America, My Love, America, My Heart
A stunning, trilingual love poem written to the U.S.A. is America My Love, America My Heart. It is 40 pages of patriotism from the viewpoint of a girl who grew up with a Creole grandma and great-grandmother and Spanish-speaking neighbors in her Louisiana town, where Creole was spoken, a pidgin language from French, for the people who were a mixed race of white Europeans and descendants of American slaves.
The words are poetry. “ /America the Brave. America, the Bold. America to have. America to hold./” As the girl goes on to ask if America is ready for someone like her, the poetry continues.
“/Where the glory rises in the belly of my soul/Where I swing my halo to and fro./”
She asks in three languages. “ /America, Mi Amor, America, Mo Ke. Do you love my black? Do you love my brown? Do you love my throne? Do you love my crown?/”
The creole and Spanish words are not defined. It will take a few readings to understand what the words might mean. Some pages are clearer than others. “/Do you love my yes? /Do you love my no?/ When I shrug my shoulders . . . No se, mo pa kone, I DON’T KNOW./”
The accent mark over the e in no sé is missing. Hopefully it will be corrected in the reprinting. Words are randomly capitalized. For effect? For emphasis?
The book is illustrated in red, white, blues, grays and black, done with oil paint and graphite on paper. The art is spare on some pages or full double-page spreads on other pages, always worthy of the words. The words are white or black, the focus of the pages. A dreamy cityscape of a gray San Francisco sneaks its way onto one of the pages, punctuated by a bright American flag.
The Pedge of Allegiance appears twice in the book on the stripes of the American flag, at the beginning and at the end. The two pages of author notes helps explain the author’s point of view as a person of color. The end papers are white with a single flying eagle.
The book will become a favorite after several readings. The language feels good with the questions, the rhymes, the flipping back and forth between the languages.
America My Love, America My Heart will go on to win awards for design and for the words. It belongs on everyone’s bookshelf—whether you are Black, brown, white, Spanish-speaking, Creole- or English-speaking—for every American.
All in love with America.