Baseball Saved Us
Do you remember July of 2013 when Marc Anthony sang God Bless America at the MLB All-Star Game? Do you remember the big controversy? The flood of hateful comments that lit up Twitter?
“Welcome to america where god bless america is sung at our national pastime by a mexican” [sic]
“America’s Game, all star game a non American signing god bless America? Seeing as most of the players aren’t either I guess it makes sense “ [sic]
“Marc Anthony singing God Bless America on the MLB AllStar Game…….am I the only person that finds that unAmerican” [sic]
Can you hear it? The indignation, underscored by the idea that this “foreigner” would sing this song at our sacred sporting event???
Aside from the fact that 1) Anthony was born in New York, and that 2) his family hails from Puerto Rico- –A US TERRITORY, IGNORAMUSES– -, and that 3) the song itself was written by a Russian immigrant (Irving Berlin), it is interesting to me that some people in our country still have a “possessive/exculsive” stance on baseball: a sport that, in many cases, has brought people of varied backgrounds together. I could elaborate on this idea, using the examples of Jackie Robinson, the Hispanic presence in baseball, the Little League World Series, and John Hamm’s newest movie, Million Dollar Arm. However, to stay on topic, I’ll submit a single book into evidence: one that added a very interesting layer to “American” baseball in our household.
As many of you know, May is Asian-Pacific Heritage Month: a time to reflect on, and celebrate, the vast contributions of Asian-Pacific Americans to American life, history and culture. Asian-Pacific Heritage Month began as a 10-day commemoration in 1978, but was later expanded to a full month in 1990, under the administration of George H. W. Bush. The President’s statement on signing the legislation can be found by clicking HERE. According to multiple, un-cited internet sources,
May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.
So, to celebrate Asian-Pacific Heritage Month, I did what I always do: I headed to the library. I found some gems (a few of which I will include below), but the true story of Baseball Saved Us, written by Ken Mochizuki and illustrated by Dom Lee, struck a chord with me. This is the account of a Japanese-American family, imprisoned at an internment camp during WWII, who found solace in the “Great American Pastime” of baseball. The ending of the book is a little flat for me, but the body is very well done. It tells the story of internment, without pointing fingers and without a jaded tone. Still, the sadness of the experience permeates, so it is not difficult to find compassion for the victims of this highly troublesome time in our history. For this reason, it is also relatively easy to celebrate with the young protagonist as he hits his literal and figurative, “home run”. Stories like these show, again and again, that baseball (along with music, art, dance, and other sports) cannot belong to one group, one people, or one country. These entities transcend possession and, really, belong to the world. School Library Journal lists this text as appropriate for grades 2-4. At the time of reading, my audience was 5 and 7.
Digging To The Roots
There are two free study guides that I recommend for this book. Both are appropriate for 2-4th grade, but could easily be adapted for both older and younger children.
1) Lee and Low Books Classroom Guide HERE.
2) Live Oak Media Unit Study HERE.
There will be more to come about our celebration of Asian-Pacific Heritage Month in a few weeks, including a study of a wonderful book called Wabi Sabi, by Mark Reibstein, art by Ed Young.
I’ll also cover some oldies but goodies that we enjoy all year long, like: The Stonecutter: A Japanese Folk Tale, by Gerald McDermott, and The Story About Ping, by Marjorie Flack and Kurt Wiese. Remember these??? There is so much to learn and explore with these texts. Come back soon to find out more!
Peace & Blessings,