[Saturday Reads] The Power Of “Wishes”


Myra here.

Every Saturday we hope to share with you our thoughts on reading and books. We thought that it would be good practice to reflect on our reading lives and our thoughts about reading in general. While on occasion, we would feature a few books in keeping with this, there would be a few posts where we will just write about our thoughts on read-alouds, libraries, reading journals, upcoming literary conferences, books that we are excited about, and just book love miscellany in general.


Wishes (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by Muon Thi Van Illustrations by Victo Ngai Publisher: Orchard Books (2021) ISBN: 9781338305890 (ISBN10: 1338305891) Borrowed from Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

There have been quite a number of recently-published outstanding diverse picturebooks that tackle heavy-going themes on refugees, dispossession, leaving home. I would have to say, though, that Wishes, by far, makes it to the top of that list.

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Muon Thi Van has mastered the art of distillation here. Each brief sentence is singular, subtle, and loaded with layers of meaning. There are spaces in the narrative to bring in one’s sense of loss, grief, and unarticulated anxiety.

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The art of leaving out had been skilfully rendered in the narrative, with a gaping void provided space to grow by not being acknowledged or explicitly worded. The art of Victo Ngai rendered me speechless with its familiarity as a Southeast Asian reader, and prompted me to re-read this book multiple times to discover visual codes I have missed out earlier.

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Muon Thi Van’s note at the end detailing her own background as a refugee was especially moving:

More refugees are made every day, not only from local violence and persecution, but increasingly from catastrophic natural disasters and climate change effects. It is not always easy to decide whom to help and when. But I think it is easy to open our hearts and to do what we can when we can.

While I am sad that we live in a world where these stories are so achingly real, I also rejoice in the fact that these stories are being surfaced more and coming to the light of day. It is only when we acknowledge that oppression, injustice, dispossession is a lived reality for so many people around the world can we truly begin working together for inclusion and social justice.

#SurvivalStories2021 Update: 64 out of target 100

June 12, 2021 at 06:30AM Myra Garces-Bacsal