The experiences of many cultures make up the historic tapestry of United States. Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) have had a huge role in shaping the agriculture industry. As a part of the agricultural community, Oregon Agriculture in the Classroom strives to provide resources that highlight the histories and cultures responsible for the historic and current development of food and preservation of our natural resources. Our Lending Library contains hundreds of books and lessons making it a good place to explore multicultural book offerings through the context of agriculture. Our BIPOC resource guide highlights agricultural reading recommendations which offer diverse perspectives on stewardship of the land and the effects on a character’s lifestyle, values and identity. As an effort to familiarize myself with some of the offerings in this resource I have selected five books, highlighting different cultures and perspectives, to give a brief summary of:
Calling the Doves / El canto de las palomas, by Juan Felipe Herrera
This book written in both English and Spanish shares the story of a boy’s family that worked as migrant farm workers and traveled though California as the harvest seasons changed; from grapes in the wintertime, to melon, lettuce and broccoli in the spring. Author and U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera dedicated this story to the lives of his parents that worked as migrant farmers. His writing is beautiful and descriptive. In writing about grapes, he explains,—“[W]e traveled through the valley picking the grapes. We laid them out on the ground to dry on long sheets of paper between the vines. In time, with the sun, the tiny fiery planets would stop glowing and shrink into dark raisins.” Calling the Doves/ El canto de las palomas is a great read for your class to explore the stories and people that work to gather the food they have available to them in the grocery stores.
One Hen: How one small loan made a big difference, by Kate Smith Milway
Working on many levels this book tells the story of the power one chicken can have to a family. The story centers on a young boy, Kojo, who lives in a rural Ghana village. One day using money left over from his mother’s loan, he buys a chicken. Kojo collects the chicken’s eggs keeping a portion of the eggs for himself and selling the rest at the market. As he sells more and more eggs he is able to pay back his mother within a couple of months and his small business only grows from there! The book serves as an allegory to the importance of microfinance programs and showcases life in another part of the world.
A Place Where Sunflowers Grow, by Amy Lee-Tai
A beautifully illustrated book in both English and Japanese about the internment of Japanese Americans during the later parts of WWII. The main character, Mari, is asked to draw a place that she remembers well about her life before the camp and she thinks of her family in their home and their beautiful garden outside. This book is based on the real experiences of the author’s grandmother as a child.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, by William Kamkwamba
Another account of innovation coming from Africa, this time the setting is in Malawi and the story is about a boy named William who used his interest in engineering and research from books to transform junk from around his village to provide electricity through wind. This is based on real story and was even made into a film you can watch on Netflix! A great book to learn more about another part of the globe, troubles that people still face today, and the importance of STEM education.
In the Garden with Dr. Carver, by Susan Grigsby
While I’ve talked about Dr. George Washington Carver a bit in my post on black agriculturalists, this book delivers the history of Dr. Carver as told from the perspective of a young girl named Sally. One day her town is visited by the traveling doctor who decides to plant a garden with Sally and the other children. This book would serve well as an introduction to discussing the many contributions made by Dr. Carver and pairs well with some garden activities such as the Living Necklace, Growing Bracelets and Garden in a glove.
These are just a small sample of books highlighting the stories of Black, Indigenous and People of Color in our resource library. Browse our website to find the book that best aligns with your classroom curriculum! Let us know if there is a book you would like to see available in our Lending Library.
-Casey Blake, Washington County Programs Coordinator