I sat in a wooden desk, its top scarred by the pens and knives of students who had gone before me, and stared at the map of the world hanging over the blackboard. "This represents the earth," Mrs. Gallagher said emphatically as my feet swung a few inches above the floor. "North is at the top, south at the bottom. You need to know how to read maps, so that you know where you are."
I could not challenge my teacher, but I didn't know what to make of all this. For one thing, the way I perceived towns and cities, countries and continents did not match the neat, concise way they appeared on maps. For another, even when I learned Mrs. Gallagher's basic map-reading formula, I often did not know where I was. Her formula did not answer my questions. My grandmother told me that Syria and Lebanon hadn't been separate countries when she was growing up, but Mrs. Gallagher spoke adamantly about clear boundaries between them, past and present.
Confused, I dangled my feet in silence.
My dictionary tells me a map is a representation of the earth's surface showing both physical and political features. This definition fits with what I now believe about maps: they exist in many forms, some are complicated and contradictory, and north is not always at the top. Different maps also provide us with new information about where we are. Creating a map is a powerful experience. Food For Our Grandmothers can also be understood as a map, representing both physical and political features of the earth's surface. Complicated and contradictory, north is not always at the top. It provides new information about where and how we locate ourselves in the world. Finally, creating this book has empowered, and hopefully will continue to empower many of us.
Maps appear in different forms. Mrs. Gallagher never explained that, but I've figured it out myself. It's true that some maps are on flat