Lantana publish a beautiful, diverse range of picture books in the belief that all children deserve to see themselves in the books they read. ‘Sing to the Moon,’ is no exception. I’m very lucky to also have a brilliant guest post by Nansubuga about the importance of viewpoint when writing.
This adventurous Ugandan boy has big dreams and buckets of imagination. He dreams of riding supernovas and visiting spice markets in Zanzibar. When a rainy day threatens to ruin his plans, the only thing which brightens it is the prospect of spending some time with his jjajja (grandfather).
Together, they revisit Jjajja’s childhood, learn new things about each other and prepare a delicious meal to share.
I enjoyed the strong sense of warmth and love which radiated from the softly-illustrated pages of this book. The love between the boy and his granddad is apparent from the way they delight in doing the every day and mundane together. It made Book Boy Jr and I reflect on what we like to do on rainy days (jump in puddles, bake cupcakes and snuggle on the sofa under a blanket in case you’re wondering.)
I also love how the book gives its readers an insight into life in another culture. I learnt words such as ‘dhow,’ ‘jjajja,’ and ‘tilapia’ and enjoyed puzzling over how to pronounce them. There’s also a lovely author’s letter in the back of the book which tells you a little more about Ugandan seasons and wildlife. ‘Sing to the Moon’ really lets you travel the globe from the comfort of your sofa.
I am now delighted to introduce you to a very special blog post from author, Nansubuga, on the important question of viewpoint when writing.
Writing from my own point of view in a time when representation matters
By Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl.
I think in this age when we see a much-needed call for greater representation of diversity in children’s literature, it can be difficult to be sure of your own authentic voice if you call more than one place home. At least, this has been the case for me and that’s why I think a consideration of point of view highlights important nuances in the conversation about representation and #ownvoices.
I think like many people who come from multiple places, when I am in the US, oftentimes, I can feel Ugandan or African and when I am in Uganda, I can feel very American. This duality is so apparent that when people ask me where I am from, I still stumble. I don’t have one answer – and the answer can vary depending on the context in which the question is being asked. Quite literally, I’m Ugandan by blood and American by birth. Both of my children were born in South Africa, though, and I was married there so surely I can claim South Africa as home as well. I’ve also lived across Europe. So, while I write without thinking about voice (I primarily just write from my heart), when I’m done I often think… is this an authentic Ugandan voice (likely not), is it an authentic African voice (maybe?), is this an American voice (I don’t think so, but I’m not sure…). Can my characters be authentically American, or Ugandan, or South African? I don’t know. I used to struggle with this more. These days, instead of being frustrated by the struggle, I realize that wrestling with voice and point of view invariably points me in the right direction: anything that I write will be hybrid by nature.
For example, I tend to pay particular attention to ‘dreams’ and ‘wishes’ in my writing. This notion of ‘dream as big as you can/you can be whatever you want/you can reach the stars’ is often associated with a Western point of view, although all kids no matter their geographic location dream and have wishes. The magical realism of my first book (night-time dreams that foreshadow future events) and the mundaneness of my second book (doing house chores all day) seem more Ugandan to me… or at least were informed by the Ugandan parts of me.
At the end of the day, I think our voice simply has to be authentic. I have an American husband, multi-racial kids, Ugandan roots, a South African address, and a heart that wants to connect with far more than I can reach at the moment. All of these things will influence my writing and my point of view… and they will all be written in my own voice.
Writer with an African lens
Make sure you visit the book’s page on the Lantana website to order your copy HERE.
*Many thanks to Lantana Publishing for sending me this title to review*