WOW Reads

WOW Reads: Bonus - TRAP Joins NEA's Big Read Tucson

February 23, 2023 Worlds of Words Center Season 1
WOW Reads: Bonus - TRAP Joins NEA's Big Read Tucson
WOW Reads
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WOW Reads
WOW Reads: Bonus - TRAP Joins NEA's Big Read Tucson
Feb 23, 2023 Season 1
Worlds of Words Center

Join the WOW Center Teen Reading Ambassadors (TRAP) as we discuss Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz and We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom and Michaela Goade as part of the National Endowment of the Arts' (NEA) Big Read Tucson.

This podcast was recorded in the Digital Innovation and Learning Lab (DIALL) in the UArizona College of Education with assistance from the UA COE Tech Team.

Co-Producer: Rebecca Ballenger, WOW Center Associate Director
Co-Producer: Sara Logan, MSRAP Literature Discussant and COE Graduate Student
Audio Engineer: Liam Arias, Student Employee and Radio, TV, Film Major
Coordinator: Vianey Torres, WOW Student Employee and Nursing Major

For more information on the WOW Teen Reading Ambassadors (TRAP), visit

We Can Promote Global Literature Together!

The Worlds of Words Reading Ambassador program is completely free for participants who receive a book for themselves and a book to share with their school librarian, ELA/English teacher, or other school entity. If you would like to support this program, please make a gift on-line through the University of Arizona Foundation.

Thank you for listening and keep reading!

Show Notes Transcript

Join the WOW Center Teen Reading Ambassadors (TRAP) as we discuss Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz and We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom and Michaela Goade as part of the National Endowment of the Arts' (NEA) Big Read Tucson.

This podcast was recorded in the Digital Innovation and Learning Lab (DIALL) in the UArizona College of Education with assistance from the UA COE Tech Team.

Co-Producer: Rebecca Ballenger, WOW Center Associate Director
Co-Producer: Sara Logan, MSRAP Literature Discussant and COE Graduate Student
Audio Engineer: Liam Arias, Student Employee and Radio, TV, Film Major
Coordinator: Vianey Torres, WOW Student Employee and Nursing Major

For more information on the WOW Teen Reading Ambassadors (TRAP), visit

We Can Promote Global Literature Together!

The Worlds of Words Reading Ambassador program is completely free for participants who receive a book for themselves and a book to share with their school librarian, ELA/English teacher, or other school entity. If you would like to support this program, please make a gift on-line through the University of Arizona Foundation.

Thank you for listening and keep reading!

Rebecca: Hello and welcome to Wow Reads, a podcast of Worlds of Words Center of Global Literacies and Literatures. This is RAP’d Reading Ambassador program where we're wrapped up in reading. We are going to talk a little bit today about two books that were selected for the Big Read Tucson. Big Read Tucson is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and features literary events from January to early March to explore the theme of water. The series centers on Post-Colonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz and We are Water Protectors by Carol Lindstrom and illustrated by Michaela Goade. Today we have two ambassadors and our literature discussant with us. Let's please go ahead and introduce ourselves.

Sara: I'm Sara. I am a grad student here at the University of Arizona and I am doing a grad assistantship in Worlds of Words, and I also work with the Teen Reading [00:01:00] Ambassador program helping with discussions.

Itzel: My name is Itzel, and I am a senior at Tucson High.

Rebecca: Itzel, do you have news that you would like to share about your college application?

Itzel: Um, yes, I will be attending Harvard University this fall and I'm very excited. And this is my last year with the WOW Reading Ambassadors that I've been a part of since freshman year. So I'm really happy to be here.

Rebecca: I'm not sure I've heard of that university where, you know...

Itzel: It's just a small local one. Um, it's in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An East Coast School. 

Benji: I'm Benji. and I'm a junior at Flowing Wells High School and one of the two reading ambassadors here today.

Rebecca: Yay, Benji. Yay, Benji. It's so awesome to see you here.

