by Hilde Garcia
Normal people are in bed. I am not normal. I can only hear our thoughts at this hour. I need total quiet, which only occurs when everyone is sleeping, including the dog and my dishes are done.
Passover starts tonight. My family and I decided to celebrate our Seder on Sunday evening, which had me shopping at 10pm on a Saturday night. I went to three Ralph’s and Whole Foods in search of Cherry Flavored Manishewitz. It seems that Concord Grape is the favorite flavor choice for the year, but I still tried.
And I met some interesting people along the way. Everyone wishing me Chag Sameach- which means joyous holiday. I felt like I belonged to the tribe. Well, I do, but I recall when I was in school and how little I felt like I belonged.
So I am at the second Ralphs and I am in the Passover section. When this gentleman overhears me asking for the Manishewitz- which is really sweet Kosher for Passover wine- he takes it upon himself to show me where it is. We then begin a 30-minute conversation about religion, choices, following your heart and saving the world.
He tells me of a Muslim girl his temple was trying to save from being hanged for killing the man that tried to rape her- she was defending herself, but the man died as a result. She was 15 and now she’s 22 and facing death.
And I thought, why on Earth am I talking to this complete stranger in the wine aisle at a Ralphs about some poor soul whose fate is being decided by a very unjust process-well, according to me that is. And in that moment, I no longer had to run home to cook, nor to finish my shopping. I didn’t even feel tired anymore. I simply listened while holding a 5-pack of matzah and a bottle of Passover wine.
Then I come home and clean the fridge- really well. I clean when I am mad. And I was. At all the hurt and injustice on the planet. At the fact that so many souls never get the chance to be creative because insanity still prevails.
The man’s name was Isaac and he was truly a kindred spirit. He asked me, “Why you become Jewish?” Funny, the answer was so easy. “Because I followed my heart and this is where I belong.”
I think about the literature we expose young people to and I wonder if we are sending powerful enough messages about the world around them? And are we sending it from the point of view of the child or young person. Not Westernizing it but painting a portrait of how they see the world. Truly, in today’s world, we are so much more diverse and for that, I am so thankful, but it seems we can do more.
In my last post, I talked about some great novels that featured strong heroines in very unique stories. In particular, Wanting Mor by Rukhsana Khan and Sold by Patricia McCormick. These novels brought forth stories of the lives of girls in countries where their freedoms are not what we are used to here in the U. S.
Today, I’d like to share another amazing story that not only moved me, but my entire class of 4th and 5th graders when I read it aloud to them. A Long Walk To Water by Linda Sue Park. It is based on the true story of Salva, one of some 3,800 Sudanese "Lost Boys" airlifted to the United States beginning in the mid 1990s.
Before leaving Africa, Salva's life is one of harrowing tragedy. Separated from his family by war and forced to travel on foot through hundreds of miles of hostile territory, he survives starvation, animal attacks, and disease, and ultimately leads a group of about 150 boys to safety in Kenya. Relocated to upstate New York, Salva resourcefully learns English and continues on to college. Eventually he returns to his home region in southern Sudan to establish a foundation that installs deep-water wells in remote villages in dire need of clean water. This poignant story of Salva's life is told side-by-side with the story of Nya, a young girl who lives today in one of those villages.
This powerful story not only showed my kids how precious their world is, it opened their eyes to how other kids live. I think as writers we must always search out these stories and share them with young readers so they can grow up and perhaps change the world.
Especially in today’s world of immediate gratification and over stimulation, we need to teach kids how to listen and follow their hearts.
The following historical fiction titles (with live links) are some of my favorite choices that transport kids into stories of strife, hardship, and hope. Jane Yolen’s book speaks the most to me during this Passover Season.
May your holiday, Passover or Easter, be joyous and surrounded by love.
- The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen
- Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
- A Thunderous Whisper by Cristina Diaz Gonzalez
- Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
- A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
- Irena Sendler and the Children of the Warsaw Ghetto by Susan Goldman Rubin
- Wanting Mor by Rukhsana Khan
- Sold by Patricia McCormick
Run, don't walk to your nearest independent bookstore and buy these books.
- The Management