With press interviews, praise, related articles, and a downloadable Educators’ Guide for Punching the Air.

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Prison reform advocate and member of the Exonerated Five Yusef Salaam and award-winning author Ibi Zoboi join “CBS This Morning” to discuss their young adult novel, “Punching the Air.” The book examines fighting for one’s truth and humanity, in a system designed to strip Black men of both. The authors also discussed how Salaam’s poems inspired the novel, and using poetry to cope with difficult topics such as racism, hate and anger.

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Take a look at the cover by artist Frank Morrison for My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich, out August 2019. Check it out on BookRiot.com.

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Black is… Whatever you want it to be. There are countless ways to be Black enough, and some of the incredible authors contributing to the powerful new anthology stopped by to tell us just what that means. See what Jason Reynolds, Nic Stone, Ibi Zoboi, and more had to say! #EpicReads

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In Pride, Ibi Zoboi remixes the classic with some inspiration pulled from her Brooklyn home. Take a peek into the world that inspired Pride! Brought to you by Epic Reads.

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Check out the full article in Entertainment Weekly!

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This lecture was an extension of my 2013-14 graduate thesis for the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

I spent two years studying middle grade and Young Adult fiction that either featured black girls as the main characters, or as secondary and even tertiary characters. I focused on speculative fiction–magical realism, science fiction, and fantasy. After reading several books, I began to notice some unsettling things about how black girls are sometimes portrayed.

In both the thesis and lecture, I point out stories that are empowering and uplifting. I’ve included both the actual thesis and an audio of the lecture, including images of the PowerPoint presentation.

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That lovely photo is by Haitian American photographer extraordinaire, Fabiola Jean-Louis.

Ibi.Zoboi Critical Thesis

 

Also, here is a PDF file of the PowerPoint presentation with images, statistics, and lists of strategies and takeaways for creating empowered brown girl characters in speculative fiction stories. This can also serve as a guide for recognizing the ways in which stories either empower or disempower girls of colors depending on a number of factors.

BROWN GIRL IN THE RING_ MAGIC FOR THE MARGINALIZED

I hope this can serve as one of the many resources for the continued conversations about humanizing representation of children of color in books.

Thank you for reading, listening, and viewing!

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Today marks the 7th anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. a day that strengthened my resolve to continue telling the stories of my beloved Haiti and Haitian people. I am so grateful to be able to do just that with AMERICAN STREET.

I’m giving away two stacks of amazing books featuring Haiti and Detroit!

Stack 1:

  1. Signed ARC of American Street
  2. Haiti, My Country by Rogé
  3. Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound by Andrea Davis Pinkney
  4. A is for Ayiti by Ibi Zoboi
  5. An anthology featuring writing by Haitian teen girls in Port-au-Prince and Haiti with a a forward by Edwidge Danticat. 

 

Stack 2:

  1. Signed ARC of American Street
  2. Eight Days: A Story of Haiti by Edwidge Danticat, Illustrated by Alix Delinois
  3. We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
  4. A is for Ayiti by Ibi Zoboi
  5. An anthology featuring writing by Haitian teen girls in Port-au-Prince and Haiti with a a forward by Edwidge Danticat.

Enter below for a chance to win. Retweet and share on social media @ibizoboi. Winners will be selected Monday, January 16 at noon. International entries welcome.

Mesi! Kenbe fem, pa lage! (Thank you and hold tight, don’t let go!)

Edited 1/16/17 at 5:40pm:

Thank you to all those who have entered this giveaway! Two winners have been selected. You can pre-order AMERICAN STREET here or add it to your Goodreads.

American Street
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I delivered the keynote address to the 2016 graduating class of Brownsville Academy High School. BAHS was featured on the news a few years ago for the innovative art program.

BAHS is also a “last chance” high school, or “over-age, under-credited” high school. The students are typically aged 17-21. They’re not ready to graduate high school, but oftentimes, they’re too old to remain in a traditional high school.

At the last minute, I decided to include some current events.

Good afternoon Brownsville Academy High School—administration, staff, teachers, parents, family members, schoolmates, and class of 2016.

Thank you Ms. Warren for inviting me to deliver this keynote address to what I know is a group of incredibly hard-working, determined, and brilliant young people. It is truly an honor.

Of course, in trying to come up with the words that I hope will inspire and launch you into your lives as independent young adults, I was at a complete loss. What could I possibly say that you don’t already know? You, Class of 2016, are children of the information age. The answers to every possible question that you can think of is at the tip of your fingers, on your smart phones. The world is literally in the palm of your hands.

In fact, you can probably Google me now and know that I am an author, a writer, a mom, an educator, as well as an immigrant. This is the image that I’ve presented to the world, complete with carefully chosen Instagram selfies with the right filters, and hashtags, and cutesy posts.

