We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices
Edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson
Crown Books for Young Readers, 2018, 96 pp.
2019 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award
Honor Book, Books for Older Children
Have you ever found yourself searching for a glimmer of hope in what feels like an impossibly dark moment? Have you sought comfort or assurance when facing a seemingly incomprehensible situation? Have you found yourself wondering just what it is that our future has in store? When the world’s complexities trigger fear and despair, words of reassurance and hope may fail us. Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson, the editors of We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices, were summoned into action by a deep anguish that gripped their great-niece, Jordyn. The seven-year-old girl had understood all too well the brazen message of hate and divisiveness from the 2016 presidential campaign, and worried about what it would mean for herself and her friends, under this newly-elected leader.
With thirty years of experience at their independent publishing company, Just Us Books, which focuses on Black-interest and multicultural literature, the Hudsons recognized that young people, like Jordyn, need assurance that they “are part of a community that loves [them] and can give [them] the tools to help navigate the present and the future.” In We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices, the couple weaves together texts and artwork from 52 individuals, who have personally experienced discrimination and fully comprehend the enormous courage it takes to push back, in an anthology designed as a “resource for rescue” (Ashley Bryan in Forward).
The treasury is as brilliant on the inside as the bright cover promises, featuring artists of written and illustrative work by and about a wide variety of perspectives and underrepresented voices. Written contributions, many portraying personal struggles related to social justice themes, include poems, essays, stories, memoirs and letters. Reflecting a universal portrait of humanity, they are intensified by the unique artwork of twenty-two artists. The illustrations, ranging from paintings to photographs to digital art, celebrate diversity and shine a light on life’s daily complexities. Encouraging resilience when “the world feels upside down” (p. 30), this empowering collection is wisely compiled to show essential connections between the past, the present, and the future. It offers readers reminders of injustices overcome, a truthful representation of “where we are,” and the space to imagine a different future.
Bernette G. Ford’s piece, “You Can Change the World” describes how her family dealt with fear during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Along with George Ford’s illustrations, her words shine a light on the role youth played in making change, and sends a message of hope that “if we take action to change the world, then we can surely win again” (p. 27). “One Day Papi Drove Me to School,” written by Tony Medina and illustrated by Edel Rodriguez (p. 34) invites readers to experience what it might be like to grow up “undocumented” in the United States. Hena Khan’s essay, “How to Pass the Test” cautions readers of the dangers of stereotypes. Using the term “Muslim” as an example, she offers a gentle plea to look “beyond headlines in order to find common ground and to understand” that we all share the same values (p. 55).
Sharon G. Flake’s letter, “When I Think of You,” illustrated by Zamani Feelings, impresses upon readers that “Hard times do not always harden people. Often, they reveal what we’re made of — who we are inside” (p. 45). Rita Williams-Garcia’s “We the People” reminds us that “there is no backward time travel, but only the future.” Budding social activists looking for inspiration and ways to rise up, resist the status quo, and raise their voices in harmony as they seek to change the world will find plenty of inspiration in We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices.
Unsurprisingly, We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices, has been recognized by multiple organizations. In addition to receiving the 2019 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Honor citation, it was named a Best Book of 2018 by both Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, and earned starred reviews from Horn Book, Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal. The treasury’s backmatter offers a 13-page “About the Contributors” section, as well as a list of photography credits and an index. The informative biographic entry for each of the collection’s contributors, accompanied by a photograph, provides easy access to an abundant selection of diverse authors and illustrators from which readers could choose worthy guides to accompany them on the next steps of their journey. An Educators’ Guide, prepared by Jewel Davis, Education Librarian and Assistant Professor at Appalachian State University, is available for download on the Random House Children’s Books Website. Imaginative and thorough, this guide suggests ways for individuals and entire classrooms to engage the text in big and small ways.
Middle-grade readers who are inspired by the anthology format and would like to broaden their understanding of diverse human experiences that may be different from their own, might consider Flying Lessons and Other Stories (2017), edited by Ellen Oh or The Hero Next Door (2019), edited by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich. Those hoping to further explore social issues and activism might consider Take the Mic: Fictional Stories of Everyday Resistance (2019), edited by Bethany C. Morrow.
The overarching message for young readers of We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices, is one of celebration, belief and possibility; celebration of all youth; possibility to right wrongs; and, find light in the darkest of places. Whether read in part or as a collection, We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices invites opportunities for rich dialogue, passionate response, purposeful reflection, and deep questioning related to Jane Addams’ inspiring vision.
Heather Palmer, Edina Public Schools, Minnesota
WOW Review, Volume XII, Issue 2 by World of Words is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Based on work at https://wowlit.org/on-line-publications/review/xii-2/