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Global Poverty in Ada’s Violin and Malaika’s Costume

By Seemi Aziz, The University of Arizona

As I continue to look at representations of global poverty in picturebooks, resourcefulness remains a predominant theme. Two examples of characters who live in poverty and show resourcefulness come from the books Ada’s Violin, which has been a WOW Recommends: Book of the Month selection, and Malaika’s Costume.

Ada's Violin The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood and illustrated by Sally Wern Comport Continue reading

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Resourcefulness and Poverty in Pablo Finds a Treasure

By Seemi Aziz, The University of Arizona

The lives of children in refugee camps and displaced people are no different from the protagonists in Pablo Finds a Treasure by Andree Poulin and Isabelle Malenfant. The book cover reflects this plight as the audience/reader is invited into the story by faces of two disheveled, scrawny children looking directly out. Pablo and his sister, Sophia, live in unnamed slums in Latin America. They sleep on the floor and look tired and bedraggled, as did Gie Gie in The Water Princess. They similarly have to wake up early and look for “treasure” by rummaging through the huge garbage dump close by. The treasure being anything of value they can find, which includes whatever is barely edible, one shoe, or a torn up book. They do this day in and day out while dreaming of a better life. They represent a myriad of individuals, mostly children.

Interior illustration from Pablo Finds a Treasure by Andree Poulin and Isabelle Malenfant.

Interior illustration from Pablo Finds a Treasure by Andree Poulin and Isabelle Malenfant.

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Access to Water and The Water Princess

By Seemi Aziz, The University of Arizona

I begin with thirst, dry, parched thirst, and the search for clean drinking water in an arid land. Mostly because Ramadan in Arizona in 106-109 degree heat lends to a desperate empathy with all the people who do not have access to water, globally. Being without water and food from sunrise to sunset in this long hot summer month takes its toll. By afternoon it becomes hard to concentrate and one becomes excessively lethargic. This month causes a strong compassionate association to people who do not have access to food and water. But there is light at the end of the tunnel, where clean, cold, clear water and abundant food awaits most fasting people here in Arizona.

An illustration from The Water Princess by Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds relates the difficulties associated with global access to water. Continue reading

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Poverty Representations in Children’s Literature

By Seemi Aziz, The University of Arizona

Poverty and social exclusion (due to poverty) are a sad fact of life, globally. Abject poverty and insatiable hunger and thirst impacts various walks of life and all kinds of people, but its impact is stronger, heart wrenching, and more powerful when it comes to young children. Hunger and thirst are a part of this, and it is never more deeply felt than now when Muslims are observing Ramadan globally. Consciously refraining from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset every day for a month while living in the affluence of urban life in Western nations is very different from shortage or lack of food or water in refugee camps or war torn regions where water and food are already scarce in the relentless heat of summer months. Children’s literature in the USA has mostly been resistant to share these hardships and facts of life with the youth. Happy thoughts and memories are shared freely within picturebooks. We can observe this trend continue but with many recent exceptions where poverty, lives of young refugees and children living in war torn countries, are coming to the fore.

Interior illustration from Pablo Finds a Treasure by Andree Poulin and Isabelle Malenfant.

Interior illustration from Pablo Finds a Treasure by Andree Poulin and Isabelle Malenfant.

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Refugee and Migrant Narrative in Baddawi by Leila Abdelrazaq

By Seemi Aziz, University of Arizona

BaddawiBaddawi by Leila Abdelrazaq follows Ahmad, a struggling young boy raised in a refugee camp called “Baddawi” in North Lebanon. He tries to find himself and his identity while growing up in a place he cannot call home. His story represents one of the many thousands of refugee children born in Palestine who fled or were forced to leave their homeland after the war in 1948 and the establishment of the state of Israel.
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Refugee and Migrant Narrative in Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan

By Seemi Aziz, University of Arizona

children separated by placeEcho by Pam Muñoz Ryan is a poignant story about the journey of a magical mouth harp (harmonica) through time and space. The masterful enmeshing of timeless fairytale and historical reality binds this powerful text into a strong narrative that highlights world events, prejudice, and social class distinctions. It all begins with Otto, who gets lost in a jungle where three sisters, bound by a witch’s curse, find him. Otto promises to break the curse by taking the harmonica out to the world. The harmonica, through its magical music, tangibly joins three children separated by place, which lifts the curse, freeing the three sisters. Continue reading

Refugee and Migrant Narrative In No Safe Place by Deborah Ellis

By Seemi Aziz, University of Arizona

No Safe Place by Deborah Ellis, undocumented immigrant childrenThe well-executed plot of No Safe Place by Deborah Ellis follows the journey to freedom of three undocumented immigrant children. While the children struggle to reach the shores of England, a British orphan, released from the bonds of an oppressive uncle, joins them. These children, Abdul from Baghdad, Cheslav from Russia, Jonah from England, and the only female, Rosalia, a Romani, develop throughout the story. Ellis depicts a rich cultural background of the countries with distinct circumstances for each character. This story begins in France and culminates in England, providing a fine description of the traumatic lives many immigrants lead in France.
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Recent Refugee and Migrant Narratives in Picture Books and YA Novels

By Seemi Aziz, University of Arizona

World populations relocated to varied geographical areas throughout history and time. Such movement contributed to the United States of America and its place of power in the world. The recent significant global impact of large bodies of refugee populations relocating and of forced movements of Mexicans and Muslims to the U.S., Europe and other Western nations present themselves at the forefront of national and international news and politics. One cannot turn on the TV or visit an internet or social media site and not find a reference to these emigrating populations.

Refugee and Migrant Narratives, refugee movements Continue reading

Diaspora in Recent Global Books & Identity Formation

by Seemi Aziz

BlogJulyThe books to the left portray the identity formation of individual characters as they adjust to new and challenging environments.

Going Over by Kephart is a heartfelt novel about a girl and a boy living in the divided Berlin in February 1983. There are barricades and a wall separating east from west. Ada lives among the protesters, and immigrants of Kreuzberg in West Berlin. Stefan lives in East Berlin, in a nondescript apartment bunker of Friedrichshain. The separation between the two sides is merely 165 feet. The characters are bound by love and strong family ties but are separated by their circumstance. The only way out is Continue reading

Diaspora in Recent Global Books: Diamond Boy

by Seemi Aziz

The first book that had an impact on the discussion of diaspora was Diamond Boy by Michael Williams. This story is about Patson Moyo a 15-year-old living with his father, stepmother and sister in Zimbabwe. His father is a schoolteacher who believes in his profession with all his heart but the stepmother wants more financially. The search for ‘more’ takes them to the Marange diamond fields; a portion of which belongs to the stepmother’s brother.Here the family divides as the stepmother opts to stay with her brother’s large family of two wives and children while Patson and his father and sister are driven to live in tobacco sheds while they search for their fortune in a ‘girazi’ (a priceless stone) that would change their lives forever. Continue reading