Womens history month invites us to reflect on the incredible females of our past and present. My thoughts immediately go to my mother and grandmother, two unshakable figures of love and stability that I cherish more than I can express in words. Both came to the U.S. from the Caribbean and brought with them the language, folklore, and traditions of their home. I particularly loved their stories about the Puerto Rican natives (called the Taíno); this instilled a love of mythology that has guided my choice of reading material ever since. No doubt female storytellers have shaped a part of our cultural history that is an endless source of creativity to artists and dreamers. Below are some of my top choices of books by female authors that give homage to folklore, family, and culture.
Mexican American Yuyi Morales, author of Dreamers and winner of the 2019 Pura Belpré award, is renown for the inspiration she takes from her own culture to address issues of social justice. Her books are beautifully illustrated and guaranteed to pull at your heart strings.
What I love most about Grace Lin's books are that they are imbued with the power of family. Generational ties and folklore are all elements of life that Grace Lin honors in her work. Just take a look at her author website, gracelin.com, and you can read about each of her family members. I love that Grace Lin recognized something about family that I did as well: we are so lucky to have it, and for that reason alone we should celebrate.
Everyone knows the adorable Peter Rabbit books, yet many do not know that the author was a pioneer in land preservation. The Lake District in Britain has been protected from urbanization partly due to her efforts. This was because Beatrix recognized how important the environment is to inspiring stories and art. Many of her books are influenced by traditional British poems, prose, and art. I recommend reading Over the Hills and Far Away: The Life of Beatrix Potter.
I had the privilege of listening to Barbara speak at Western Washington University's 2019 Children's Literature Conference. Her writing takes inspiration from her Southern heritage, using much of the colloquialisms that she knew as a child. Her book Wish is a particular favorite.
We often think of folklore as something ancient and out of our reach, yet it is important to remember that our fantastical stories of today may one day be considered a sort of mythology. I hope you take some time this month to think of the important women in your life, the stories they tell, and the power they possess to bring about new perspectives and ideas. Happy Reading!
Written by Paola Merrill, Bookseller @ Village Books in Fairhaven