|Beachlane Books, 2018|
I've lived long enough to realize that a book about Barbara Jordan is now viewed as historic biography, though, in my mind and heart, she is a contemporary hero, one whose life ended far too early but whose voice will last forever. Her voice, "a voice like that" resonates throughout my life. That's not only because of the timbre and authority and eloquence of her voice, but because Jordan's choices of words to frame with that voice felt as if each syllable should be chiseled in granite.
It was hard for me to imagine any book that could do justice to the amazing Barbara Jordan, but this one does. As her name came up many times over many years, I've praised her messages and her voice often. Had she lived a more typical lifespan, in good health, I'm convinced she she would have been our first black and our first female president.
That should give you a clear idea of the immeasurable esteem I have for her intellect, her values, and yes, her voice. I doubted any book, even such a glorious picture book as this, could elevate her remarkable life and impact to a heartfelt awareness in contemporary children (and the adults who read to and with them). This book does just that, or at least it opens the door to further research and appreciation.
It's been a while since we've had a female voice in the public venue that has so effectively inspired, celebrated, guided, and challenged the public to become our better selves. Certainly, there has been none, in my opinion, that even begins to equal the voice and inspiration of Jordan. There may never be. But her voice resonates even more clearly now than it did during her life.
Barton's author note reveals that he has worked on the text for this book since 2013. The hard work shows. From Jordan's childhood years through to her death from advancing multiple sclerosis and related complications at the age of 59, Barton reveals the personal and public perspectives and progress of a very private but dedicated woman whose voice helped to shape our nation. Barton's back matter provides a detailed timeline of Jordan's life, links to view and hear Jordan's historic commentary and challenges, and suggests important options for further research. His author note also reveals that Jordan's tombstone is inscribed on one side with the word TEACHER and on the other with the word PATRIOT.
One thing I enjoyed most about this book was the reminder it provided for me to access digital recordings and simply LISTEN to that voice. The dramatic and interpretive illustrations paired with the spare but potent text to provide a near-to-real experience of walking with Jordan through her life. Her strength magnifies our own, just as it did during her life.