Sara: Okay. Well I thought we would first just kinda start with talking about the [00:02:00] amazing images, colors, um, pictures, uh, visuals in we are water protectors. The illustrator like Rebecca said as Michaela Goade. Um, so I thought we just talked about how, what are some of your favorite images?

How did the images and colors contribute kind of to the story?

Itzel: I can go first I think towards the end of the book. Um, it shows, you know, like protests and, you know, um, I think it really resonated with me because of the pipeline issues Yeah. That I've been going on. So like protecting Oakland Flat and stuff like that.

And I remember, you know, just being really passionate about that because, you know, People from Arizona, we know that we cannot survive without water. And so it was just really important to see just kind of like the representation of what that looks [00:03:00] like, especially as Arizonans and, um, how it brings kind of like indigenous aspects also to, to the story and to the perspective.

So I really like that. Yeah, definitely that indigenous perspective, the feelings about water and the metaphorical black snake in the story likening that to the, um, oil pipeline. Yeah. That, that was huge. There were, yeah. And the protest page, the colors just pop off the page. Um, but it's also very clear that it's tied to, um, the Dakota Access Pipeline.

It's very clear that it's, it's tying to indigenous culture and heritage, but also making it relevant to society today. Yeah. Benji, can you, I'm sorry, Benji, can you, um, describe this page that we're talking about? It's [00:04:00] it's the final, final page of the story. It's like a bunch of people who seem to be from like all different cultures and like ways of life, all like standing on the page with signs that say stuff like water is life and protect the sacred, which is really cool.

And if I knew anything about color theory, I could get so profound right now. . Yeah, it's brightly colored, lots of colors. I also like, just like the illustrations are so in depth that like I can see, you know, the elders of my community in those pages and I can see, you know, myself as a little girl going to protest in those pages too.

And I dunno, remem, I don't remember what page it was on, but it's talking about like all of the creatures in the land. And so it's talking about like the four-legged and the two-legged. And so that specific, um, language is, is really important to me because of how I grew [00:05:00] up. And so I. You know, I was raised from like an indigenous family and participating in, you know, traditional, traditional indigenous practices and stuff like that.

And to, to see, you know, that language is really, I think not only unique, but it, it touches a place in my heart kind of thing. So, yeah, that is it. This is it. This one, we fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. The winged ones, the crawling ones. Yeah. And I think the next page. the four-legged, the two-legged, the plants, trees, rivers, lakes, the earth.

We are all related. Yeah. That, yeah, that really resonated with me. I, I really like that. It's that connection to nature, the importance of the elements of non-human beings. Um, and Benji brought up a great point about how all walks of life are. Are noticeable in that picture. All [00:06:00] ages. Yeah. Um, I think it would be actually one more thing with this, which, um, Carol Lindstrom wrote this beautiful book, We Are Water protectors.

What, what do you all envision children learning from this story? Or what do you think? Why is it so important? for children to read this book for, for adults too, maybe. Um, I think that it's like really important for people to know more about what's going on around them and teaching kids like very young that it's important to protect the environment.

Could go like a long way in stuff like environmentalism. for sure. Yeah. Um, when I was a little girl, Manino used to tell me a story about like snakes and how they're really [00:07:00] important because they're always connected to the land and so they never, like, they're always connected to the earth and so they're just slithering around and, you know, they never leave the earth.

And so it's really important to take care of it. And when humans the, you know, destroy it, it disrupts like the snakes and that's why they're like really angry all the time. And so that's like one of my favorite stories, but I. Like this book shows the way that like water connects us all. And so we're made up of like 90% water or something like that.

And so we all have this one thing in us that like we can't live without. And so if we, if we don't protect that, then there's not gonna be any of us left and nothing to connect us with anymore. So yeah. That's an excellent pointconnecting us. Yeah, it's..Um, I think it would be. And, and Carol Linstrom included a great pledge at the end for children.

