BooksForKidsBlog

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Teach Your Children Well: Watercress by Andrea Wang

WE ARE IN THE OLD PONTIAC, THE RED PAINT FADED BY YEARS OF GLINTING OHIO SUN. THE CORNSTALKS MAKE LINES ZIGZAGGING ACROSS THE HORIZON.

"LOOK!"MY MOM SHOUTS--AND THE CAR COMES TO AN ABRUPT STOP.

"WATERCRESS!" THEIR VOICES ARE HEAVY WITH MEMORY.

The boy and girl in the car look at each other, while from deep in the trunk, their parents pull a paper bag and a pair of rusty scissors. Mom and Dad tell them to take off their socks and shoes and help them gather some strange green plants growing in the murky water in the ditch beside the road. It's called "watercress" in English, and it's something they remember eating in China.

The girl hates the cold water in the ditch, the mud squishing up between her toes, and pulling the soggy plants, some with tiny snails still clinging to them, out of the water and stuffing them into the bag. Their outing is forgotten as her parents happily load up their find and head for home to wash and cook their prize. The girl sulks to herself in the back seat with her brother.

ON THE DINNER TABLE THAT NIGHT IS A DISH OF WATERCRESS, GLISTENING WITH GARLICKY OIL AND FRECKLED WITH SESAME SEEDS.

THE MUD AND SNAILS ARE lONG GONE, BUT I STILL DON'T WANT TO EAT IT, THE GIRL THINKS.

Her parents point out that the watercress is fresh and free.

I SHAKE MY HEAD. FREE IS BAD. "I ONLY WANT TO EAT VEGETABLES FROM THE STORE," I SAID.

Mom sadly gets up and returns with an unfamiliar photo of her family--her parents with her and a younger brother.

"DURING THE FAMINE WE ATE ANYTHING WE COULD FIND. . . BUT IT WAS NOT ENOUGH," MOM SAID.

The girl is silent as she realizes that their mother's little brother must have died of starvation in the famine.

I LOOK AT THE DISH ON THE TABLE, AND I AM ASHAMED.

TOGETHER WE EAT IT ALL AND MAKE NEW MEMORIES OF WATERCRESS.

Andrea Wang's Watercress (Holiday House, 2021) is a poignant reminder that family stories matter, that we are all alive and here because of those who came before, and that there is an almost sacred meaning to the food that they provide to nurture us to live and grow. Wang's family story is especially relevant to recent immigrants, but all of us have ancestors whose struggles, however long ago, made our lives possible. Caldecott-winning artist Jason Chin provides the gentle realistic illustrations, justaposing the first generation children and their immigrant parents with the robust American corn in the field and the delicate wild plant on its own in the wayside, which remind us of all that sustains us.

Says Booklist, "The story reveals the chasms that can separate first-generation immigrant parents from their Americanized children and how confronting past traumas from another country and time can bring a family closer together. Chin’s illustrations masterfully bring to life the vast cornfields and colors of rural America."

Labels: , ,

1 Comments:

Post a Comment



<< Home