Latina writer of books for kids of all ages.

Posts tagged ‘Aisha Saeed’

A letter to RVA about Girls of Summer 2017

January 16, 2017

img_0609It’s MLK Day in our nation, during a time when our country is heartbreakingly fractured. On Saturday, January 14, 2017, the two of us took a stand and walked in the March on Monument, a peaceful coming together of the various social justice groups that serve the Richmond community.  Two thousand or so of our neighbors stood shoulder to shoulder chanting a call and response:

Show Me What Democracy Looks Like! THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!

What do we need? LOVE. When do we need it? NOW. What do we need? Unity. When do we need it? NOW.

There were older women and men. Parents pushing strollers and carrying signs. Old Basset hounds. Seasoned activists and college students. Wheelchair users. Artists, writers, musicians. And, members of the faith community.

Looking around, we saw our community celebrating diversity and inclusion at the statue of Robert E. Lee asking, How do we knit ourselves together in strength? How can we make our community a place where all people are respected and cared for? What can each of us offer?

We had been thinking long and hard about Girls of Summer, our curated reading list for strong girls, now approaching its seventh year. To be frank, last year, we wondered if it might be time to let the list go. Exhausted and overscheduled, we could point to dozens of other reading lists for girls to choose from.

But then the world got upended in deep and disturbing ways, most notably in an infamous video and talk of grabbing women by their genitals. And we realized that now was not the time to stop. There is still so much work to do together to make this world safe, secure, and nurturing of girls.

So plans have changed.

For the next four years, not only are we not letting go of Girls of Summer, but we are going to grow it big. We’ll use every ounce of our strength as authors, mothers, and literary citizens to build it up as a resource to empower young women of all ages to become lifelong readers and learners, with the tools to find their voices, to stand up, and to protect themselves.

So, here is the first of what will be many exciting changes this year:

Our Girls of Summer team is growing. We are joined by new and dynamic friends with loving ties to our city. These are book women, strong women, and advocates who will be helping to choose our list, plan our event, and spread the word to girls here at home and around the country. They are:

stacyhawkinsadamsheadshotStacy Hawkins Adams

amanda_headshot-cropped-300x294Amanda Nelson

aisha-saeed-headshotAisha Saeed

maya-smart-headshot-2016Maya Smart

 

 

 

In the coming months, you can expect to hear about new a partnership with Richmond Young Writers, too, as we develop new ways for young people to have access to our visiting authors. You’ll hear about a literary breakfast event organized by our longtime champions at the Richmond Public Library and about new schools and organizations who have asked to join us in this effort. And it’s our hope that you will, in fact, engage with us through attendance, earmarked donations to the Richmond Public Library foundation, and support with new and urgent energy.

We linked arms as we marched on Saturday, in effort to stay warm and in thanksgiving for this friendship of ours. Encircled by thousands of new friends, we got caught up in the spirit of loving kindness and the spirit of justice that rolled down Monument Avenue. How did this happen, we wondered? Just two girls: one with roots in Cuba and one from Mississippi, two friends who have found that it’s our differences that make us strong and our shared values that keep us brave.

Our friendship is what sparked Girls of Summer, but we know that friendship alone isn’t what sustains this important project. For that kind of sustenance, we need a community filled with smart people who care about books and reading in the lives of every day folks. (Here’s looking at you bbgb books and Kris Spisak – champions from the start.) We need a community that is invested in respecting and empowering females, from ages eight to eighty-eight. We need neighbors who insist on equality and inclusion where we live, work, and play.

And in Richmond, Virginia, as it turns out,  we have found exactly that.

Stayed tuned.

Meg Medina and Gigi Amateau are authors of works for young readers. Among their many projects, they are the cofounders of Girls of Summer List, a curated summer reading list for strong girls. They live (proudly) in Richmond, Virginia.

