By Seemi Aziz, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ and Janelle B. Mathis, University of North Texas, Denton, TX
This third week continues a focus on displacement but as it is found in picturebooks. In particular, this week uses a historical context in emphasizing the sociohistorical nature of this issue.
This story is about José de la Luz Sáenz (Luz) who believed in fighting for what was right. Luz’s life was permanently displaced due to his heritage. Even though he was born in the United States, Luz faced prejudice because of his Mexican heritage. Resolute in helping his people, even in the face of discrimination, he taught English to children and adults… children during the day and adults in the evenings. As World War I broke out, Luz joined the army. He had the ability to learn languages and that ability made him an invaluable member of the Intelligence Office especially during war. Luz discovered that prejudice does not end even if you serve your country during war. Even though he was asked by superiors for his translating abilities he didn’t receive credit for his contributions. After returning to his Texas home, he joined with other Mexican American veterans to create the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), which presently is the largest and oldest Latinx civil rights organization and continued to teach English to his people so that language does not become a barrier and they should not be discriminated against. The author uses his typical illustration style and Luz’s diary entries to tell the story of a Mexican American war hero and his fight against prejudice and for equality for his fellow
Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA
Last Sunday, I attended my first virtual dance party put on by D-Nice on Instagram Live, dubbed Club Quarantine. I’ve seen conflicting reports that there were 50,000 to 150,000 virtual attendees from all over the globe all listening to music and dancing alone together. It was a true stress relief, as music can often be. It also reminded me that music is often a social act. Most of us grow up with some music, and many of us grow up surrounded by music. Music is one way that our identities get formed–through identifying with others who share the same musical interests or culture. Our families raise us with their own musical interests, but we explore on our own, forming our own musical identities. In this post, I will explore picturebook biographies about global musicians that relate to my own musical upbringing and identities. Continue reading
Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA
There are countless forms of dance around the world. Ceremonial dance, liturgical dance, social dance, performance dance, and all the countless variations within. For this look at biographical picturebooks of dancers, I look specifically at dancers who have practiced ballet, and some who have moved through ballet to other forms. Continue reading
By Kathleen Crawford-McKinney, Wayne State University and Deanna Day-Wiff, Washington State University
In the last installment of November’s MTYT, Kathleen Crawford-McKinney and Deanna Day-Wiff talk about the picturebook A Undocumented Worker’s Fight, written by Duncan Tonatiuh. November’s theme is Global Perspectives on the Refugee and Immigrant Experience. This book pays homage to Mexican pre-Columbian heritage by presenting the illustrations in the style of the ancient Mixtec codex, which means the story literally unfolds in an accordion format. It tells the story of a undocumented Mexican immigrant who has come to the United States for work.
Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation is the fourth picture book I have written and illustrated. It was published in 2014 by Abrams Books For Young Readers. The book tells the true story of an American girl of Mexican and Puerto-Rican descent who was not allowed to go to a white only school in California in the 1940’s. Segregation of Mexican-American and Latino children was prevalent throughout the Southwest at the time. Sylvia’s family did not think this was fair. Her parents organized a group of parents and then filed a lawsuit that eventually ended segregated schooling in California.
Most people are not familiar with this story. But its a very important piece of American history. Some of the people involved the Mendez case were involved years later in the landmark case, Brown vs Board of Education. The Mendez family truly paved the way for the desegregation of schools in the entire country.
The research for my book comes from several sources. I read books and articles, watched documentaries and I was able to hear Sylvia herself speak on a couple of occasions. She is very kind and I was also able to do some informal interviews with her. I was also able to find court transcripts. Some of the dialogue in the book comes directly from them.
I think Sylvia’s story is very relevant today. Although it is illegal to segregate children in public schools because of their race or background there is a lot of division and a kind of segregation that is happening nowadays. A recent study by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA showed that segregation has increased in the last decade. 43% of Latino and 38% African-American children attend schools where less then 10% of the students are white. Latino and African-Americans are twice as likely to be in a school where the majority of children are poor. Therefore their schools tend to have less resources.
The artwork in the book is inspired by Pre-Columbian art. I draw by hand but then I scan the images and collaged them digitally. You can see some of my process and inspiration in these videos: https://youtu.be/5dqFLg22Z_0 and https://youtu.be/HL-op6gx1Mc
The book has been very well received. It won the 2015 Tomás Rivera Mexican-American Children’s Book Award and it received honorable mentions from the Pura Belpré Award, the Sibert Award and the Orbis Pictus Award. The Anti-Defamation League created a wonderful Book Discussion Guide for it. You can download it here.
My website has more information about all of my books.