Desiree Calderon de Fawaz
I'm Ready to Talk
As a writer/illustrator and mom living in Texas, I got tired of looking for early childhood stories that were diverse, multicultural and well-translated. I found many wonderful books that spoke about our Mexican heritage and that dealt mostly with tamales, tortillas and the Day of the Dead. I could say that I also looked for early childhood literature with Arab characters but, for the every-day-English-speaking Arab kid, there were none... no role models, no character to look up to...besides Aladdin or Ali Baba, mostly market folk centuries-old, occasional thieves living in ornate palaces and yes, the pointy shoes...after all, what is more Arab than that! I realized that those books were very important at a time where there was no representation whatsoever of our traditions and they, indeed, educated other children not acquainted with our ways exposing them to a bit of our world. However, for kids within these cultures, in this millennium, there is a pressing need for more up-to-date, relatable stories that approach reality and yet are inspiring and educational. That reality, in my experience, is magical...and magic, in turn, is the only real thing, therefore, I decided to share this world of Tata's Earrings where Maya wears Converse shoes, roams the streets in her bike and helps granny Tata with her small-scale social projects not unlike many hero grannies in the modern-day Arab world; a world of refugees, yes, but also a mosaic of colors, faiths and cultures unlike any other...a world were small miracles happen every day, like everywhere else. In Tata's Earrings, Maya learns about the value of love, compassion and selflessness among people of all nations and diverse spiritual traditions. I feel it's time to change the narrative. While media bombards us with a one-sided and often false picture of the Middle East (or any culture to that matter) it is time to claim our good criteria back, to raise a forward-thinking generation with a multicultural vision and to teach peace by practicing understanding.