Nov 23, 2016

Women (and Girls) and Glass Ceilings: Part Three

Sometimes it's all too easy to moan, groan, and despair of ever establishing a level playing field, whether that relates to gender, race, age, physical status, or socio-economic resources. Sometimes it feels like the deck is stacked against you. 
Sometimes it is.
But when the right person steps up, works to rise above the stacked deck, the results can be amazing.
Earlier posts on this topic included a young girl's historic first steps toward equal education rights (in Part ONE) and women in journalism (in Part TWO). 
Simon & Schuster BYR, 2016

In ADA'S VIOLIN: the Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay, written by Susan Hood and illustrated by Sally Wern Comport, the challenge faced is oppressive poverty. Ada and her younger sister are born into a loving family in a town built on an active landfill. Cateura, their town, is the main garbage dump for the capital city of Asuncion, Paraguay, in South America.

Tons and tons (literally, tons and tons) of garbage arrive daily. No sooner is it dumped atop a mountain of trash than ranchers (recyclers) tear into it with long-handled hooks, snatching up anything that can be reused, recycled, or sold.

It sounds like a miserable life, but Ada's family surrounded her with music and stories and laughter and love. Even so, Ada recognized the empty future that faced her and her sister and the other children. When  an opportunity to learn to play an instrument a beam of hope entered her life. 

In a community of scavengers, actual instruments would disappear overnight. The only way Ada and her friends could learn to play is by converting the detritus of the landfill town into instruments whose value was only in their ability to make music. Illustrations that combine graphic-design, abstractions, realism, and contrasts of shadow and vibrant light to perfectly reflect the complexity of those instruments, Ada's community, and the wide-ranging emotions and dreams of her world. 

Ada and the others would have impressed and inspired if their efforts stopped at the edge of their town. They had innovated, created, studied and practiced. When they played together they entertained and uplifted their community. 
But there was more to come. The eventual stunning success of the Cateura youth orchestra required the same dedication and commitment of any musicians who aspire to greatness. 
They became the LandFill-Harmonic Orchestra and perform around the world.

That required something more. For them to achieve such success they had to first dream it, and that meant seeing beyond the limits of life in a landfill. 

That required choosing hope over despair. 
Action over acceptance. 
If that's not an inspiration to the rest of us, I don't know what is. 
You can watch/hear the real Ada and her orchestra here.

This is a book for everyone but will be of special interest to music lovers, recyclers/up-cyclers, "makers", and anyone (which should be everyone) who believes in the capacity of humans to rise above apparent limitations and soar.

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