A Letter from Dave Eggers about His Statue of Liberty-Themed Children’s Book
For his second children’s book, Dave Eggers has written about Lady Liberty and what she stands for.
I lived in New York for a few years in the 1990s, but never managed to make it to Liberty Island. Finally, in 2015, my family and I visited NYC, and we took the ferry from Battery Park. For some reason we did this in January. It was raining and cold and the water was gray and choppy. Everyone on the ferry was cold and soaked, and the ferry was crowded and smelled of wet human, but somehow everyone was in a good mood. We were the huddled masses that day, and because there were dozens of languages being spoken, it felt in some distant way like being aboard one of those old ships bringing new Americans in from the sea.
When we got to the Statue of Liberty, I noticed something I never had before, and that was that the Statue of Liberty was in mid-stride. It was a thunderclap moment. I had seen probably 10,000 images of the Statue over the years, and never once did any of them show — or at least emphasize — this seemingly significant aspect of this essential symbol of immigration and welcome. The lady was on the move.
So I started mulling that, what that might mean, and thought it might make a good subject for a picture book, especially given that around that time, the election was nearing and anti-immigrant sentiment was becoming louder and more pervasive.
It’s a baffling aspect of the American species that we periodically forget that almost all of us are immigrants. The symbol of this country is the Statue of Liberty, and the Statue of Liberty is not a symbol of xenophobia, fear, or isolationism. The symbol of America is a symbol of welcome. It’s a woman in a robe walking out to sea, to light the way for those coming to our shores.
I think it’s important that we talk about it. It’s especially important that we talk about it with our kids. The news these days is volatile and unsettling, and our kids are scared. We need to show them how to be brave. We need to learn from their tolerance and curiosity and open minds. We need to teach them what this country is supposed to stand for. And that’s why I wrote this book for them.
So that’s what Her Right Foot is about. It has been beautifully illustrated by a man named Shawn Harris, and I hope you like it.
— Dave Eggers