Friday, October 30, 2009

Whoever You Are

Title: Whoever You Are
Author: Mem Fox
Illustrator: Leslie Staub
Publisher, Year: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1997

Initially people lived in their own little villages. They married within their groups and had children, who also married within the same group. When you identified yourself as a member of a certain group, it is a given that you do a set of things just like the other members of the group.

Slowly, people started travelling out of their groups for various reasons like education, job, adventure, love, wealth, good fortune etc and found themselves amongst new culture, new traditions and people with completely different values. A plant or an animal would have perished, but man is known for his resilience. He managed to survive. But what were the adjustments he had to make in order to survive? Did he keep his home culture intact? Did he surrender completely to the host culture? Did he end up forming his own third culture, which was neither the home culture nor the host culture?

As an immigrant who is bringing up my children in USA, these questions are important to me. Do I embrace the ‘American culture’? If so, considering that America is a land of immigrants, what exactly is American culture? If I wanted to contribute to the host culture without completely being assimilated am I asking for too much?

Imagining that I am carrot, do I want to be cut in to pieces, sautéed along with a host of other vegetables and spices, blended, passed through a fine sieve and become homogenous soup, in the process of loosing my identity? Or do I want to be diced and be a part of a delicious salad? After much thinking I have decided I like my salad better than soup :)

Because when you keep preaching equality, it gets confusing. People are not made from the same dough using the same cookie cutter. However effectivley one blends in, there are differences and one just cannot turn a blind eye to those differences. Its like saying, if we take away 1 from 3, then it will be the same as 2. Now 3 and 2 are equal.

The best way to make people feel validated is by telling that we are all different in different ways. We eat different food. We wear different clothes. We celebrate different things. We celebrate in diferent ways. We have different beliefs. But underneath all those differences the one single common bond that unites us is our humanity. If you can extend a loving hand, share a hug, feel another person’s pain, fully aware of the mutual differences, then true tolerance is achieved.

This is the message of the book Whoever You Are. Mem Fox takes children on a magic ride through out the world pointing that no two skin colos are the same, no two landscapes are the same, no two lifestyles are the same, but past all these differences, if you look deep inside, we all have a heart, we all laugh and we all are capable of hurting and healing.

You know what I kept thinking of? My second standard lessons that talked about ‘unity in diversity’!


Anusha said...

awesome, Utbt! every para of your review is quote-worthy. I love a colorful salad too :)

Praba Ram said...

hmmm...Mem Fox has some interesting ones. She is very cool. Very deep message. Did you like the text and illustrations?

You've shared some very cool perspectives as well. Thank you!


Choxbox said...

Very nice review UTBT. Love colourful salads :)

Reminds of this book called 'Different Just Like Me' by Lori Mitchell. A big favourite in these parts.

utbtkids said...

K's mom thanks.

Praba: The most striking part of the book is message. Then the text which is simple for a three year old to comprehend. Lastly the illustrations. I thought that the border was very Tanjore painting style. What do you think?

Choxbox: Thanks. Different just like me? Will chk it out from the library. I have made an gazillion book suggestions to the library in the past week :)
Just like me song from Karadi tales has shades of the same message.

Tharini said...

Lovely review UTBT! You know, I got your point about the salad but when you described the homogeneous soup, I kept thinking of the spiritual end that we all will eventually achieve...of being a homogeneous part of a cosmos, with no more duality, and no more you and I, and mine and thine. Being the soup, from that pov, appealed to me very much. :)

utbtkids said...

T, I agree abt the spiritual goal for every one. But my take is one needs to experience self completely that way he/she can understand how to merge.

In child dev when they talk abt 'sharing' they say how inappropriate it is to say SHARE to a child for a child wouldn't know how to share unless he/she has experienced the joy of ownership, the happiness of possession. This is not to be confused with selfishness, joy of ownership is different.

The same way if one understands how one is different then he or she can come up with their own formula for integration and hence the idea of a salad where every ingredient is tasty by itself and as a combination.

B o o said...

whoa! brilliant review, Utbt. When I grow up, will I get to be like you, Praba, Chox, Tharini,....? a leetul bit at least? :)

utbtkids said...

Yes Boo, when you grow up. Stop pulling our leg :)

sathish said...

another good one from utbt!

utbtkids said...

Thanks Satish.

Poppy said...

I love this review UTBT - loved what all you had to say (even if I don't agree with all of it :)

Sheela said...

interesting post, utbt - much to think about when we see it from different contexts, especially through our own adult perspectives...

Katia said...

What a great review, Utbt, and I love your thoughts about the dilemma of reconciling our uniqueness with the desire and sometimes the need to blend in. Awareness of one's identity is definitely a first step. We should all celebrate our uniqueness as well as the beauty of diversity. My feeling is that if we all manage that, then, the rest, the unity and likeness of humankind will be the next natural step... And thanks for mentioning another book that I didn't know about.

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