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Aisha Saeed

Wanna Be In My Book Club?

By Appearances, Community work, What I'm Reading No Comments
Nothing means summer more to me than reading outside. Whether at the pool, park or beach, it’s been a life-long passion and a way that I reset. The summer is when I dive into the books that truly appeal to me, instead of the ones that I dutifully read for reviews, presentations or teaching. At last, no one is looking over my shoulder or expecting anything! If I could wish anything for kids after a long, hard school year, it would be that same feeling of freedom to read what feels right. That same feeling of escape. So, this year, I’m going to carve a little bit of time to share that summer reading love with kids in my own community. I’m partnering with Henrico County Public Libraries for a tween book club where I’ll meet with readers to talk about what we’re reading. I’ve curated a list of book suggestions for kids in 4 – 6th grade or so (see the beautiful covers below). It includes some of my favorite well-known names, but also titles by authors who might be new to them. And, of course, I’ve made sure the list is inclusive. If you live in the Richmond community, I hope you’ll stop by one of my five book talk dates – or all of them, if you like. I’ll discuss different titles each time, and have the kids weigh in, and offer suggestions based on what they’ve been reading. Yes, I’ll have snacks and giveaways. Maybe even...
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A letter to RVA about Girls of Summer 2017

By Community work, The Writing Life

January 16, 2017 It’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…

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

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life

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.    

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Girls of Summer’s Big, Bad, Birthday Bash

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life, What I'm reading

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. 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. To Richmond’s great fortune, Gigi recently became the…

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NY, NY: A Helluva Town

By Appearances, The Writing Life

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!   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…

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