I’ll Be Asking the Questions Around Here, Bud: Moderating at the Library of Congress

LibCong

Will you be near Washington, DC on May 25?  If so, I invite you to join me for an hour at the Library of Congress where we’ll talk about the role of heritage in storytelling.

Last year, Karen Jaffe, Executive Director at the Young Readers Center, convened a successful symposium on strengthening families through diversity in children’s literature. It featured Kwame Alexander, Tim Tingle, Ellen Oh, Gigi Amateau and me. (Here’s the video).

We had such a good time that we’ve decided to do it again this year, adding to the menu of interesting initiatives the YRC is up to. (Hosting the recent Walter Awards, adding a new teen board, to name just two.)

So this year, I’m back to help as moderator, asking questions and learning along with everyone else in the room. Some of my favorite up- and-coming voices in children’s lit are on this panel: Wendy Shang, Aisha Saeed, Rene Colato Lainez, and Elizabeth Zunon. All are authors and/or illustrators whose personal stories and experiences have shaped their nuanced and honest books about how we come to see ourselves as part of the American family.

How do we face unflattering characterizations?  What is the balance of writing culturally specific stories and writing the universal?  How does the outsider come to feel like the insider, if ever? What are the challenges of naming and embracing home cultures in works for mainstream classrooms in the US?

All that and more on the 25th. Hope you’ll join us.image001

 

 

Girls of Summer’s Big, Bad, Birthday Bash

It’s here! The Girls of Summer Reading list goes live on our blog today. (Click over and check out the titles and our reviews.) But what this really means is that we’re at the start of a big week for us, since our live events happen this week, too. Last minute plans, airport pickups, raffle items – agh!

Gigi and I are so proud of the collection this year – especially since it marks our fifth anniversary of celebrating strong girls and reading.

Where did five years go?

We launched the list as our daughters were making their way out of high school. Today, Judith is living her dream of running a barn in California, training horses with a sure and skilled hand. Sandra has just moved into her own apartment in Washington, DC and will take the helm of a second grade class in the fall. And Cristina has recently landed her first official office job with Midas Auto Parts – an employer whose embrace of community extends to helping individuals with disabilities make meaningful contributions.

judithandtiny

Judith and Tiny

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Sandra’s graduation day with friends. Next stop DC!

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The ultimate strong girl: Cristina

Gigi and I have changed, too. We continue to write and publish books about strong girls and to see our respective careers unfold in ways that we could never have imagined five years ago. Earning the Pura Belpré award for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass has provided me an incredible platform that I hope I’ve used wisely. I’ve crisscrossed the country encouraging more books that represent all kinds of young people.

Gigi, Tim Tingle, Ellen Oh, Kwame Alexander and me at the Library of Congress

Gigi, Tim Tingle, Ellen Oh, Kwame Alexander and me at the Library of Congress

To Richmond’s great fortune, Gigi recently became the Chief Impact Officer for the United Way of Richmond and Petersburg, where she uses her skills and vision to manage $5.0 million in philanthropic grants and initiatives that help the people in our community learn more, earn more, and lead safe and healthy lives.

But most fun for us has been watching Girls of Summer grow. It’s not really ours any more. It belongs to the community – as it should. Our little project began as a personal expression of our passions for motherhood, books, girls, and our shared city. But five years later, it has been warmly embraced by the incredible staff at Richmond Public Library and bbgb books, where it is now an annual event covered by the likes of CNN and NPR. Other organizations – such as James River Writers, the Junior League, and Richmond Family Magazine – have found clever ways to add their spin to our original idea. Best of all, though, is that we get to see loyal teachers, librarians, parents, and girls come year after year for ice cream (thank you Dabney Morris!) and book lovin’.

I hope you’ll decide to escape this week’s heat wave (94 degree??? Bleh) and help us usher in the summer months. We’re having two celebrations in our area. You won’t be sorry if you come to both, especially since we’ve packed each one with amazing authors for a live Q & A and signing. Look who’s coming to party!

