March 18, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Trump’s Immigration Policy Prompts Publisher to Fast-Track Statue of Liberty Book

Update: This story’s headline has been revised from an earlier version, which associated the moving up of the book’s publication date with Aug 2 comments by White House senior policy advisor Stephen Miller. Chronicle made the decision to move publication in February after the Trump administration issued executive orders limiting immigration, according to a Chronicle spokesperson.

The Statue of Liberty, the 130-year-old icon standing in New York Harbor has recently been embroiled in a debate over its symbolism in relation to immigration—and a children’s publisher has responded swiftly.

Chronicle Books has moved up publication of Her Right Foot, a poetic homage to the statue that notes the sculpture’s dynamic movement, written by Dave Eggers and illustrated by Shawn Harris.

“In response to the heightened concern for the rights of immigrants and refugees seeking to enter the United States, Chronicle Books and author Dave Eggers moved up the publication of Her Right Foot from Spring 2018 to Fall 2017,” the publisher said in a statement. The book will publish on September 19.

The statue became the flashpoint at a recent news briefing regarding President Trump’s immigration policies. Stephen Miller, a Trump senior policy adviser, in answering a question by CNN reporter Jim Acosta, denied that the Statue of Liberty was a symbol of immigration, despite its description as such in the Emma Lazarus poem “The New Colossus.”

“The Statue of Liberty is a symbol of American liberty lighting the world. The poem that you’re referring to was added later [and] is not actually part of the original Statue of Liberty,” Miller said.

In fact, Lazarus wrote the poem for an 1883 auction to raise funds for the statue’s pedestal. In 1903, years after the statue opened to the public, a plaque with the poem was mounted on the statue.

A spread from ‘Her Right Foot’ portraying a refugee camp in Syria

In Her Right Foot, the immigrant and refugee experience is captured with a two-page spread of a Red Crescent camp in Syria, where refugees receive protection and supplies while waiting for a country to grant them asylum. “I knew it might be a controversial, political spread to include in a picture book,” Harris explains. “I thought it was a really important image for kids and their adults to see, because it connects the statue to today’s news. These are some people [who are deeply] affected by that argument Stephen Miller and Jim Acosta were having on our screens the other day.”

The idea for the book came to Eggers when he and his family were on the ferry to Liberty Island one morning to visit the statue. “It was cold and rainy, and we were surrounded by hundreds of people speaking dozens of languages,” he said in a press release. “We were all soaked—we were actually the huddled masses going to Liberty Island….The Statue of Liberty’s position of action and welcome—striding into the sea to meet new arrivals—struck me as crucial to remember,” he said.

Miller’s recent focus on the statue took Eggers and Harris by surprise. “It was pretty wild to watch a debate in the White House briefing room about what the Statue of Liberty means,” says Harris. “I’ve been immersed in just that question all year.”

The statue “means something very personal to nearly everyone,” says the book’s editor, Taylor Norman. “[Miller’s comments] exposed exactly how precisely interpretation is tailored to experience and perspective.”

Chronicle is inviting parents, teachers, and librarians to download an excerpt of Her Right Foot to share with children 12 and under—and to create a picture showing what the Statue of Liberty means to them for a chance to win a signed copy of the book and a letter from Eggers.

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Rocco Staino About Rocco Staino

Rocco Staino @RoccoA is the retired director of the Keefe Library of the North Salem School District in New York. He is now a contributing editor for School Library Journal and also writes for the Huffington Post.

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