Um, Benji, would you, Benji, would you like to read the pledge? Yeah, sure. Okay.[00:08:00] 

Earth steward and water protector pledge, I will do my best to honor Mother Earth and all its living beings, including the water and land. I will always remember to. Earth as I would like to be treated, I will treat the winged ones, the crawling ones, the four-legged, the two-legged, the plants, trees, rivers, lakes, the earth with kindness and respect.

I pledge to make this world a better place by being a steward of the earth and a protector of the water. Thanks, Benji. Can I add something really fast? I think also being. Raised in like a border town, if that's what you wanna call it. Like you see people dying every single day cuz they don't have water.

And like, you know, the people that are crossing over and trying to come to the United States, like you don't, children die trying to cross because they don't have water. And so I think [00:09:00] that's also like something that resonated with me is that knowing like that there's people so close to us dying without this one thing.

Yeah. It's important to care for it. It's important that people have access to it. Yeah, that's an excellent point. I think this would be a good transition time for transitioning to the other book we're gonna be talking about today, post-Colonial Love poem by Natalie Diaz. Um, we, I wanted to focus on, um, The poem on page 46, the first water is the body.

There was an excerpt. Um, actually on page 51 of that poem where Diaz writes, we think of our bodies as being all that we are. I am my body. This thinking helps us disrespect water, air, land one another, but water is not external from our body, our self. My elder says, cut off your ear [00:10:00] and you will live cut off your hand.

You'll live cut off your let. You can still live. Cut off, cut off our water. We will not live more than a week. How does, um, how does this excerpt connect with the story that we just talked about? We are water protectors and Itzel, I think you kind of touched on this with your own upbringing and, and also, um, talking about people that need water and don't have access to it.

Yeah. Um, I think also, um, in this book, reservations are mentioned a lot and, um, me and my parents were having a conversation about how everything on the res is so expensive, including water, because a lot of the times, you know, like, we'll take it like Arizona for example, they're literally in the middle of nowhere.

And so we were just talking about. How messed up it is that like original people of like this original land are like outcasted and forced into like systematic po- [00:11:00] poverty and how they're forced to pay so much for like basic needs, including water. And so that was the thing that I was thinking about here.

Um, I think where, in on page 46 where she says, so far I have said the word river in every stanza. I don't want to waste water. I must preserve the river in my body. Um, I like that. And that kind of helped me make the connection towards that. I liked that too. Itzel I liked that a lot. Yeah, she, uh, Natalie Diaz.

I, I like how, Put that very explicitly that she mentioned the word river. She did that a few other times, um, with concepts. Um, another poem, well, and she's talking about the Colorado River. Oh yeah. Which again, has so much connection here because I mean, we have cap water in Arizona. Yeah. Yeah. I think her mentioning the [00:12:00] Colorado River.

like bringing outside like kind of knowledge is really important considering that like, We've had to push for like years and years and years for people to pay attention to, like the water reserve that is like draining. And so for her to mention like, I need to preserve like the, the river in my body and stuff like that, like I kind of made a connection because you know, like native people of these lands and like people that I have been protesting for years and years and years and saying like, you need to pay attention.

Mm-hmm. to this and you're not paying attention. . I saw, I saw in the news the other day, it's all just right about that. They were talking about, um, how novel and unique and new it is that we're having these water issues. And I thought, oh, right man, no, they've been going on for a while. Right. But we have not had to pay so much for water.

We see it as a basic utility. And for a long time, you know, The government was involved in bringing water [00:13:00] to everybody through these utilities, through our infrastructure, which now the infrastructure is crumbling and the water is going away, and we have been ignoring all of the people who have been asking for us to watch over this process.

Yeah, I wanted to talk about, I think it's on page 14. Manhattan is an Lenape word. Um, Diaz, , makes a connection; And actually I was gonna bring up the author note in the back, was really helpful in understanding some background knowledge. Um, but Diaz notes in the author note that the glittering world, um, actually goes back to an origin story, um, is a reference to Mojave creation story.