But what you won’t find on Google or Facebook or Twitter are the quiet, dark corners of my true self that I keep hidden from the world. I know Brownsville very well (Brownsville/East New York/Bushwick in the 80s that is, in the midst of the crack epidemic and the unprecedented violence that swept the whole city at that time). This is where I grew up after coming from Haiti. I know very well Sutter Avenue, and Crescent Street, and Bushwick and Knickerbocker Avenues, and shopping for school on Pitkin. I know Pink Houses and that diner on Linden Boulevard that’s been there for decades. This is where I was made—the ‘hood. I was part of it, but not of it. So this speech won’t be about how “I made it out.” I didn’t escape anything. I took it with me, and I keep it in the corner where it’s dark and where the sun has already set.

We all have those parts of ourselves where the sun has already set—parts of ourselves where it’s forever night, and they only exist in the realm of dreams or nightmares.

However, here in the sunlight, you are shining bright and are full of hope and energy. And you are still here, in Brownsville, East New York, East Flatbush, Crown Heights. These places you call home are not dark corners. This is where the sun shines for you and over you.

But again, this speech will not be about where I’m from or where you live and how far you have to go. This speech will be about sunshines, and sunrises, and sunsets.

So this takes me to a very recent event in the news that reminds me of an old saying, “The sun never sets on the British Empire.”

Some of you may or may not know, or may not even care, that United Kingdom, or Great Britain, has recently voted to secede from the European Union. If this was a History class, I’d ask you when in our American history has the word “seceded” ever come up? The Civil War? That war about slavery? Yep, that’s right.

But again, what does this have to do you with you? This is Brownsville, after all, a little forgotten corner of Brooklyn in the midst of gentrification under the guise of “urban renewal”, a fast-changing skyline, rising costs of living, closing schools, crime, underemployment, police brutality, and gun violence. Who cares what the British are doing, right?

But, unfortunately, I have to and already am delivering this speech in English. A majority of you can only understand me in…English. All of you had to read and write and understand your teachers in English in order to pass your classes and graduate. You have to fill out forms for college or jobs, and interview in…English.

I’m sure throughout your years here at Brownsville Academy, you were taught to think critically, to question everything, not just the stuff in books or what you have to learn in order to past tests, but to question your life choices, the world, and even the things that you think have absolutely nothing to do with you. So let’s think critically for a second about how it is that you and whoever you are as a young person in this school, in this neighborhood, in this Brooklyn, in this New York, in these United States, came to speak in English and use it as your primary language?

I’m sure even your dreams are in English. This ceremony is English. You walked to the song “Pomp and Circumstance” which is…English. Your graduation gowns, the way you wear a tie and shirt, the way you learned your alphabet, and math, and science, and what was taught to you as your history… English. If you’re from the Jamaica, or Trinidad or Guyana, or West Africa—Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia…ENGLISH.

So yeah, England was such a powerful force in World History, that it still affects you today, even as you sit here in this forgotten dark corner of Brownsville, Brooklyn.

Well, so…

I challenge you, Class of 2016, to think for a moment that maybe this has been the problem all along. That the sun never set on the British Empire. This English that has been so pervasive in your life (without your knowing) has been placed in the spotlight, in the sun. So much so that you have been taught to tuck away parts of yourselves into a corner—the real you, the “keep it a hundred” you.

The parts of you that found it hard to pay attention, to follow through, to set goals, to achieve them. The parts of you that take the English language and twist and turn it into something of your own making—the “On fleek,” and the “It’s lit,” or whatever you all say these days. The music that you make—the Drake, the Khalifa, the Future, the trap, the bass, the rhythm, Milly Rock on every block, the Waka Flaka, and Fetty Wap. All’a that. These have always been your fight against the Empire and it’s never-ending spotlight on your life, your sense of history, and sense of self.

Think, for a moment, Class of 2016, who are you stripped away of this English, of this Pomp and Circumstance, of these gowns and shirts and ties and sleek hair and high heels? What is the language you speak when you can’t quite capture those fancy English words just right? What have you created to take its place? What is the garb you wear when the world tells you that you are unrefined, unpolished, stripped away of English regalia—the caps, gowns, scepters, and crowns?

Your clothes, your slang, the way you rock your hair, your dances, are the many ways in which your true selves are creeping out of dark corners so that you, all of you, can shine in the sunlight, too.

You are trying to remember who are you are. You are trying to cast a light on what you’ve been taught is dark, hopeless—that place of nightmares where dreams don’t come true.

As I look out before me, I see a sea of brown faces. The world tells you that you are you are black. You are African American. You are African descents. Africa used to be called the “Dark Continent”—a forgotten corner of the world. Africa is where the British made most of their riches alongside their colonies in the Caribbean and even here in America. The Empires stole the African sunshine—from as far east as Kenya to as far west as Senegal—and stuffed it into a dark corner of the world.

And here in America, is where a new world was built in the shadows of the British Empire whose dominating sunshine lingered over slavery and segregation and racial violence and urban poverty and violence. Here is where the children of those dark corners still speak in English and have to fight everyday to remember the language that they lost, the music thrown overboard on slave ships, and the forgotten songs.

So now, I wonder, if the sun has finally set on the British Empire. What, Class of 2016, will you create in the world that will help you remember who you really are? In whatever career path you choose, what will you do to remember what you have lost? How will you pull your true self out of the dark corners where the sun has already set so that it can shine and cast a golden light on everything that you do?

