For years, I’ve gotten emails from parents of adopted Ethiopian kids thanking me for my books that show beautiful Ethiopia and asking if I’ve considered writing a book for the thousands of children who were born in Ethiopia, adopted into families in America.
In my return emails, I say thank you thank you. Those families (and their school and community libraries) are buying the copies of my Ethiopia-connected books that are keeping them in print. I recommend Over Land and Sea by Steve Layne. I talk about the state of publishing. I encourage people to find the many ways we all have these days to write our stories and hold them out to readers…ways that usually have nothing to do with expensive paper and ink and binding.
I (gulp) bring up expensive paper and ink and binding because it’s hard to find a large enough market–enough buyers–to balance the expenses for telling many of the world’s stories in picture books and novels. When I was speaking in international schools this spring, I heard over and over that American kids going to school in other countries don’t very often get to see their lives reflected in books. “Hey,” I said. “Tell me about it.” In fact, when I was just such a kid (I’m the one holding the BOOK in the off-to-school black and white picture), I don’t remember seeing my life in a book even once. That’s why I was pretty tickled with being able to send Lanie’s best friend off to have an adventure in Indonesia saving orangutans.
I’m also tickled to hold a brand new picture book in my hands today. Nobody knows better than I do what a hard and brave accomplishment it is to create this kind of book. Hats off to my talented fellow Vermont MFA faculty member, Sharon Darrow (grandparent of an adopted Ethiopian boy), for her brilliant editing…and to the great author and illustrator and the brave publisher, Amharic Kids (www.amharickids.com).
Author Melissa Fay Greene writes in the introduction, “Love and family are enough to help a child thrive in almost every way but this one: the human need to feel part of a deeply rooted, vibrant, and growing family tree….The message we relay to the children who are ours by adoption needs to be: You came from somewhere. You came from good people. You came from this spot on the globe.”
Whew. Yes. Nothing makes me happier than seeing the teachers and parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins who are using their powerful dollars to buy books– especially books where the children of Ethiopia can see their faces and lives in those pages. As Melissa Fay Greene says, knowing where we come from and who we are is the path to wholeness. (Trouble available at www.ethiopiareads.org)