Dec 6, 2012
Taylor Cheney

Featuring SC Children’s Literature – “I Saw Your Face”

by Taylor Cheney

The age-old idiom “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” could not be more true for Tom Feelings’ I Saw Your Face. This cliche reasoning is not because the book’s binding is misleading, or unpleasant to the eye in any way. It is because that while the story may look like it belongs in a library’s young adult section or stacked upon a little boy or girl’s bookshelf, the pages reveal a mature subject and a poetic depth that does not often characterize children’s literature.

The short story goes beyond the text to possess a narration all its own. While the story is about Feelings’ African heritage and his journeys and the faces he came across around the world, the text itself was written by his friend and colleague, Kwame Dawes. The Jamaican native has been an influential writer, poet and musician, including a cherished former English professor at the University of South Carolina. In the introduction to I Saw Your Face, Dawes explains the birth of the story and how the text was an emotional response to Feelings’ illustrations, who was also a former art professor at the University of South Carolina. Their sensational bond is unavoidable and is a “lasting testament to Tom’s kindness and visionary force.”

Each page carries a different face and expression following a story of survival, identity, and the quest for familiarity. Dawes writes that in all his travels, he always has this “peculiar sense of seeing faces that look so familiar” even though there is no way he could have before. From Suriname, to New Orleans, Mombasa, Savannah – these faces follow the writer that  look the same but have their own defining characteristics about them. These are the faces of Dawes’ and Feelings’ culture, “full of ancient stories and dreams,” that do not haunt them, but instead exist as reminders that no matter where we go, our origins never leave us.