In This We Pray | Sea of People I present two visual poems in response to the challenging times in which we live. While This We Pray calls us to prayer and contemplation, Sea of People calls us to action, two forms of discourse that are the necessary ends of the same spectrum: the one providing the moral ground for the other, i.e., “right action,” action that is positive, peaceful, and progressive. Although presented in a slim picture book format, this book is for older readers, unless an adult caregiver, i.e., teacher, parent, or guardian, sits with a younger child to discuss the content behind the two visual poems. All in all, This We Pray | Sea of People is an excellent jumping off point for a discussion about social events dominating the news today.
Interior Doublespread from This We Pray
In my life as a writer, over thirty years now, I never know how a story will manifest itself. This book is a case in point. I wrote This We Pray over twenty-five years ago, after the Rodney King episode. I was struck then as I am now with the inequities of the system. How the police could beat a black man and get away with it. But I was writing children's books at the time, and this was certainly no children's book, so I put it away.
Then, anticipating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, I wrote Sea of People, but again there was no market for it. The editors I approached all said the same thing: every publisher is going to have their 50th anniversary book, so we need a "big name" behind our commemorative book to compete. Well, I was not a big name, so again I put it away.
Then George Floyd was murdered at the hands of Minneapolis police. The country was outraged and the streets erupted in protest, most of them peaceful, but some of them violent. I could not help but think of the two stories—more homages than stories—that I had written and thought that they certainly spoke to the times, not as single entities, but as a combined statement urging self-reflection and contemplation as the moral high ground for action. That's how This We Pray | Sea of People came to be.
This We Pray | Sea of People by W. Nikola-Lisa is a tiny black and white picture book with a big colorful message. Its content, only two poems and pictures of young faces from multiple races. It is short and simple, but its effect on my brain has been long and deep... I liked how the powerful message of social equality and justice is presented in such a simple way, because not only my attention as the reader was not distracted by the importance of the subject, but also it reflected the simplicity of the problem—like black and white, the problem of violence and injustice is there evident and clear for all to see. There is no disguising it... Overall, I give this tiny book five stars, for its message, for the presentation, and for the courage to expose a horrible reality without dressing it up. I am glad I read this book and recommend it to everyone, especially in the U.S.Reviewed by Lili (aged 15), for Reader Views Kids, 25 October 2020
W. Nikola-Lisa uses a light hand to delve into topics that include violence against black people, ethnic disparity, and systematic racism in this compelling collection. Arranged in two sections, Nikola-Lisa juxtaposes startling observations with more common images, making the collection feel familiar and at the same time candid and original. With stunning black and white photographs, the text feels immersive while the moving phrasing and economical verses (“A sister weeps. / A mother wails. / A father clenches his fists / and walks away.”) help maintain a brisk, compelling pace. Timely and reflective, the book offers the reader a lasting meditation on prejudice and racial disparity. Reviewed by Prairies Book Review, 10 October 2020
Interior Doublespread from Sea of People
Title: This We Pray | Sea of People
Author: W. Nikola-Lisa
Publisher: Gyroscope Books
Design: Six Penny Graphics
Genre: Social Commentary
Audience: Young Adult and Older
Page Count: 56
Library of Congress Control Number: 2020913811
PCIP Data Included on Copyright Page
Pub Date: 17 September 2020
Available in the Following Formats:
ISBN: 978-1-7341923-3-9 (8 x 8 hardcover)
ISBN: 978-1-7341923-4-6 (6.5 x 6.5 paperback)
ISBN: 978-1-7341923-5-3 (fixed image ebook)
For orders by U.S. trade bookstores, retail outlets, and public libraries,
please contact the Ingram Content Group: Retail (800) 937-8000,