#DecolonizeReading2023 Books Early Readers Features Genre Lifespan of a Reader Non-fiction Wednesday Nonfiction Picture Books Reading Themes

[Nonfiction Wednesday] An Ode To Born On The Water

"Ours is no immigration story." - Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renee Watson and Nikkolas Smith, "The 1619 Project: Born On The Water."

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

The 1619 Project: Born On The Water (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson Illustrated by Nikkolas Smith
Published by Kokila (2021) ISBN: 9780593307359 (ISBN10: 0593307356) Borrowed via Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

I read this book when it first came out, and have been sharing and recommending it in my conference presentations. However, I realized that I have not yet featured it here. Given our reading theme, I feel that now is the perfect time to highlight this story borne of strife and strength and the will to overcome.

The book begins with questions. Written in verse, this is a story that cannot be told in prose. Poetry distils the essence of pain, courage, wisdom – the enormity of emotions unbound, in rhythm and heartbeat. There is unmatched power here that started off with shame transformed into discovered joy in one’s unexplored ancestry…

… then outrage with the unspeakable as this girl’s ancestors were stolen and sold off as slaves, the shame transformed into a sense of burning pride with all that one is, and all that one has become.

I have just recently read and featured Segu by Maryse Condé [Amazon | Book Depository] and I have also watched the riveting film (that should have received more awards in the Oscar’s, IMO) The Woman King. There is complexity in the history of slavery as a thriving business where African leaders were also complicit, as slavery is part of the custom with vanquished tribes enslaved by stronger and more powerful tribes – a layer that is hardly conveyed in most picturebooks, most likely because this necessitates a story of its own that will also need to be told in the future.

I also loved reading the Authors’ and Illustrators’ Notes found at the end of the story:

Our hope for Born on the Water is to show that Black Americans have their own proud origin story, one that did not begin in slavery, in struggle, and in strife but that bridges the gap between Africa and the United States of America.

Clearly, the book creators have succeeded in this inspired creation that should be required reading in all schools around the globe. There is much to learn here and discuss.

#DecolonizeReading2023 Update: 27 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).

1 comment on “[Nonfiction Wednesday] An Ode To Born On The Water

  1. Pingback: [Nonfiction Wednesday] Redemption and Hope in Truthful Stories About Slavery in a Luminous 2023 Picturebook – Gathering Books

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