Um, and it refers to how rocks and dirt gleamed. But in this poem, There's a lot of imagery [00:14:00] of modern day New York City and just that juxtaposition between nature and what's treasured in indigenous culture and then what's kind of seen as light etzel. Did you wanna talk a little bit about that? Yeah, so, um, I think.

Like, as a brown person, you're always kind of like hyp-hyper aware about like things that are going on around you. And so, um, I'm really excited to start Harvard in the fall, but one of the things that, where's that, where's that high fall? Cambridge . One of the things that I've been, um, just like talking about is how, um, how hard it's gonna be.

Like not seeing people, not like being the majority type of like, A racial group, if that's what you want to call it. Sure. Um, and reading this Manhattan is a lenape word where it says, um, the things I know aren't [00:15:00] easy. I'm the only Native American on the eighth floor of this hotel or any looking out, any window of a turn of the century building in Manhattan.

And I was just kind of thinking about that cuz I was like, that's gonna be me. Like, um, I think, I think it's like less than 10% of-of people that go to Harvard are. Like brown people. And so there's not a lot of brown people and um, Mexican American students are actually the least amount of people that go there.

So, um, I really resonated with that cuz that's, you know, the environment that I'm gonna be entering in. And so, yeah. , I was just thinking about that. You'll have to figure out how to conserve your river as well. Yeah. And also just sticking to like my roots and my identity and not, not letting my river get polluted.

Yes, right. That's a great point.

Hmm. Benji, did you have anything to add about either of those [00:16:00] poems that we, there, was there in the, uh, Manhattan, is it Lenape word? Do you guys just talks about a lot of like, kind of noise pollution. Light pollution, um, in the, in her rude. . Um, and just kind of how that feeds back. I think too, just, um, in water, we are water protectors, just valuing nature, um, and how that can kind of contrast with what we see on a day-to-day basis.

Um, yeah. If I can throw it back to the other poem Yeah, definitely. Which was called..

was it the one on page 46? Yes. Yeah. Oh, the first water is the body. Yeah. Yeah. Which was called The First Water Is the Body. Um, that like kind of resonated with me because when you read the [00:17:00] title, you think like, oh, love poem. It's gonna be about like romance and liking other people, but like it's about water.

It's about like the earth and stuff, which is really cool because it's saying that like love doesn't have to be about other people. It can also be about your surroundings and the earth is something that you should love because it's part of you. Yeah, I believe Tucson Unified School District has… are you, wait, you're in Flowing Wells?

Yes. They, but the, there is a unit on water in elementary school. Did you engage in any kind of water education? Um, well, I grew up in Three Points. Mm-hmm. So I was in Alta Valley. up through like until high school. So when you [00:18:00] were little, what kinds of thoughts did you have about water? What ki-what was your experience with just water generally?

You asked how many thoughts I had about water. Probably not many. Yeah. Um, because I was a little kid. Yeah. It just came out of the tap. Yeah. Did you ever visit any arroyos. No, probably not. Yeah. So I think like when we're talking about Manhattan is a Lenape word and we're talking about the juxtaposition of like the post-colonial sighting of Manhattan, right?

Um, really we are, we do, we do see that disconnect a lot of times. Yeah. I, I, and I mean, I myself as a kid, Took water for granted, took access to clean water for granted my surroundings. You know, I think, um, that's why books for Children like we are water protectors is [00:19:00] so important. Um, it gives you the opportunity to see the world kind of outside of your own view and um, just think about other perspectives.

I mean, so I think also when I think of Manhattan, like. You know, I watch Gossip Girl, but Right. So I think of like, yeah, people like Chuck Bass, you know, personally I love Chuck, but like he's really outta, outta touch with like all of the thing, you know? And so like the native people of like Central Park like, and how they got displaced and how they probably also didn't have access to clean water and how like a bunch of rich developers came in and was like, no more access to clean water for you cuz you're poor.

