Of Note: Time, Space, and Grace
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
HarperCollins Publisher, May 5, 2020
In Clap When You Land, Elizabeth Acevedo captures a story of two sisters, Camino and Yahaira, brought together by the loss of their father in a plane crash two months after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The sisters, similar to our students, are needing to find themselves during historical events and tragedy. The impact of the plane crash and subsequent journey of the sisters, shared in lyrical and poetic verse stanzas, is simple, intimate, raw, and deep. Currently, our students are needing to navigate a pandemic where grief, in all its non-linear glory, runs parallel to the expectations and requirements of returning to school. Camino and Yahaira were able to pause and take time for their journey. At our schools, that would be a luxury that we are often unable to provide for our students. What is our ethical responsibility? What happens to a young person's mind when confronted with mortality, instability, and the world shutting down like it did? When thinking of students sitting in the classrooms this fall, instructors and faculty at schools are working without full knowledge of the underlying storylines, narratives, and experiences that have shaped them. This book shows the importance of giving adolescents the time, space, and support they need to process their grief. The Dominican tradition of clapping when your flight lands is used to express blessings and gratitude for having arrived safely. Our students are unable to metaphorically clap as they are still on this pandemic journey. We are challenged to find the time and space to signal the runway ahead.