You Belong Here: An Illustrated Antidote to Our Existential Homelessness
Sweet consolation for the lifelong alienation that afflicts each of us at different times and in different measures.
By Maria Popova
There is hardly a more elemental human need than our need for belonging — in a place, in a heart, in ourselves. Perhaps this is why we are so susceptible to that particular kind of loneliness that begins in childhood, as we try to master the “fertile solitude” necessary for self-esteem, and can so often morph into a kind of existential homelessness as we grow older and slip into continually narrowing landscapes of possibility. “You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place,” Maya Angelou told Bill Moyers in their fantastic 1973 conversation about freedom.
Illustrated by Isabel Arsenault — the artist behind such treasures as a picture-book about Louise Bourgeois, a graphic novel inspired by Jane Eyre, and the story of Virginia Woolf and her sister — the lyrical and almost songlike story meets different creatures in their habitats and homes: the whales in the sea, the deer in the forest, the frogs and the lilies in the lake, the lizard on the sunlit rock. Each creature belongs exactly where it is.
An invisible narrator addresses an invisible listener — perhaps a child, or the inner child that lives in each of us — with the assurance that the two belong together, no matter how far and across how many landscapes they may travel from one another.
The stars belong in the deep night sky
and the moon belongs there too,
and the winds belong in each place they blow by
and I belong here
Complement You Belong Here — sweet consolation for the lifelong alienation that afflicts each of us at different times and in different measures — with Derek Walcott’s timeless ode to being at home in ourselves, Carson Ellis’s lovely illustrated celebration of the many meanings of home, and Kurt Vonnegut on belonging in community, then revisit the beautiful and bittersweet Arsenault-illustrated story of how Paul Gauguin became an artist and Clark’s wonderful Tiny Perfect Things.
Published September 6, 2018