For some, the idea of family history conjures images of dusty microfiche and ancient film readers. But for me, it’s been a vibrant, fascinating part of my life for the past decade.
Epic mysteries of a Jewish great-great-grandmother fleeing Russia.
Father vs. son in the American Civil War.
Adoption via The Orphan Train.
It’s one of the reasons I love “Islandborn” by Junot Diaz, illustrated by Leo Espinosa. It is simply bursting with all that makes heritage so rich and beautiful–even if we can’t remember it ourselves.
Lola feels worried that she can’t remember her country of origin like her classmates can. Her teacher says, “No problema. Are there people around you who do remember?”
I love this theme of using other people’s memories, even slipped onto the back cover:
Lola spends the rest of the book drawing pictures based on her family and neighbors’ descriptions of the Island. Even the uglier parts of their memories still play an important role in capturing what the Islanders have lived through and overcome. Her journey to paint a past she can’t quite remember herself brings new meaning to the time I’ve spent scanning photos, transcribing interviews, and curating documents. When it comes to remembering our heritage, truly, “Memory is magic;” it is worth taking measures to connect with family and friends that do remember.
“Islandborn” hits the bookshelves on March 13, and I’m honored to have been asked to be part of its book tour with Penguin Young Readers. Other books that illustrate the magic of memory for you to check out include:
featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto
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