The Power of Personal History

There are many practical reasons for knowing about family history. It can help people to make medical decisions, inspire intellectual curiosity, or cause us to search for long-lost rich uncles. But I think there is something deeper within our collective psyche that calls us to search for greater knowledge of where we come from and who we are connected to. In I Remember: Poems and Pictures of Heritage, poets and artists share their cultural backgrounds with readers.

The late Lee Bennett Hopkins compiled poems and images that will not only touch the hearts of readers, but also inspire them to seek out information about their own heritage. This short text packs a powerful punch with poems that remind us of historical trauma as well as tremendous love across multiple generations living near and far. As Hopkins writes, “Heritage makes us who we are…It is our past, our today, and our foundation to build on for the future.”

Two themes that seem to pervade the book are that of family and of the human connection to our natural environment. Carole Boston Weatherford and Guadalupe Garcia McCall both write about the strength that comes from knowing about our family history. Whether it is what our relatives have created or what they have overcome, this is all passed down through each generation. The beautiful illustrations created by Rafael Lopez and David Kanietakeron Fadden are vastly different in that one is fantastical and the other is very realistic. However, both vividly depict the importance of the environment to Indigenous peoples worldwide.

Each poem and image are paired together beautifully. The poet and illustrator may come from different countries or speak different languages. They might be separated by age or experience. However, by pairing their works of art, this book tells a broader story than simply that of individual cultural heritage. It shows how our common humanity still draws us together. We can all embrace our own heritage while celebrating that of the diverse spectrum of people around us.

Learning for Justice Social Justice Standards:

Identity 2: I know about my family history and culture and about current and past contributions of people in my main identity groups.

Identity 4: I can feel good about my identity without making someone else feel badly about who they are.

Diversity 8: I want to know more about other people’s lives and experiences, and I know how to ask questions respectfully and listen carefully and non-judgmentally.

Published by socialjusticeinchildrenslit

My name is Leah Cole and I was a teacher in Iowa for nine years. My passions for education, social justice, and children's literature led me to create this blog. Students are faced with issues of justice and fairness from the time they are very young. The Social Justice Standards developed by Teaching Tolerance help teachers to support the development of students who recognize and embrace their own identities while respecting and valuing those who are different. In this blog, I will attempt to identify and review books that support the social justice standards.

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