Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books (2022) ISBN: 1534469281 (ISBN13: 9781534469280) Borrowed via Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

I am a huge fan of John Parra’s art; and so it is with delight that I borrowed his latest work from Overdrive, which I know happens to be autobiographical.

I felt very privileged to be allowed a glimpse into John Parra’s childhood, as he spends an entire day with his hardworking father, a landscape contractor, and his employee, Javier.

With his trusty sketchpad, John observes everything that his father and Javier do, mowing lawns, maintaining “perfect lines in the grass” and also capturing things of beauty such as a nest of baby birds. I smiled when I read the full spread image above. Perhaps in this day and age, people would automatically grab their smart phones with high resolution cameras – but maybe an artist’s sensibility would still gravitate towards a sketchpad and a pencil to document such wondrous beauty. The above also demonstrates how John’s father is not just singularly focused on work that needs to be done within a timeframe, he is also attentive to the marvels of the world around him, and he knows the artist who could capture it, just so.

I was also struck by the image above as John speaks about his schoolmate, Alex from homeroom, who avoided his gaze after seeing John hard at work with his father and Javier. This led to a heartfelt conversation between John and his father, as the former asks the latter whether he likes his work. Implicit in that query is the shame tiptoeing around the edges in working with one’s hands – yet, overpowering the shame is the sense of pride that one draws from the same exact work generated by one’s hands: the cultivation of beauty, the landscaping of dreams and transforming the vision into reality.

I loved reading the Author’s Note at the end – as well as the photo of John with his father. There is such evident affection, pride, joy, and dignity in the creation of this picturebook. I wish more young people would have the opportunity to read and ‘own’ this story as they chart their own paths and tell their own unique stories for the world to hear.


 

#DecolonizeBookshelves2022 Update: 82 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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