#DecolonizeReading2023 Books Early Readers Emirates Airline Literature Festival Features Genre Lifespan of a Reader Middle Grade Non-fiction Wednesday Nonfiction Picture Books Reading Themes

[Nonfiction Wednesday] Faith, Music, and Deliverance in Nonfiction Picturebooks – Part 2 of 3

"Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us. Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us."

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

Sing A Song: How “Lift Every Voice And Sing” Inspired Generations (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by Kelly Starling Lyons Illustrated by Keith Mallett
Published by Nancy Paulsen Books (2019) ISBN: 9780525516095 (ISBN10: 0525516093) Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

Known as the “Black National Anthem,” Lift Every Voice And Sing was written by James Weldon Johnson, who served as Principal of segregated all-Black Stanton School, and his brother J. Rosamond Johnson. According to the Author’s Note, the song was written to celebrate the birthday of then-President Abraham Lincoln and was sung in a chorus of five hundred voices the first time it was heard by the public.

The story is told from the voice of the young girl in the image above who was part of the choir of 500 hundred voices, who then passed it on to her son when she became a mother:

… who then passed the song on to his own family, and so on down the generation of Black families whose stories may have changed somewhat for the better, but the core, the essence of injustice still remains.

While the entire story is framed within this powerful song that has taken a life of its own with its being passed down from one age to the next, the reader sees snippets of history alluded to in the images, such as the one portrayed above. I thought it was cleverly done, the interweaving of how the song persists, almost as a form of resistance against continued oppression.

It is also a reminder that while things may have changed considerably, there is still much that still needs to be done. The work continues. The struggle remains. And so we persist.

One of the versions of this song also mentioned in the Author’s Note, is that of Beyonce singing the song during Coachella:

There is another version I found that I also love, mainly because I adore Alicia Keys. Here it is. Enjoy!

#DecolonizeReading2023 Update: 20 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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