[Nonfiction Wednesday] Exploring The Universe In An Egg Cell

Myra here.

We are delighted to dedicate our Wednesdays to featuring nonfiction titles, as per usual. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, when we can.

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Our reading theme for July-September is Binge-Read: Book Series Marathon. We are expanding the range of this theme to include books that fit the following deliberately-nebulous criteria:

  1. Books that are part of an ongoing series
  2. Themed stories: books that are technically not part of a series, but fit a specific theme – e.g. intergenerational stories, nature-themed stories
  3. Short story collections
  4. Narratives of a similar genre
  5. Stories written by same author

Over the past weeks, I have been sharing stories of mathematicians and scientists who are people of color. Still in keeping with this ‘theme,’ I am delighted to be sharing Ernest Everett Just’s story.

The Vast Wonder Of The World (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by Melina Mangal Illustrated by Luisa Uribe
Published by Millbrook Press (2018)
ISBN: 9781512483758 (ISBN10: 1512483753) Borrowed via Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

This is the first time I am hearing of cell biologist Ernest Everett Just who was born in 1883 and started teaching at Howard University in 1907. The story begins with Ernest as a field scientist, meticulously collecting data from nature, and examining his specimens in the laboratory.

The succeeding pages backtrack for a bit by introducing Ernest’s childhood in Charleston, South Carolina, and how life was difficult for his family, especially when his father died when he was only four. He also suffered from various illnesses which rendered him unable to read. Thankfully, he re-learned this skill and went on to become an avid reader, writer, and scientist.

I especially appreciated bearing witness to the struggles and challenges he faced as a Professor who was a person of color at Howard University: the lack of resources and the restrictions he had to contend with, which his White colleagues did not have to experience.

His scientific reputation, thankfully, has put him in a position where he can afford to choose where he will spend his working days, and he moved to France to “become an independent researcher.” I appreciated reading the voluminous notes that both author and illustrator had included as part of their extensive backmatter. There is a detailed timeline here, with a long list of references that young readers can check out if they wish to know more about this brilliant man who saw a universe in a single cell.

#SurvivalStories2021 Update: 90 out of target 100

September 8, 2021 at 06:30AM Myra Garces-Bacsal