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When Jesmyn Ward, author of Where the Line Bleeds and Salvage the Bones, spoke at the commencement ceremony at Tulane University in New Orleans, La., she shared more than an inspirational pep talk for the graduates as they faced an uncertain future.

In Navigate Your Stars, artist Gina Triplett’s contrasting bright and dark illustrations effectively highlight Ward’s words, which capture the hardships experienced by her African American parents and grandmother. She especially expounds on their faith in education, which “seemed like a magical key that would open the door to a life not bound by poverty, not restricted by the circumstances of birth.”

However, Ward warns, her university education didn’t deliver an easy road to her success as a published writer. Instead, she had to adapt to the realities she faced, just as her parents and grandmother had to adjust all their lives to the obstacles they encountered. Ward took step after step to continue her education, to find work, to deal with crises in her life, in short, to persevere. 

As Ward grew in understanding the relationship between perseverance and success, she gained a different perspective on her grandmother, parents, aunts and uncles, and others in her rural, black community: “I looked at them and all the old disdain for their lives I’d harbored dissolved, and it turned to understanding. I understood what it meant to do the best you can with what you’ve been given.”

Ward’s wise words have much to offer people who are contemplating their futures. Christian readers, though, hold to a different foundational hope and perspective on success than delineated in Ward’s speech. They believe that God is our guide and, as he calls us to a life of serving him and others, we find joy and godly success. (Scribner)

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