A Kirkus Prize Finalist for Nonfiction
A Southern Book Prize Finalist
An NPR Best Book of 2020
An Esquire Best Book of 2020
A BookPage Best Book of 2020
A New York Public Library Best Book of 2020
A Wall Street Journal Holiday Gift Pick for 2020
An Indie Next Pick, September 2019
A Publishers Weekly "Big Indie Book of Fall 2020"
A BuzzFeed Best Book of Fall 2020
A Literary Hub "Most Anticipated Book of 2020
A Ralph Lauren Summer Reading Recommendation
A Garden & Gun Summer Reading Recommendation
A Bustle "Best Book of Fall 2020
Named a "Most Anticipated Book of 2020" by The Millions
An Alma "Favorite Book for Fall 2020"
A Literary Hub "Recommended Climate Read for September 2020"
A Mpls.St.Paul Magazine Reading Recommendation for Fall 2020
As a child, Nezhukumatathil called many places home: the grounds of a Kansas mental institution, where her Filipina mother was a doctor; the open skies and tall mountains of Arizona, where she hiked with her Indian father; and the chillier climes of western New York and Ohio. But no matter where she was transplanted--no matter how awkward the fit or forbidding the landscape--she was able to turn to our world's fierce and funny creatures for guidance.
"What the peacock can do," she tells us, "is remind you of a home you will run away from and run back to all your life." The axolotl teaches us to smile, even in the face of unkindness; the touch-me-not plant shows us how to shake off unwanted advances; the narwhal demonstrates how to survive in hostile environments. Even in the strange and the unlovely, Nezhukumatathil finds beauty and kinship. For it is this way with wonder: it requires that we are curious enough to look past the distractions in order to fully appreciate the world's gifts.
Warm, lyrical, and gorgeously illustrated by Fumi Nakamura, World of Wonders is a book of sustenance and joy.
- ISBN-13: 9781571313652
- ISBN-10: 1571313656
- Publisher: Milkweed Editions
- Publish Date: September 2020
- Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.7 x 0.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.8 pounds
- Page Count: 184
World of Wonders
Poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s writing often praises the earth and its bounty. In her first nonfiction work, World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments, Nezhukumatathil expands her reflections into essays accompanied by illustrations by Fumi Nakamura.
Nezhukumatathil’s delight in the world isn’t dulled by the world’s racism, but she doesn’t shy away from sharing her experiences of being on the receiving end of discrimination. In third grade, for example, Nezhukumatathil drew a peacock, her favorite animal, for the class animal-drawing contest. She had just returned from southern India, her father’s native country, and she was elated by its colorful animals. Her teacher was less enamored. “Some of us will have to start over and draw American animals. We live in Ah-mer-i-kah!” the teacher declared after spotting Nezhukumatathil’s drawing.
Both of Nezhukumatathil’s parents are immigrants (her mother is from the Philippines), and throughout World of Wonders, she describes the foundation they laid for her and her sister. As their family moved across the country, her parents encouraged their daughters to experience the outdoors. No matter their ZIP code, Nezhukumatathil followed her curiosity and found a home in the natural world.
That childhood connection to nature echoes through her adulthood, where plants and animals connect Nezhukumatathil’s present to her past. The catalpa tree offered shade for Nezhukumatathil and her sister as they walked from their home in Kansas to the hospital where their mother worked. When Nezhukumatathil moves to Oxford, Mississippi, to teach at the university, she expects to need the catalpa tree to provide shelter from people’s curiosity about her brown skin. But no one stares at her in Mississippi. Instead, the trees provide shade as she rushes to class, just as they did years ago.
By examining the world around her, Nezhukumatathil finds an ongoing sense of connection to that world, signaling to her like a firefly: “They blink on and off, a lime glow to the summer night air, as if to say: I am still here, you are still here, I am still here, you are still here, I am, you are, over and over again.” World of Wonders is as sparkling as an armful of glass bangles and as colorful as the peacocks that first captured Nezhukumatathil’s imagination.