#DecolonizeReading2023 Books Early Readers Features Genre It's Monday What Are You Reading Lifespan of a Reader Picture Books Reading Themes

[Monday Reading] Alternative Forms of Storytelling: Appalachian Women’s Quilts and Black Women’s Hands

"Quilts that whisper long forgotten stories - if you know how to listen." - Shannon Hitchcock and Sophie Page, Story Quilts: Appalachian Women Speak "Her hands tell a story if you listen." - Kelly Starling Lyons and Tonya Engel, My Hands Tell A Story


It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). It has been awhile since I joined this reading community and I intend to be more present this year, life circumstances permitting.

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

Story Quilts: Appalachian Women Speak (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by Shannon Hitchcock Illustrated by SophiePage
Published by Reycraft (2022)
ISBN: 9781478875383 Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

History has forgotten most Appalachian women.

Many of them couldn’t read or write.

There is the mistaken notion that stories can only be found in books. In fact, storytelling (either oral storytelling or through symbols/figures) has been in existence even before humans learned how to string words together and make meaning of their world. This picturebook caught my eye because it surfaces the grit, hard work, quiet determination of Appalachian women who worked with their hands and raised their families.

And because it is still Women’s Month, I would like to highlight how I love the matrilineal, inter-generational aspect of the narrative: quilting as a form of valuing, as a unique form of telling stories, a memorial to marking time and memories – passed down from grandmother to mother to daughter.

This also reminded me of the time when I cross-stitched sunsets, impressionistic art, faeries and women. Quilting, however, is a free-wheeling artistic skill, sort of like creating an album of memories that you can hug close to you and lull you to sleep. What a gift – the stories they are meant to inspire through scraps and colors and warmth overflowing.

My Hands Tell A Story (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by Kelly Starling Lyons Illustrated by Tonya Engel
Published by Reycraft Books (2022)
ISBN: 9781478870616 (ISBN10: 1478870613) Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

This is another intergenerational story that fits our reading theme perfectly. A young girl is visiting her grandmother – and naturally they spend the most time in the kitchen, making bread; the mere act of food preparation a language of love.

There is doubt and uncertainty expressed by the young girl in the beginning: will her hands ever move in just the right way like her grandma’s? What stories will her hands tell and “Where will they go? What will they learn?” Throughout the story, the grandmother is nothing but encouraging, gentle, and loving – as if her hands can sense her granddaughter’s unarticulated musings.

Once again, the stories are neither written nor read from the pages of a book, but etched in grandmother’s palms, the crisscrossing lines charting her convoluted paths in life, signifying the strength of relationships, and the comfort and life-giving power these hands bring – much like reading a beloved story over and over again.

I also love the granddaughter’s realization towards the end – an arc that felt credible and genuine. This story has just made me realize even more how confining and simplistic educators often perceive and define literacy as the mere act of reading and writing. We miss out on the many forms of meaning making that are more authentic, clear-eyed, and spring from somewhere true – like these hands drawn from the earth, telling a story that is eternal.

#DecolonizeReading2023 Update: 21 out of target 100 (for My Hands Tell A Story)

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).

3 comments on “[Monday Reading] Alternative Forms of Storytelling: Appalachian Women’s Quilts and Black Women’s Hands

  1. I’m reminded of the Hmong Southeast Asian groups of women in Minn. who embroidered their stories onto blankets or wall hangings. What ingenious ways to pass on stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. lindabaie

    Yes! Stories come in so many forms. Thanks for these, Myra. They look and sound wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s so intriguing how quilts have become (always been) ways to tell a story. And I feel like there are more and more picture books that show this so thanks for sharing this one.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: