I have a lot of complicated feelings about America. I have complicated feelings about benefiting from a history of colonization and global imperialism, and a feeling of responsibility to in some small way dismantle the systemic oppression that built this land into what it is today. I have a hard time being patriotic when there are so many reasons not to be.
Enter this book, in all of its poetic beauty. It asks the important question that I’ve been wondering my entire life, if I’m supposed to love America, will America love me in return? I was the queer kid, the kid who tore through the playground like a bat out of hell covered in mud, the kid who sat during the pledge of allegiance. And yet, I’ve still been prioritized much more than so many other citizens (and non-citizens) because I’m white. America My Love, America My Heart asks if America will love the narrators black and brown, when they stand out, question authority, and speak a language other than English. The narrator earnestly wants to know if they’ll be loved by their country, which is something that a person shouldn’t have to ask, but so many of us do. We’re given messaging to be unique (but not weird), to follow our passion (but do well on standardized tests), and to be individuals (but still assimilate to the dominant culture). At the same time, this book is hopeful and positive that we all will be loved by this country. This story is one to reflect upon afterwards, and brings up an incredible number of talking points for readers. I think it’s high time that we ask these questions out in the open, because more often than not I believe we will find a common ground and realization that all of us have asked these questions at least once before.
This book was kindly sent by Harper Kids, but all opinions are my own. I think a beautiful accompaniment to this book (and especially for Poetry Month) would be “Let America Be America Again” by Langston Hughes.
Daria’s first job was at nine years old in the children’s section of her hometown library in Paso Robles, California. She worked a little, but she mostly read picture books. Daria loved basketball, drawing, and painting. Her dad gave her art lessons in their garage on Rose Lane, and Daria’s mom rescued her first self-portrait from the kitchen trash can, and had it professionally framed the next day. Today, it hangs in her parents’ living room as a reminder that our life’s purpose almost always introduces itself to us as a child. Daria earned a BA in English from UC Santa Barbara, where she found herself shelving books in the library once again and reading the writings of many notable authors. After earning a Masters in Education and 10 years of teaching, Daria became a full-time author and illustrator. Daria lives in Las Vegas with her family.