If you have met Tanya Zabinski, you know her positive, calm and infectious spirit! It has left its mark on Planet Love, the hand-printed clothing company with a positive message she cofounded with husband Joe DiPasquale, the Elmwood Arts Festival she also cofounded with Joe and other activists, her artwork, and now her first children’s book, Peace, Love, Action!: Everyday Acts of Goodness from A to Z.
In the introduction to a Peaceful Activist, we meet Tanya’s life-affirming world view as well as Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Shirley Chisholm and others who embody the spirit of the book. Throughout, there are beautiful ideas and beautiful words accompanied by beautiful artwork which will capture the imagination of readers, young and old alike.
Tanya Zabinski has been recognized by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Tomie dePaolo Award. Leafing through Peace, Love, Action: Everyday Acts of Goodness from A to Z touched my heart in a way that I paused to breathe, wonder, and yearn which are a few of the twenty-five actions described in the book. Yearn, for example is the deed connected with Guatemalan Rigberta Menchu Tum who won the Nobel peace prize in 1992. She dared to yearn for justice in her war-torn country and acted as a spokesperson for her native Mayan people. Through her organizing and publicizing efforts as well as attention for the Nobel peace prize, a thirty-six-year civil war ended, and Mayans were able to win back many rights.
Ordered alphabetically, the deeds in the book each have their own section. In it, there is a bio of an individual that embodies the deed (like Tum’s for yearn), an illustration of the hero, and an artful depiction of the action. Beginning with the letter A for Appreciation, the full-page artwork shows hands cradled over a heart, a gesture I felt compelled to imitate while leafing through the book. The hand-made prints are produced by silk-screen; the style is Tanya’s own. It is colorful, open and engaging. Once you become familiar with it, you will recognize it on t-shirts, posters and framed pieces all over town.
Ever practical in her approach, Tanya’s book is not about ideas and stories alone. Why waste the inspiration and energy evoked? Following each deed, biography, and picture of the action, there is a section called, “What you can do” that brings it back to the reader. In the Dream section, we remember the story of Martin Luther King whose dream led to a civil rights movement. In describing King’s dream of racial justice, Tanya uses language to create a picture of how King wanted to move toward the goal. “Martin knew that to achieve his dream of former adversaries sitting together at a table of brotherhood, the table needed to be set with respect and peace, forgiveness, and acceptance” What you can do is: “Envision what peace in the world would look like.”
In reviewing the book, I was both introduced to and revisited stories that inspire and remind me that individuals can make a difference. This kind of positive story-telling makes you want to get up each morning and do your best. There is something for everyone to identify with; the people highlighted come from different eras, cultures and races. One of them, Buffalonian Andrew Bienkowski, embodies thanks. He wrote a book, One Life to Give, based on his experience as a Polish child banished to Siberia during World War II. During that time, he watched his grandfather abstain from eating in order to provide food for younger family members and his mother find simple wonders in everyday life despite the harsh conditions. Bienkowski practices what he learned, referring to it as radical gratitude.
Peace, Love, Action: Everyday Acts of Goodness from A to Z is a gem targeted for middle schoolers who are developing their relationship to the world and what they can bring to it, yet it is relevant and appealing to all ages. It’s a reminder of what it’s all about in a world in which it’s easy to get distracted or off track. Open this book to any page and you will meet heroes not meant to be worshipped but to inspire us to find our way to peace, to love, to action. That’s why we are here. According to musician, Pete Seeger, who represents Sing, “the future of the world depends on finding the optimistic stories and letting them be known.”
In the book’s forward, written by Tanya’s friend, Ani DiFranco, she mentions something I call a Buffalo story. Looking back at the apartment they shared during their college days, DiFranco writes: “I don’t know if there was something special in the water in that little apartment, but each of us went on to create independent and self-directed careers making socially conscious art.” True, these women have made a powerful impact in their chosen realms on their own terms. Once again, Buffalo proves to be a fertile breeding ground for creative accomplishments. What will you do?
Start with viewing the Peace, Love, Action! art show on exhibit at Caffe Aroma (957 Elmwood Ave) through September and coming to the book signing at Talking Leaves (951 Elmwood Ave) on Sunday, September 15th from 3:00 until 6:00 p.m..