Like, I think about that a lot. And now, It took like generations of people to like finally try to get their voice out and now barely people are listening cuz we're like, oh no, we're running outta water. Right. Not good. But we still are interested in economic [00:20:00] growth and development, which requires water.

Yeah, I don't know, like maybe let's not use cement cuz that takes a lot of water. So you want some green spaces? Green spaces would be nice. Let the water, let the monsoon. Drain into the soil. Yeah. Um, can I bring up another poem? No. Oh, no. . Let's go for it. Okay. So on page 17, um, it's called American Arithmetic.

Arithmetic. Arithmetic. Yeah,w that's a good poem. I love that too. Um, so, um, I, I think I just have been thinking a lot about like my experience as a brown person. So that's just what I'm gonna talk about today.

Uh, I'm not good at math. Can you blame me? I've had an American education. We are Americans and we are less than 1% of Americans. We do a better job of dying by police than we do existing when [00:21:00] we are dying. Who should we call the police or our senator? Please, someone call my mother. I think that really resonated with me.

Um, I lately have been terrified of getting pulled over. Um, cuz I didn't, I needed to renew my tags and so I did. But for like the two weeks that it took to came to-come in, I was like, if I get pulled over, like I don't know what to do. And so when I read this, I was like, why, why did I have to have a conversation at five years old about how to engage with police?

Like, why, why am I so scared of, the protect and serve kind of thing? Mm-hmm. Um, and I was talking to my friend, um, my friend about it, and she's going to Sarah Lawrence. And so we were just kind of talking about how like terrifying it is to feel like you could die at like the hands of somebody that's supposed to protect you.

Mm-hmm. . And so like mm-hmm. . I don't feel protected by police. Not really by senators [00:22:00] either. Cuz politics is, you know, like a power game. , but my mother, my parents who taught me like how to protect myself in these situations, like I would call them. So I thought that was interesting. Like it's an interesting perspective and I don't know how it is on the East coast, but I won't have to drive there, so that'll be nice.

Oh, you said you will have to drive there? I won't have to drive, won't, which I'm like, okay. Okay, good. Now I just have to worry about whether or not it looks suspicious. Mm. Yeah, that was that. You brought up a good point. I, that line is really, is, um, really strong with who are we gonna call? Not the people making policy, not the people that we are supposedly supposed to trust.

Um, yeah. And towards the end of the book it says, at the National Museum of the American Indian. 68% of the collection is from the United States. I'm doing my best not to become a museum. Mm-hmm. , I don't know why I [00:23:00] thought of Black Panther , because, um, Killmonger, like in his opening scene is at a museum and he's like, do you know where this is from?

And like, those are my ancestors' kind of thing. And I think he has a, like, stealing it back with so many people who were like, kill monger the problem. Like, all this stuff. And I'm like, is he, or is he just trying to like, get the stuff that they stole back from him? Mm, do you remember when we read the Fire Keeper's Daughter by Angeline Bowl?

Yeah, that was great. Her, her new book about NAGPRA, the Native American Repatriation Act. It's about to come out. Oh, ooh. Yeah. Ooh, I'm gonna have to read that. I know. Since especially it has that museum connection, that whole poem actually is very powerful. Yeah. Yeah. And, and surprised. It surprised me in some ways, I think, because I didn't really.

You know how, you know, a thing without knowing it. I feel like that poem was one that made things visible. Yeah. I think I, um, I resonated with [00:24:00] what Benji said is that like, I really like, I love the idea of love and so I was really like, I was like, oh my gosh, I poetry book of I love yay. Mm-hmm . And then it was like, it's love, but not the kind that you think.

Yeah. So, and I also like how it like. Like you gotta love yourself first kind of thing. But also the protectors too. Like if we're gonna talk about who's protecting, we just, uh, discussed this illustration and we are the water protectors that shows all of this. All, it's actually a, the diversity in this picture is of indigeneity.

