Who am I? The importance of identity in children’s books

By Lauren Sandford*

I’ve always wondered what it was like for my grandma to grow up in Poland. She left the country for the United States when she was only still a child, bundled up with her family set out to seek a new, wonderful life together. My grandma has never returned to her homeland, to revisit the ground she walked on so long ago, years and years of familial history and ancestry left behind. So when I opened my eyes to the morning sun shining through the window, my train easing its way to a stop in Krakow, Poland, it felt surreal. It felt like something I’d been waiting for. It felt like I was home.

 

 

My experiences in Krakow were so new and different from any place I’d ever visited before, and yet, it was wonderful how comforting and familiar it all felt. Walking down the cobblestone streets, like my Grandma would’ve done upon strolling to a market or to Sunday mass. Hearing the locals speak with a foreign tongue, that wasn’t entirely foreign in my Grandma’s own home. Indulging in traditional meals, from Gołąbki to Pierogis, which is also traditional around my Grandma’s dining room table, surrounded by family and friends.

 

Much like in Anahita Teymorian’s story A Bird Like Himself, I too was reminded of who I am and where I come from. In the book, a bird named Baby is raised by a family of different animals who simply cannot teach Baby how to fly, none of them being birds themselves. One day, Baby meets another bird, and he flies away with her — he flew without even thinking about it, because being around another bird made everything come naturally. Before I stepped foot in Krakow, I thought in my head that it would be entirely different — this mystical, foreign European land — and upon my arrival, everything felt right, like a puzzle piece falling into place.

 

Experiencing new things, meeting different people from yourself is fulfilling in it’s own right: it allows you to broaden your perspective on the world and empathize with others. However, sometimes there can be something missing — a place in your heart that, no matter how hard you try, nothing can fill its place. What you might be missing is a piece of home, a piece of yourself, like a person or a place that epitomizes your own being. With my friends, I find this piece. In my family, I find this piece. Being in Krakow was like being surrounded by family, unknown ancestors, but never strangers. I spent three days in Krakow, and I could have spent three more, or thirty or three hundred. I felt good, I felt alive, and I felt like myself.

*Lauren is an intern at Tiny Owl Publishing

  • A review by Outside in World: The value of finding and celebrating your gifts
  • A review by Jill Bennett: Finding a place to fit in

 

 

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