Rubin, Susan Goldman. Maya Lin: Thinking with Her Hands. Biography. Chronicle, 11/2017. 99pp. $17.99. 978-1-4521-0837-7. OUTSTANDING. GRADES 6-10.
In the new biography of Maya Lin, designer of monuments such as the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington, DC and the Civil Rights Memorial in Little Rock, Arkansas, author Susan Rubin and the design team at Chronicle Books have created a superb example of children’s non-fiction. Every textual and design choice adds meaning and echos the subject, Lin, and her process of creation. The author’s quiet, economic text and choice of insightful quotations keeps the focus on Lin’s thoughts regarding her own work. Why list names chronologically? Why choose a particular color or shape? What Rubin gracefully reveals is that Chinese American Lin designs for the human scale and to serve those who visit her memorials. In the case of the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial she sought to help visitors heal from and understand the Vietnam War. This may be a revelation to most when monuments typically reflect nationalism or a singular historic figure. Throughout her career, Lin has created public spaces for quiet contemplation and reflection. Especially of interest is the way Lin weaves research, architecture, design, psychology, math, and science together in her work. Use this book for STEAM assignments, women in the sciences and arts, or anyone seeking a well-crafted biography, but by all means get this for your middle school and high school collections. Lin’s latest memorial, “What Is Missing?” incorporates multiple sites and includes an online portal to reflect on the extinction of species, once again revealing the deeply thoughtful and humane mind of Maya Lin. This book includes bibliography, source notes, and index.
Emma Coleman, Berkeley Public Library