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Archive for December 21st, 2019

by Sam Juliano

Urban neighborhoods steaming with life, culture and creativity are too often the subject of misguided perception and racist profiling by those who make generalizations about high crime statistics and impoverishment.  Despite the hardships endured by those who are eternally making do with so little this is an environment where youthful imagination soars and artistic inclinations flourish.  It is a place where inspiration is wed to tenacity and single-mindedness.  Eight year-old Ava Murray resides in a Bronx neighborhood marked by ethic diversity and a hankering by its inhabitants to pursue their artist inclinations.  At her home she is always perplexed that the stories she hears from the television paint her neighborhood in a very poor light.  One incredulous story features a girl about her age being handcuffed for “breaking the rules” which as Ava’s mom explains to her is the result of her graffiti activity.  The youthful idealist, with a thirst for creativity and bereft of a mean bone in her body can’t come to terms with society putting a clamp on the urban beautification of her Bruckner Boulevard environs, a place the youngster observes as a “world of many colors and sounds”; shapes and sizes that are bright and bold.”

Ava is the central protagonist in a story of artistic fortitude in an urban hamlet where communal camaraderie and a singular purpose provides the inspiration for vocational advancement which is simultaneously impacted by a certainty of conviction that there is a spiritual kinship with artists, musicians, dancers and writers who rose out of their roots to make their mark in the world.  In I Can Write the World by Joshunda Sanders, with illustrations by Charly Palmer, Ava experiences the power of her fellow African-Americans in the New York City borough where Murderer’s Row played in the most famous of all baseball stadiums, one of the nation’s largest zoos sits in defiance of of its ultra-urban surroundings, and where rap and hip-hop music originated.  Ava and her family reside in the poorest Borough in the city, where the median family income is around $37.000, less than half that enjoyed by Manhattanites.  But as expressed so movingly in two previous Caldecott Honor books, A Chair for my Mother by Vera Williams and Tar Beach by Faith Ringold those with a free verse spirit, and a hankering to create can make claim on a wider universe than the constricted one some are eternally bound to and those with self-confidence and the ability to find the beauty and express their own voice in an area too often castigated for the same issues that plague all inner-city neighborhoods. (more…)

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