Your Voice, Your Vote
“Your Voice, Your Vote will surely inspire young readers to learn about the civic duty to vote. But it’s the history of voting rights . . . and the unfairness of trying to keep certain voters from voting that child readers will remember.”
In this multigenerational story taking place on Election Day, Quetta gets quite an education from her mother and grandmother about the importance of voting. In Your Voice, Your Vote, author Leah Henderson (Together We March; A Day for Rememberin’) places Quetta at Grandma’s house as the story begins, and together they wait for Mommy to arrive from work so they can all start their journey to go vote. As the story shows the reader, what a journey it turns out to be.
Given the current turbulent and divisive political climate in this country, this timely tale equates casting a vote with having a voice and what it means to raise it—however access to voting is not equal across all voters. In her Author’s Note, Henderson points out that voting is, “your opportunity, your responsibility, and your right to decide how your community and your country are being run and what issues matter to you.” She adds, “The outcome of a vote can affect the buses and trains you ride, the school you attend, the environment, and so much more. A vote holds great power. And for some that power continues to be denied.”
In Your Voice, Your Vote, illustrator Keisha Morris shows Quetta and her family as an African American family, highlighting how attempts to deny a vote has targeted people of color. Indeed, as they leave their home, Quetta and her mother and grandmother encounter all kinds of obstacles that potentially stop the adults from casting their votes. Buses are late, waiting times between the multiple buses they take are long, and when they arrive at the polling place, “Quetta couldn’t believe her eyes. The line stretched down the block like Double Dutch ropes.”
Then rain comes, but always prepared Grandma has brought an umbrella. Quetta decides that they should go home due to the rain anyway. Grandma, however, insists, “People have marched and fought and sacrificed too much and for too long for any of us to turn back now.” Grandma goes on to tell Quetta, “When I was your age, certain people did all they could to stop my daddy, mama, and granddaddy from casting their vote.” She shares anecdotes about other ways voters were blocked from voting: like having to know absurd facts such as, “How many bubbles in a bar of soap?” or “How many seeds in a cucumber?” If the answer given was wrong, no voting.
Nevertheless, Grandma emphasizes to Quetta that nothing can get in the way of voting. Despite obstacles, “that doesn’t mean we stop climbing. What’s at the top is too important . . . It’s where we find our power to help make change.” This gets tested when it’s time for Grandma to vote since she loses her ID and now everyone has to pitch in to look for it. With help, Quetta searches and searches and finally finds it. Thankfully, the story culminates in a celebration, “Now we can cast our vote!” Grandma exclaims. “And use our power,” Mommy adds. “To raise our voices!” Quetta shouts out.
Morris’ illustrations are colorful and moving and convey a warmth that captures the heart that lies at the center of this important story. Your Voice, Your Vote will surely inspire young readers to learn about the civic duty to vote. But it’s the history of voting rights (seen in the helpful Timeline in the back matter) and the unfairness of trying to keep certain voters from voting that child readers will remember. Most of all, as told by a grandmother to her granddaughter, Your Voice, Your Vote is a story of pride, persistence, and determination.