Welcoming “The Other”: Wishtree & A Conversation with Librarian Christina Carter
In today’s episode…
Saadia Faruqi focuses her “Books You’ve Never Heard Of” segment on the book Wishtree by Katherine Applegate, and she gives recommendations for other books that discuss welcoming those who have been made to feel like “an other.”
- Wishtree by Katherine Applegate
- I’m New Here by Anne Sibley O’Brien
- From Far Away by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Rebecca Green
- My Name is Bilal by Dr. Asma Mobin-uddin, illustrated by Barbara Kiwak
- One Green Apple by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Ted Lewin
- Save me a Seat by Sara Weeks and Gita Varadarajan
- Step up to the Plate Maria Singh by Uma Krishnaswami
- Outcasts United by Warren St. John
- One Goal by Amy Bass
Then, Ann Braden shares her conversation with elementary school librarian Christina Carter.
“You get to get down to the heart of it and see that really we are all the same. We have the same concerns. We love the same, and we cry the same. We have joy the same ways. And books have a way to make that connection, to make that real.”
– Christina Carter, Elementary School Librarian
Here are two of Christina’s book recommendations:
- The Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling
- The Jasmine Toguchi Series by Debbi Michiko Florence
Finally, the episode concludes with Ann’s segment “Moving Beyond: Because Books Have No Boundaries.”
What do we do when people aren’t welcoming to others? In December 2015 there was a whole lot of hate rising up in our country, and I wanted to figure out something we could do in response – something simple but something that helped those who were feeling alone know that there were so many of us out there who were paying attention and standing with them. I started talking to lots of people, trying to figure out what to do, and then someone said: “How about postcards?” Well, it was like a lightbulb went off. And it was just a few hours after that that we got word that someone had sent hate mail to the Islamic Society of Vermont. Someone posted on Facebook saying, “What can we do?” and by then I had an answer. We sent postcards covered with hearts and messages of support and people spread the word – enough so that by the next week they had gotten 500 postcards covered with love. It made a huge statement, and as the Immam said the next week, if the person who wrote the letter knew that this going to be the response, maybe they would have thought twice.
Postcards are simple. Even the littlest of kids can make them — they just need help with the address. And so we started sending postcards to lots of people. People who were bullied. People who were being told they didn’t belong. We called it the Local Love Brigade.
And before we go today I want to tell you one quick story. We had sent love postcards to a 13-year-old girl who had had to watch her father get detained by Immigration officials while dropping her off at her school in Los Angeles. Often, that’s where it ends; the love has gone out into the world, and usually the people who need it are not in a position to respond. But this time it was different.
A month later we got a message from the school’s director: the school was taking their college-accepted seniors on a trip to see the Northeast (many had never been on a plane before), and they’d like to come to Vermont to connect with the Local Love Brigade. Several e-mails later, nearly 40 high school seniors from the other side of the country were next to us with us, drawing hearts on index cards and sending out love into the world to other people who need it. At the end, a girl came up to me to introduce herself, and she turned out to be the niece of the man who was detained. As everyone else was filling up the vans, she shared how worried she is that her uncle might not be able to see her graduate. We cried together. We hugged each other tightly.
We were two people who were connected despite distance and any number of differences, but love was the bridge that brought us together.
There are so many bridges out there. Books. Postcards. Smiles. The willingness to listen. Let’s all be looking for the bridges, ready to run across them when we have the chance.