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Playing at the Border

A Story of Yo-Yo Ma



Harper Collins

(pub. 9.28.2021) 40 pages

Author: Joanna Ho

Illustrator: Teresa Martinez

Character: Yo-Yo Ma

Overview: "Before Yo-Yo Ma became one of the most renowned and celebrated cellists, he wanted to play the double bass. But it was too big for his four-year-old hands. Over time, Ma honed his amazing talent, and his music became a reflection of his own life between borders, cultures, disciplines, and generations.

Since then, he has recorded over a hundred albums, won nineteen Grammy Awards, performed for eight American presidents, and received the National Medal of the Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, just to name a few accomplishments.

Staying true to himself, Yo-Yo Ma performed at the US-Mexico border at the Rio Grande on April 13, 2019, as part of his multi-continent “Bach Project” tour to prove a point—through music, we can build bridges rather than walls between different cultures."

Tantalizing taste:

"Feet planted on the soil of one nation,

eyes gazing at the shores of another,

Yo-Yo Ma coaxed Petunia's strings to sing

Bach's cello suites.

Their notes danced over rocks and rivers

and walls

into the sky."

And something more: Joanna Ho shares in the Author's Note: "My mom used to blast a CD of Yo-Yo Ma playing Bach's cello suites early every Saturday morning. As a teenager, I hated it; I just wanted her to turn it off so I could sleep in...Now the cello suites remind me of her, a woman whose love and strength and power continue to astound me. My mom immigrated to the United States from Taiwan in her early twenties... When Yo-Yo Ma played at the border, it was an action of resistance and celebration, a reminder of the worth of immigrants, the work of immigrants, the belonging of immigrants here and everywhere. It felt like an act for me, for my family, and for anyone who has ever moved away from home in order to build a better life."


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