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[Nonfiction Wednesday] Faith, Music, and Deliverance in Nonfiction Picturebooks – Part 1 of 3

"It's brilliance onstage about to shine, Standing in the need of prayer."

Myra here.

We are delighted to dedicate our Wednesdays to featuring nonfiction titles, as per usual.

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
  5. Translated or international literature

This post is the first part of three – as I took note of several nonfiction picturebook titles that touch on faith, music, and deliverance – particularly among communities of color.

Standing In The Need Of Prayer: A Modern Retelling Of The Classic Spiritual (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by Carole Boston Weatherford Illustrated by Frank Morrison
Published by Crown Books for Young Readers (2022) Literary Award: Coretta Scott King Award for Illustrator (2023) ISBN: 9780593306345 (ISBN10: 0593306341) Borrowed via Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

This is not the first time that this amazing author-illustrator duo paired up to depict how gospel music and/or spiritual is tied to the history of African Americans, the unwavering faith of the enslaved, and redemption through song, however brief. Back in 2018, they also published How Sweet The Sound: The Story Of Amazing Grace (Amazon | Book Depository). Click on the image below to be taken to my review.

Rather than trace the history of the spiritual “Standing in the Need of Prayer” also known as It’s Me, It’s Me, Oh Lord,” Carole Boston Weatherford opted to create her own riff inspired by the song while interweaving historical episodes and contemporary ones – and the result is this exquisite and powerful book whose very existence is a prayer, a benediction, a promise.

As explained in the Author’s Note:

Created by and for enslaved people not allowed to read or write, many spirituals are in call-and-response style. The song leader sings a line of text, and the choir sings a refrain in unison. When so moved, singers improvise, adapting the existing lyrics or adding new ones. The text of this book was created in that same spirit, integrating historical and contemporary events that summoned courage and faith.

The first few pages are visually jarring and draws the reader in. It implicates us in this narrative, involves the reader in such an intimate manner the way Frank Morrison’s art does coupled with Carole Boston Weatherford’s plaintive refrain. It also renders the reader stock-still – given such horrific circumstances, it is inevitable and perfectly understandable to just stand quietly in the need of prayer.

I especially appreciated the glimpses of defiant hope, reclaimed joy, unabashed beauty as the narrative ever-so-slowly tilts forward, transformed by time and an awakening of compassion and connectedness as human beings. More importantly, there are references added at the end of the book to explain the visual allusions throughout the book in a way that is manageable and substantial, without necessarily being overwhelming to the reader.

If this book is not yet in your radar, make sure you find it. This would be a perfect read-aloud with its rhythm and beat, in addition to surfacing ideas that would be perfect for meaningful discussions.

#DecolonizeReading2023 Update: 17 out of target 100

1 comment on “[Nonfiction Wednesday] Faith, Music, and Deliverance in Nonfiction Picturebooks – Part 1 of 3

  1. Pingback: [Nonfiction Wednesday] Faith, Music, and Deliverance in Nonfiction Picturebooks – Part 3 of 3 – Gathering Books

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