Newbery award winner and New York Times bestselling author

Posts tagged ‘Steward School’

The Hope Tree is Growing

Just a little update about The Hope Tree Project. (Details en español here.) Student artists are working out their answer to What is a dream you have for yourself or for our community? I got a sneak preview of their milagros thanks to Megan McConnell, art teacher at Meadowbrook High School, who brought a few to share at my book launch party for The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind this past weekend. (Thanks, Megan!)

I’m also happy to announce that the fabulous Latin Ballet of Virginia will be joining us for the launch on April 30 and will perform selections of Verde. This work celebrates nature, hopes and dreams. What could be more perfect? (And check out these costumes!) Let me know if you are interested in an invitation to the opening.

Can you guess what she represents in Nature?

Latin Ballet of Virginia, scenes from Verde

Where I’ll be next:   

March 21, 2012: University of Richmond, Gotwald Science Center, 5:30 pm. Lecture, reception and  book signing.

March 23, 2012: The Steward School 11600 Gayton Road, Henrico, VA, 9 am. International Day presentation

March 28 – 30, 2012: National Latino Children’s Literature Conference: University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. Presentation on YA and community building — The Hope Tree Project!

Dream author interviews and other news

Happy Friday!

Red-letter day for the  Girls of Summer site.  As you know, GOS is a curated reading list that I compiled with the ever-fabulous Gigi Amateau. It is 18 of our favorite books for strong girls. We launched a week ago, and the response has been terrific. Thanks to all of you who have visited and sent sweet emails.

Jacqueline Woodson

But what makes today great is that we add our new Q & A feature. Our fist interview is with Jacqueline Woodson, winner of the Coretta Scott King Award, the Newbery Honor, the Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement, the National Book Award — do I have to go on? Jacqueline was a headliner at last year’s James River Writer’s conference here in Richmond, where I had the pleasure of getting to hear her insights on writing.   I hope you’ll check in today — and every Friday for a new author interview. Together these authors offer the most empowering images of young women today.  Please continue to spread the word, visit each week, and leave comments.

LEAPers showing their true colors

In other news, I’ve been spending a few mornings a week working with my LEAP students at the Steward School. There never seems to be enough time with them, but maybe every teacher feels that way. We’ll be wrapping up our writing and photography work next week. ¡Ay, Chihuahua! There is a lot to do! I’ll be sure to post some of the final projects when I get their permission.

Let’s see…stuff I’m reading:  Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones. It’s adult fiction and glorious in every way. I find myself hearing her voice as she weaves the story of an “outside child” – the daughter of a bigamist’s second wife. (Tayari is coming to the JRW conference in Oct., so if you’re in the neighborhood…) Also getting my time is Uma Krishnaswami’s The Grand Plan to Fix Everything.  I am thoroughly enjoying my romp through India and the “filmi” industry.

Any Bollywood fans?

Finally, by way of my own book news. I will be at University of Virginia this Tuesday as part of the Central Virginia Writing Project, where I’ll meet teachers who are also aspiring writers. (That’s exactly the way I started, so I’m up for the cause.)  Oh, and I got some happy updates this week, too: Tía Isa Wants a Car is up for the Amelia Bloomer project, which celebrates feminist literature. Hurray for strong girls!

Where do YOU come from?

Today I started my annual volunteer work at a place that I will never stop helping.

The Latino Education Advancement Program (LEAP) is housed at the Steward School, one of those blindingly beautiful independent schools here in Virigina. The program serves about fifty Latino middle and high school youth from all over the Richmond area. It’s free thanks to the dogged efforts of Program Director Melanie Rodriguez and Head Master Ken Seward, who cobble together deals with a whole range of small and large funders.  (I’m grateful to James River Writers for being among them.) The result is four weeks of classes that prepare Latino kids to take more challenging classes in their own high schools, which in turn, opens doors for them when it’s time to pick colleges and beyond.

None of that is why I show up every summer.

I go because I think that Latino kids need the tools to find and tell our story. For all the ways this country has embraced  JLo, Pitbull,

Sophia

Vergara, and even zumba, you can’t get away from all the negative messages about Latinos in the media, images our youth soak up before they can even name their shame. Scan the newspaper and see what you find. “Illegal aliens” blamed for starting fires in Arizona. Graphic stories of drug wars in Mexico s[illing across our borders. Gang violence in DC. Drop out rates. Job stealing (whatever that means). The list goes on, ignoring, of course, the story of most Latinos in this country, which is, frankly, one of hard work and success.

So today, as I looked out at these juniors and seniors in high school, we started talking about reflection, the flat kind that anyone can see in the mirror, and the deep kind that happens behind your eyeballs. They’re about to write college essays, after all, and the stakes are high. They’ll need to grab their story now and reflect on themselves in a new way. They’ll need to have the words to say who they really are and what they dream for themselves. Owning their story and telling it in their own words will be their most powerful act so far.

“So, where do you come from?” I asked, pulling a prompt that one of my own daughters faced when applying for college. “Where do you originate?

What they had to say left me proud. Here is a list of first lines. To me, it’s a poem waiting to be written by and about them.

Where Do I Come From?

I come from a family of travelers.

I come from a speck of hope.

I come from a million places, some more obvious than others.

I come from healthy sibling rivalry.

I come from a family of courage.

I come from a home of respect, love, and culture.

I come from dreams and goals that my parents had for me from the moment I opened my eyes.

I come from Canada, the land of ice and hockey.

I come from Richmond —but not for long.