Patty Parks, librarian, Gigi and me at Girls of Summer 2012

Patty Parks, librarian, Gigi and me at our first Girls of Summer

Wednesday, June 17, 7 PM, at the Richmond Public Library, Main Branch, Franklin Avenue. We’ll be joined by two fantastic authors:  Debut novelist Aisha Saeed, a powerful and important new voice who helps lead the We Need Diverse Books campaign; and Sharon Draper, winner of multiple Coretta Scott King Awards and a New York Times bestseller. Sharon is this year’s winner of the American Library Association’s prestigious Margaret A. Edwards Award, which honors an author for significant and lasting contributions to young adult literature.

9780399171703_Written_in_the_Stars stella hi res

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, June 20, 2015, 1 – 3 PM, Northside Library, Charlottesville, VA. The Junior League of Charlottesville has been hard at work for months to welcome the ever-fabulous Newbery-Honor winner, author/illustrator CeCe Bell, and veteran writer – and debut novelist – Marilyn Hilton to our first-ever Girls of Summer WEST party.  Join them, plus some of our favorite Girls of Summer authors from the Charlottesville area for all the fun.

FoundThings_cover ElDeafo_HC_front copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See you all there!

IMG_0849 copyUn abrazo –

Meg

NY, NY: A Helluva Town

Who says you can't tell this story to a six-year-old?

Who says you can’t tell this story to a six-year-old?

Before I post the photos from BEA and BookCon in New York, I have to show you what I got in my inbox. It’s a project based on Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. My librarian friend, Shelley Armstrong, sent me the work of Jordan, Kasey, Myles, and Nick from Dr. Lee Bloxom’s 9th grade English class at the Thomas Dale High School West Campus in Richmond, VA. What better way to teach the impact of audience on writing, than to have a group of kids adapt a story for another age group?  Here’s my bad-ass YA novel as a picture book.  TDHS Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Butt. (Thanks for sending this Shelley!)

Okay, the photos I managed to get my hands on.

Next time you’re in the city, I recommend staying at the Library Hotel, at 41 and Madison Ave., just up the block from NYPL’s famous stone lions. The entire decor in the hotel is based on the Dewey decimal system, complete with an old card catalog at the reception desk. Each floor houses different categories. You can stay in the paranormal section, romance languages, botany. Even the street outside is decorated with brass plaques featuring quotes by famous literary figures. So strange and fun!

A hotel based on the Dewey decimal system. I was shelved in the Slavic Languages section.

I was shelved in the Slavic Languages section.

nypl-gwendolyn-brooks-poetry

I don’t think New Yorkers appreciated me stopping to read all the brass plaques…

 

I fell in love with a little gem of a school in the East Village called the Cornelia Connelly Center. Sweet, smart students – with great questions. Looking for a place to make a meaningful donation? This is it. Thank you CCC!

The fabulous students at Cornelia Connelley Center

The fabulous students at Cornelia Connelley Center

Thanks go to Candlewick for offering F&Gs of my new picture book and free copies of the paperback of YAQUI. I’m also psyched to read titles by my C’wick siblings. (So far, I peeked at the graphic memoir Honor Girl by Maggie Thasher. Amazing.) Look for them this fall.

After the signing of the F&Gs for MANGO.

After the signing of the F&Gs for MANGO.

New work by Todd Strasser, Laura Amy Schlitz, Maggie thrasher, M.T. Anderson, and Pat Schmatz

New work by Todd Strasser, Laura Amy Schlitz, Maggie Thrasher, M.T. Anderson, and Pat Schmatz

And finally, here is a shot of the Book Con panel on diversity. What can I say? This is what happens when you leave tired authors unattended backstage.

Aisha Saeed, me, IW Gregorio, Soman Chainani, Libba Bray, and Jaqueline Woodson. Why not pose with a forklift?  (Backstage at BookCon)

Aisha Saeed, me, IW Gregorio, Soman Chainani, Libba Bray, and Jaqueline Woodson. Why not pose with a forklift? (Backstage at BookCon)