[Nonfiction Wednesday] Seeing The World Through Isamu Noguchi’s Eyes

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 theme throughout the year, when we can.

This year, we hope to feature books that fit any of the following criteria:

  1. Postcolonial literature and/or [pre/post] revolutionary stories
  2. Stories by indigenous / first-nation peoples / people of colour
  3. Narratives of survival and healing, exile and migration, displacement and dispossession
  4. Books written or illustrated by people who have been colonized, oppressed, marginalized

A Boy Named Isamu (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written and Illustrated by James Yang
Published by: Viking Books For Young Readers (2021) ISBN: 0593203445 (ISBN13: 9780593203446) Literary Award: Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature Nominee for Literature for Picture Book (2022). Borrowed via Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

I did not know about Isamu Noguchi’s landscape design and sculptures until I read this picturebook. I hesitate to call it a biography as it does not really sequentially provide a narrative of Noguchi’s life from birth to adulthood, and the kind of training or mentorship he received for his art.

It is more a snapshot of how Noguchi may have perceived the world around him as a young artist: the kind of questions he asked about his environment, his keen powers of observation, and how attuned he was to the very essence, the nature of things that he encountered. It reminded me a little bit of Yuyi Morales’ award-winning Viva Frida (Amazon | Book Depository – see my review here).

Where other people would merely see a pile of rock, Isamu Noguchi listens to the stone to hear what it is saying as it conveys a message that he fashions through his hands and his artist’s eye. As I always say to my students (and perhaps I may have heard from elsewhere previously), creativity is seeing the familiar with strange eyes.

I appreciated reading James Yang’s Author’s Note at the end of the story indicating what Noguchi meant to him:

Noguchi has always been a hero of mine. I love how his shapes make stone and wood feel alive. Like Noguchi, I would spend time alone in nature as a child. I would bike to my favorite lake and sit for hours thinking about the bigger world.

This sense of solitude and quiet has power amidst the crowd, the chaos, the noise that everyday life brings. How enriched an artist’s life can be, indeed.


#DecolonizeBookshelves2022 Update: 85 out of target 100

August 24, 2022 at 06:31AM Myra Garces-Bacsal