Editor’s Note: Author Adam Tutor, a freelance writer for the Rivard Report, also works for the San Antonio Library as a teen outreach specialist.
The Southside has also seen the reemergence of artistic and community relevance for Mission Marquee Plaza and now an installation at Mission Branch Library which contributes a component of community in an area of town equally as representative and rich in culture as the Missions themselves.
The San Antonio Public Library will premier an original StoryWalk with the children’s book All Around Us, authored by Xelena González and illustrated by Adriana M. Garcia, which will be shared through special activities this week for toddlers and tweens. The unveiling will take place Saturday, Aug. 6 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
The story, based on our connection to Mother Nature, will appropriately be made into life-size displays and placed outside along the grounds of Mission Branch Library so that families and library patrons can watch the story unfold through public art.
Sharing her vision in the city she has called home all her life, at the residence of her family, who helped inspire this story, González went straight for the roots.
“This is our culture, a lot of us who call ourselves Latinos, Mexicans, are Native American and we carry the culture and customs to one degree or another,” González said. “It’s not often seen in children’s literature, (so) this is a glimpse.”
A former early literacy specialist with the Library’s Little Read Wagon program, González is no stranger to storytelling, and her natural inclination to perform and communicate through artistry encouraged her undertaking of this particular endeavor.
“I think a story can be told in many different ways, and I think it’s important to remember that,” González said. “On this day, there will be multiple ways of expressing the fact that life is not a timeline, but a circle, by seeing the circles all around us.”
González is sharing the story alongside Little Read Wagon with toddlers on Wednesday, Aug. 3 at 11 a.m., and in an interactive “seeding” activity on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. which will allow 9-to 12-year-olds to take part in planting seeds along the grounds where the display pages will be posted.
Yet the StoryWalk itself and the greatest dimension of the week comes this Saturday, when González is joined by artists and musicians Anthony “The Poet” Flores, Maya Guirao, Andrea Vocab Sanderson, and Jai Roots who will interpret and complement the story through their art. “I am moved by the art, we all are, different people to different degrees,” González said. “As as a storyteller, I wanted it to be shared in a way that is dynamic, and the musicians and poets will be interacting with the story.”
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What were once words awaiting water to help them grow have now flourished into astral illustrations that connect our human experience with the higher plane of relation communicated through the book’s message. Artist and muralist Adriana M. Garcia, whose work is blanketed across buildings on the Westside and the Southwest Worker’s Union, received a grant from the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) to bring González’s vision to life.
González confessed that in terms of bringing a story to the public, things are being done backwards. Her book has yet to be published and González likes it that way.
“This is free and open to the community, on display for a couple of weeks and then it will travel to different places along Mission Trail, across San Antonio, and beyond,” González said. “We’ll then have a digital book, translated into Spanish, and available online for free for a limited time.”
“The beyond” that González speaks of defies the bounds of Bexar County, the state of Texas, and even national borders. “I live in an international community now in Guangzhou, China, and I’ve received offers to display the StoryWalk there,” González said. “I’ve also received offers to have it translated into various languages there such as Chinese, Arabic, Korean, Greek, and Italian.”
Even here in San Antonio individuals and organizations are eager to translate the story into Mam, K’iche’/Quiché, and Braille. “The response to the story has been overwhelming,” González said. “It’s a really exciting thing to have these friends who are touched by the story in such a way that they want to do this and to do it for free.”
What it comes down to for González is a full circle experience, one that embodies her story and spirit in a way that is powerfully resonant with the lifeline of San Antonio. “We are experiencing the outdoors, children’s literacy, physical fitness, all in a new way,” González said. “I guarantee it’s going to make the children, at least one child, look at things a little bit different. And when I say ‘child’ I mean of any age, maybe even 80.”
Top image: Xelena González during story time with her youngest bunch of students in Guangzhou, China. Photo courtesy of Xelena González.