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

[Nonfiction Wednesday] Solving Problems One Gigantic Boulder At A Time

"And so I started. And so I fell. And so I climbed again, listening to what the fall had told me -" - Ashima Shiraishi, "How To Solve A Problem" illustrated by Yao Xiao.

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

How To Solve A Problem (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by Ashima Shiraishi Illustrated by Yao Xiao
Published by: Make Me A World (2020) ISBN: 152477328X (ISBN13: 9781524773281) Borrowed via Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

I did not know about rock climber Ashima Shiraishi until I read this picturebook autobiography written by the rock-climber champion herself. Rock climbers apparently regard a boulder or a wall as a “problem” they need to solve; and the way the narrative unfolds, it makes perfect sense.

Ordinary people like myself would probably just see this rippled wall as a chunk of rock stretching up into the skies, impossible to climb. But for Ashima Shiraishi, this is a problem that can be solved by recognizing patterns, footholds, “twists and turns.”

What stood out for me, most of all, was not just Ashima’s “problem-solving” abilities, but her capacity to rise up after each and every fall. Her tenacity of spirit is only matched by the ropes in her arms brought about by hours of practice scaling walls.

Instead of feeling discouraged and defeated by every fall, she regards this as a “message, a hint, an idea” that will eventually bring her face to face once again with her problem and allow her to grasp it with her entire body, arms swinging in the air, feet secure in gaps of rocks – as she makes her way to the top. What a remarkable story of grit and determination. What is even more amazing is how young Ashima is –  I look forward to knowing more about the problems she solves with grace and resolve in the future.

For those who wish to know more about Ashima, I found this Youtube feature from Vice Sports. Enjoy!


#DecolonizeBookshelves2022 Update: 88 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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