Latina writer of books for kids of all ages.

MLK_Memorial_NPS_photoThis weekend I traveled from one corner of Virginia to the other – from the rural mountains of Farmville all the way to Arlington/Washington DC area. I can’t think of a better way to have celebrated the spirit of Martin Luther King Day.

logoMy first stop on Saturday was in Farmville. I was invited by the folks behind the Virginia Children’s Book Festival to tour  the Moton Museum and other sites for the upcoming VCBF (Oct 16 – 17, 2015). The Museum, as part of its commitment to children in the Farmville area, is a founding partner in the festival.

The Moton is also an absolute gem. It’s the former Moton High School – and the historic site of a student walkout led by 16-year-old Barbara Johns and fellow students who demanded better conditions. Their case eventually got picked up by civil rights attorney Oliver Hill and became part of the five cases that made up Brown v. Board of Education. 

Justin Reid, the museum’s associate director for operations, led us through the exhibits, which are a visual chronology of Virginia’s role in the early civil rights movement. Many of the families who were part of movement – as well as those who wished to keep schools segregated – still live in Farmville.  Prince Edward County participated in Massive Resistance, of course, shuttering schools rather than integrating, so there is an especially poignant personal element to all the photos and artifacts. But there’s also a spirit of forward movement and strength. Places like the Moton are our best hope to forge reconciliation and understanding. They tell our most difficult stories as a country through the personal stories of the people who lived them.  If you haven’t been to the Moton, put it on your list.

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A.B. Westrick, Gigi Amateau, and me getting ready to take our seats in the theater. We were in the second row!

When we think of people whose rights have historically been ignored, we can certainly include young people with disabilities, too. On Sunday, I had the pleasure of traveling  to DC with my pals Gigi Amateau and A.B. Westrick. We went to see Mockingbird, a family theater performance at The Kennedy Center. I’d never been to the Kennedy Center, so that felt like a thrill in  and of itself. But even better, we were there to see our friend’s book performed as theater. The play, adapted by Julie Jensen and directed by Tracy Callahan, is based on Mockingbird, winner of the 2010 National Book Award, and written by our friend (and fellow Virginia author) Kathy Erskine.  We were crazy proud. Really, all we were missing were pom-poms.

The play captured the delicate balance of grief, hope, and healing that Kathy laid out in her novel. Told through the eyes of Caitlin, a girl with autism, the play allows the audience inside the  heart and mind of a young woman whose challenges can easily keep her isolated. It is by turns hilarious and touching – but also unerringly true about grief, families, and love. Everything from the use of technology in the set design to the nuanced performance by Dylan Silver in the lead role was absolutely perfect. I’ll tell you right here, bring tissues.  The play runs through Feb.1. Tickets are $20.  Highly recommended.

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So cool to be included in  NBC’s Top Latino picks for 2014. Super way to end the year with a celebration for the paperback publication of Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass (Aug 2014)...and with great hope for the Spanish edition that’s coming soon.

And now I have some fantastic reading to do.

 

logoCatherine Komp, radio producer at Virginia Currents on NPR (locally WCVE 88.9 FM,) recently sent me the audio documentary below. Created by her colleagues for a show called Making Contactit examines migrant deaths on our borders.

A look at migration through  magical realism Finalist International Latino Book Awards, 2014

A look at migration through magical realism
Finalist International Latino Book Awards, 2014

When I was writing The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind, I struggled many times as I wrote scenes of unspeakable violence.   Should I write such gruesome things for young people?  Was it necessary or gratuitous?

In the end, I chose to include the awful details, leaning toward telling fiction as honestly as I could.

I hope you’ll carve out a little time to listen to the audio. January ushers in a new Congress and a fresh immigration battle. The debate will be heated on both sides, a healthy – if painful – exercise. What I continue to ask is that we remember that, in the end, we are talking about people, about human beings, and about the ethics of addressing suffering.

It’s not every day your publisher sings their holiday greetings. But here you go – another small example of why I love Candlewick.  (The bloopers especially give you a sense of their personality.) Enjoy! And if you are on Pinterest and want a list of the books they used, go here.

Remember to tuck in a book or two as holiday gifts for the little ones!

My cheeks are hurting from all the smiling and waving. A great parade! Thanks, Maya, for being such an awesome force in Richmond, VA!

 

 

Maya overseeing her punch list and elves

Maya overseeing her punch list and elves

 

 

It takes a lot of elves (armed with staple guns and power tools) to make a float...

It takes a lot of elves (armed with staple guns and power tools) to make a float…

One of my most treasured memories with the truly beautiful woman, Maya Smart

One of my most treasured memories with the truly beautiful woman, Maya Smart

 

The float from the front

The float from the front

....and the rear!

