Whose America? The title pages are telling. As is the cover art.
In this read-aloud, the cover image of a sea of smiling faces in many skin hues suggests plurality (we/our) rather than the singular possessive “my.” Within, colorful spreads evoking early childhood drawings and self-portraits accompany text that poses as first-person narratives, as though real children were rendering their individual experiences. One-dimensional depictions of motives and methods of immigration to “America” result in dichotomies—here/there, then/now—that oversimplify differences and perpetuate stereotypes: Tae speaks of eating rice and kimchee in South Korea versus pizza in New York; Samaira from India informs readers: “I wear a bindi on my forehead.” And does a white child (Anna) asserting “All my family lives here….We have been here a long time” belong in this story centering children who have recently “come to live in America”? Notable absences of Native American and African American descendants—whose families have been here even longer than Swedish American Anna’s—underscore a thematic inconsistency, raising the question as to whose America this picture book, in fact, showcases. These simplistic, reductive representations undo otherwise bold attempts to promote empathy and inclusion. The well-known excerpt from Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus” that acts as inscription on the Statue of Liberty closes the text.
Recommended as an exemplary instructional tool for how not to “do diversity.”(Picture book. 5-7)