Years ago, I worked in a Manhattan library where my immediate co-workers included young people from Sri Lanka, Cameroon, and Honduras. Ever the ham, I bemoaned what I saw as my bland origins--I grew up in Illinois.
"Where were your ancestors from?" asked my supervisor.
I rattled off the different countries.
"So you're a mutt!" he teased.
"I prefer to think of myself as a beautiful mosaic!" I spread out my arms and tilted my chin for effect. (Did I mention that I'm a ham?)
"Beautiful mosaic" was an expression frequently used by New York City's then Mayor, David Dinkins, to characterize the magnificent diversity of New York City. Other metaphors for diversity over the years have included melting pot, patchwork quilt, and the understandably little used tossed salad.
I confess that my favorite of the four is mosaic, though perhaps I'm impartial since the Des Plaines Public Library is a proud participant in a program known as the Suburban Mosaic. Founded in 2004, the Suburban Mosaic is a community-wide reading program that seeks to foster cultural understanding through literature. Every year, representatives from schools, libraries and other organizations in suburban Cook and Lake counties come together to select three to five books, each at a different reading level, that embody the Suburban Mosaic's vision: "To reach a deeper understanding of the various cultures that make up the suburbs of Cook and Lake County, Illinois, in order to reduce prejudice, racism and the systemic marginalization of populations."
This year's selections include the books Say Hello! by Rachel Isadora, for pre-schoolers, and Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok, for adults and high-schoolers. To learn more about the Suburban Mosaic, stop by the Readers' Services desk to pick up a brochure or check out the Suburban Mosaic website.
Which term do you feel best conveys our country's--or our community's--diversity? Melting pot, mosaic, patchwork quilt, tossed salad or something else?