Reading/Interest Level: Intermediate, Young Adult
Author: Walter Dean Myers
Illustrator: Christopher Myers
In We Are America, Myers and Myers commemorate the United States by sharing stories of America from pre-Columbian times to the present day. The text pairs Walter Dean’s free verse with quotations from America’s history. Christopher’s mural-like illustrations juxtapose events from distinct epochs and locales to highlight the plural nature of the American experience. For the reader who wishes to learn more, the end matter provides further context for the quotations and drawings.
We Are America is an elegant and inclusive account of what America has been and is. Myers and Myers gracefully portray the complexity and nuance of our country’s rich and diverse history. Walter Dean’s free verse is delightful, and Christopher’s drawings, both beautiful and warm, effectively highlight the elegance of Walter Dean’s words. Myers’ tribute to America is more accurate and inclusive than most accounts of American history written for young people. He avoids the twin extremes of rosy nostalgia and bitter excoriation as he explores the tension between America’s ideals of freedom and equality and the many times America has failed to reach those ideals. Young readers may be unfamiliar with the free verse style of the book. They may not catch some of the historical and literary allusions. They may struggle mildly with the archaic language of some of the quotations. However, even considering these potential obstacles, I don’t anticipate that the general message will be too difficult for young adults and advanced intermediate readers to understand. The illustrations depict a few instances of (not particularly graphic) violence, such as war scenes and protesters being attacked by police dogs and fire hoses. We Are America: A Tribute from the Heart is highly recommended for readers young and old. It is well-written, beautifully drawn, honest, inclusive, and thought-provoking. It can be of value for the development and education of all who read it.
*Contains non-graphic depictions of war and protests.