Since being published in 2016, the book Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas, by Gwendolyn Hooks, has garnered a lot of praise. This book is special because it tells the important story of Vivien Thomas – both his amazing contribution to the medical world and the struggles that he had to face in being a black man who wanted to study medicine.
Vivien Thomas grew up in Nashville in a time where African-Americans and whites were highly segregated. Thomas dreamed of being a doctor from a young age, but couldn’t afford medical school, especially after the stock market crash of 1929. Fortunately, he was able to get a job with Dr. Alfred Blalock at Vanderbilt University. The all white school would never have admitted him as a student, but he did manage to get the job. There was kickback because he was black, and he would later discover that his official job title and pay were as a janitor rather than a medical research technician, but he also found kind mentors along the way who saw his amazing potential.
Young minds will be opened when the book moves from Nashville to Baltimore and Thomas struggles from more racism then he had faced before. Thomas didn’t let it get to him, but rather, worked harder and wound up making major advances in surgery on pediatric heart patients known as blue babies. He saved lives and got no credit.
With all of the obstacles that Vivien Thomas faced he could have been angry and bitter, but he paid forward the kindness that had been bestowed on him by helping countless other doctors. We can all look to Thomas and his power to focus on the positives and the kindness of others rather than allowing racism and fear weigh him down. A powerful nonfiction book that is especially meaningful during Black History Month.
It is Wednesday, so this means that this post is part of the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted by KidLitFrenzy. For more great nonfiction picture books, head over to KidLitFrenzy!