It's not, it, it is not a picture of other diverse communities in that, and so they are protecting themselves and their land, but they're also protecting, like, there's a, there's a whole other realm of protection that they're offering. Meanwhile, on the other side of this, what is not in this illustration are.

Is [00:25:00] the presence that was there. Um, uh, the sort of governmental police pro protection that was on the other side of that. So, so one is protecting maybe legal interests maybe. And the other one is protecting environmental, ethical. Yeah. Is she, yeah. So that would be a great discussion to. with that picture alone.

What's on the other side of that? You know, I like, I like that, um, my grandma, like her entire family were farm workers and like straight up farm workers from like Yuma. So, you know, they're like the reason that we have food on our table. Mm-hmm. And she was the first person to, I think like finished fifth grade in her family.

And so, um, she talks a lot about like the great protests of like CESA Chavez and how. there were like dogs and like, you know, like attacking them and like all that kind of stuff. And how her [00:26:00] parents didn't let her protest because like they needed the money so bad. Mm-hmm. because in like the sixties they paid like 12 cents per part of like everything that you picked.

And so like that perspective of like how do you do like what's right, but also keep your job but also, don't upset like government authorities. Right? Yeah. So I, I thought, I think a lot about that when I see like books like this and like, you know, like protecting our land and like also like our job is also to protect our people.

So how do we do that at the same time? Yeah. Um, do we have any final thoughts? I think binging. Yes. Um, so I was talking about how love, don't necessarily mean love earlier. So I'd like to call back to that a little bit cuz there are some like parts of this that [00:27:00] I feel like are very romantic. Um, like in Manhattan is a Lenape word.

There's a um, near the middle, and it says, she says, you make me feel like lightning. I say, I don't ever want to make you feel that white. It's too late. I can't stop seeing her bones. I'm counting the carpals, metacarpals of her hands inside me. And I feel like that's something that's like, that's so personal and so intimate, like just reading that makes me.

it feels like love reading that. Hmm. I like the way you say that. It feels like love. Yeah. I think I also like the representation of like, like, I don't know how to word this, but like brown love, like indigenous love, like, like, [00:28:00] like being able to fall in love, like uniquely and not letting like your race be the only thing that like defines you.

If that makes. There's also another part that I kind of wanted to say. The poem that you brought up itself, American Arithmetic. At the end it says, um, I'm a Native American, less than one, less than a whole. I'm less than myself, only a fraction of the body. Let's say I'm only a hand, and when I slip it beneath the shirt of my lover, I disappear completely, and I feel like.

also really says something that's so intimate, like being one with your partner, while also like talking about how you don't feel like you are one yourself. Yeah. There's also, we haven't talked about this poem yet, but they don't love you. Like I love you [00:29:00] Benji. What you were just saying reminded me of, of this poem, cuz there's also a feeling of the love from a mother.

And at the end of that poem there's, um, when my mother said, they don't love you, like I love you. She meant, Natalie, that doesn't mean you aren't good. So there's that outsider perspective. And then mom, again, the reference with Mom being the one you call, um, mom being the one to remind you of your, of your own worth and your love for yourself.

Yeah. That owed to. Um, there was one where, oh, here it says someone to love you. Someone not your kind. Someone white, some, someone, some many who live. I like, I like that one. Yeah.

Rebecca: Okay, so this is Rebecca with Worlds or Words Center of Global Literacies and Literatures here with the Teen Reading [00:30:00] Ambassadors, Benji, Itzel, and our lit discussant, Sarah. I also want to thank Liam Arias our, what would we call you? Production editor. Sound editor. Sound producer? He's getting a lot, he's getting lots of applause, Silent applause here from our group. We are recording in DIALL at the University of Arizona College of Education. And today we were talking about two books that are part of the Big Read, Arizona: We Are Water Protectors by Carol Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade, and Post-colonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz. For more information about the Big Read Tucson, visit BigRead, one word, b i g r e a