cover image We Came to America

We Came to America

Faith Ringgold. Knopf, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-517-70947-4

In a timely reflection, Ringgold (Harlem Renaissance Party) urges American readers to consider our collective pasts. Using a broad brush and folk style familiar from her story quilts, Ringgold pictures families of diverse heritage, accompanied by general comments on migrant experiences. She takes care to assert that “Some of us were already here/ Before the others came,” and “some of us were brought in chains” to American shores. Although her subjects wear the familiar garb of 19th-century Europeans and the traditional apparel of Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and Hindus, Ringgold never mentions a place or faith by name. Instead, she reinforces Americans’ global origins in a refrain: “We came to America,/ Every color, race, and religion,/ From every country in the world.” Ringgold focuses on bygone centuries rather than the present day, and while the occasional rhyme rings hollow (an image of a ballerina is paired with the vague “Our joyful dance now freed our pain,/ Gently, like soothing rain”), her powerful voice emphasizes unity and mutual appreciation: “In spite of where we came from,/ Or how or why we came,/ We are ALL Americans,/ Just the same.” Ages 5–8. (May)