….and the rear!

Maya getting a bear hug and preparing to give out Peter lush toys and copies of The Snowy Day to parade watchers

Maya getting a bear hug and preparing to give out Peter plush toys and copies of The Snowy Day to parade watchers

 

The lovely young women who carried our banner in the rain!

The lovely young women who carried our banner in the rain.

white jacket and red scarf supplied by the Christmas mother. (All jackets will be donated.)

White jacket, red hoodies, scarves and gloves supplied by the Christmas Mother. (All items will be donated.)

 

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Richmond’s ever-expanding diversity was on display!

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I don’t have a shot of it, but I swear there was a dancing fruitcake float. Seriously…

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The Segway riders felt the need to be understated this year.

The Segway riders felt the need to be understated this year.

Yes,horses in Santa hats

Yes,horses in Santa hats

Freeman HS band

Freeman HS band

The Peppas!  (VCU Pep band, all amped up for the VCU/UVA game at 2 PM. They were singing Ram songs while talking this photo...

The Peppas! VCU Pep band, all amped up for the VCU/UVA game at 2 PM. They were singing Ram songs while talking this photo…Go RAMS!

I’ll admit that I haven’t gone to Dominion’s Christmas Parade since my kids were very little.

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Photo courtesy of The Richmond Times Dispatch

But this year, my friend Maya – part of the beloved Maya and Shaka Smart duo – was named the Richmond Christmas Mother, the youngest one in the program’s 80-year history. In one fell swoop, the annual donation drive that once felt like a throwback to another generation suddenly felt contemporary, electric and fun. (To donate click here.)

One part of Maya’s motherly duties is to march in the annual Christmas parade to be held tomorrow, Dec 6. And guess who’s coming along?

2011_keats_snow_heroTrue to her passions, she has chosen a theme built on Ezra Jack Keats’  The Snowy Day, the ground-breaking 1962 classic. It’s a universal story about the joy of being little and walking through a city winter wonderland. But in a year when there has been so much conversation about books that speak to all children’s experiences (and why all kids need all stories,) the choice is perfect. I’m proud to say that Maya asked me to join in the parade as a past winner of the Ezra Jack Keats Award, which celebrates new authors and illustrators whose books feature diverse children as the main character. You can take a look at the list of all EJK award winners if you’re looking for meaningful stocking stuffers this year.

Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 8.50.02 AMSo look for us tomorrow – rain or shine. We’ll be the super-enthusiastic book lovers dressed in our own version of red snowsuits. We’ll be waving at you from in front of the trolley which Maya has decked out in coffee filter snowflakes and filled with all her hopes for kids who can find their curiosity, their path, and their story in the pages of a book. (Full parade info/route here.)

Happy holidays, all!

Check out Maya on Virginia This Morning: 

 

Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 9.34.46 PMYou’re invited to join me at a book club tonight and the best part is that you never have to leave the comfort of your stretchy pants and living room. That’s because I’m going to be part of the Las Comadres Young Adult Teleconference Book Club at 8 PM.

Here’s the number and code: Dial in #: 1-877-383-4771
Code: 120120143

If you’re not familiar, Las Comadres is a nationally known Latina organization whose mission is to “empower women to be actively engaged in the growing Latino/Hispanic communities through online and face to face networks.” What I like about Las Comadres is that its spine is mentoring. The idea is to share information, to help each other succeed, and to celebrate our cultural heritage along the way. Last fall, I had the pleasure of being part of the Las Comadres Writers Conference at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, a gathering of established and up-and-coming Latino authors, editors, and agents. It was such a great time for me to work with writers who are coming up behind me and also to connect with people, like Esmeralda Santiago, whose work I’ve long admired. (José Vilson, was another highlight. Check out his bad ass teacher blog, particularly valuable in the wake of the events in Ferguson.)

Anyway, for tonight, founder Nora Comstock is going to lead the conversation about Pura Belpré – the woman and the award that so many people just can’t pronounce – and how I’ve used my year to honor her memory. We’ll also talk on bullying and identity issues, specifically through the Latino lens. (Bean jokes, knife jokes, jail jokes, go-back-where-you-came-from comments…I could go on.) Anyway, I’m thrilled that Dr. Andrea Romero of the University of Arizona and associate editor of Journal of Latino/a Psychology is going to join us, too.

I hope you can make it. Check out the upcoming authors, too.  I just registered for the Dec. 15 session. The book of the month is The Clairvoyant of Calle Ocho by Anjanette Delgado, which I haven’t read yet, but it also features additional conversation with Daisy Hernandez, whose memoir, A Cup of Water Under My Bed, was one of my favorite reads this year. Looking forward to it.

Cariños de,
Meg

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