Stories from Many Cultures

I love to read. I love summer and Christmas break because I read a ton. Not to necessarily learn something, but to escape to another world, where I believe I will likely learn things about others and myself.

So far this week I've read a bunch of young adult books that I picked up at my favorite local bookstore or through recommendations. And I can't help but realize the growing number of multi-cultural books available for students. I LOVE this. Students (no matter what their race) are no longer just reading white, affluent characters. As a teacher in the Bay Area, this is so important to me. I love living in a place so rich in diversity, and I believe it's important for us to come in contact with both our own culture and the culture of others.

I'm thankful for people like Mitali Perkins who not only speaks way more eloquently about this than I ever could, but writes wonderful books like Bamboo People, Rickshaw Girl, and Open Mic.

I'm thankful for N. H. Senzai who shares the story of an Afghan family that flees their war-torn country around 2001 in her novel Shooting Kabul. I'm thankful for the way she helps me understand the tension as immigrants leave their former country that they love and come into America expecting freedom, yet are met with opposition.

I'm thankful for LeAnne Hardy whose Wooden Ox gives me a deeper understanding of the previous civil war in Mozambique and a deeper love for the people I've met there.

I'm thankful for Pam Nuñoz Ryan's Esperanza Rising, which tells the story of Mexican immigrants to the United States and humanizes the migrant worker population in my state.

I'm thankful for Grace Lin's Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and its story weaved together with Chinese folk tales, which teach me about a new culture and remind me of the importance of my own.

Each of these books has impacted me in some way this year. They've immersed me in a new world, and I don't leave the same person. And you know what I really love: each of these authors wrote her book because of her own culture and story. It was because of the way she grew up or the things her family endured or the stories of her past, that made these novels a reality.

I want my students to be like this. I want them to write their stories. I want them to follow Toni Morrison's advice: "If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." I want them to listen to Madeline L'Engle: "You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children." I want them to continue the beauty of sharing our stories, no matter what they are.