Every mistake, every wrong turn on the road, every tragedy, every setback, pull them out of the corner and let them see the light of day. Take them with you and carry them on your back, or hold them high above your head. Tell your story. Don’t hide it. Take it with you on your journey. Let the world know that you have put up a fight against the mighty empires that were determined to mute your sunshine—violence, poverty, underfunded schools, unsafe communities, poor choices. This is the only way that you can truly shine. This is the only way that dreams will come true. Be your full brilliant self away from sunsets and dark corners. Shine bright like the greatest star of them all. Become the sun. Because you have always been the sun, hanging high over the Empires, because you and your history have always been the source for greatness. You will never set and you should never settle for anything less.

Shine bright class of 2016. Onward and beyond. All the way up!

Congratulations!

 

 

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At long last, the cover of American Street, is featured on YA Highway.

Here’s what I had to say about the cover:

When I first saw this cover, I gasped. AMERICAN STREET is indeed a colorful, chaotic, yet beautiful profile of one girl’s journey. The designers managed to capture the raw emotions in AMERICAN STREET through color. Graffiti encompasses much more than “urban” themes. It’s color thrown on a wall and the resulting chaos is magical. My character throws her heart, her fears, and deepest desires against the many walls that appear in her path. It’s chaotic and beautiful and magical. And there at the center is the golden hibiscus, an important symbol in Haitian culture. The Taino queen Anacaona was one of our very first revolutionaries. Anacaona means “golden flower.”

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American Street
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I was floored by this one. And it sent me over the moon. Simultaneously.

I first discovered Edwidge Danticat’s Krik? Krak! in an Afrocentric book store in Green Acres Mall near my hometown of Cambria Heights, Queens. It was 1998 and I had never heard of her nor her books. All I saw was a pretty black woman on the cover, leaning in, as if to whisper to her potential reader, “Krik!” This is how Haitian storytellers begin their tales. At that time, I had only been vaguely familiar with that term. My connection to Haitian storytelling has always been through my family’s heated discussions about Haitian politics and the usual “the-way-things-were-back-home” conversations that’s so prevalent in immigrant households. I think I read the whole book in two days. And I’m sure I held the it close to my heart seconds after reading the very last page. It had a profound impact on me as a Haitian immigrant. It unveiled so many secrets. I had already wanted to be a writer by then, but that book let me know that my Haitian immigrant stories truly mattered.

Weeks later, my mother was watching Oprah when she announced her book club selection. At that time, Oprah’s Book Club was ginormous. Everybody, I mean, everybody read whatever was on Oprah’s Book Club. I nearly lost my breath when she said Edwidge Danticat’s name. I had just read her book! But I had not heard of Breath, Eyes, Memory.

Of course, I wrote a detailed, heartfelt letter to Oprah as to why I should be featured on her televised book club discussion. I had to meet Edwidge Danticat!

I didn’t make it onto Oprah, but I did eventually meet Edwidge. And we’ve worked together on a couple of projects–Haiti Noir and One Moore Book’s Haiti Series. I am so incredibly grateful for her, and her many books. And I am truly humbled by her thoughts on my debut novel about a Haitian immigrant.

“A rough landing for a young Haitian girl is viscerally and powerfully portrayed in Ibi Zoboi’s impressive and remarkable first young adult novel. Reminiscent of S.E. Hinton’s classic, The Outsiders, American Street is about young people losing and finding their way, as well as a family coming apart then together again across the cultural, economic, social, and spiritual chasms that is at the core of many of today’s heartrending and harrowing immigration stories.”

-EDWIDGE DANTICAT, New York Times bestselling author and National Book Award Finalist

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I’m taking great care in revealing these blurbs one by one because each author has made room in their busy schedules to read, examine, and comment on this story. Their work touches on the themes or aesthetics in my own work, and I want to take a moment to explore those.

Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap blew me away! I’m a deep lover of mythology and peeling away at quiet, subtle magic in the most fractured corners of our world. This is where the very bones of human suffering, and joy, and love exist. While Bone Gap is a nod to the Greek Persephone and Demeter story, American Street is a very slight nod to what I think is the greatest mythological love story ever (hint, hint: It’s Egyptian). I also delve into the Vodou pantheon, and my beloved Papa Legba plays a huge role. Tiny bit of spoilers here, but there’s so much more!

(Again, the background image is a small slice of the full cover. Yes, lots of color! And chaos.)

Thank you to Laura Ruby for this tip of the hat to my dear Papa Legba.

“Ibi Zoboi brings us a Detroit rarely seen: full of wandering spirits, suffused with magic and mystery.  At once the story of one determined girl and a family at the crossroads as well as a powerful page-turner, American Street will leave the scent of Papa Legba’s cigar in the air and its mark on your heart.”

-LAURA RUBY, Author of Bone Gap, National Book Award Finalist, and Michael L. Printz Award Winner

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American Street
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I really don’t know how blurbs from authors affect readers’ perception of any book. But as a debut author, they mean a whole lot to me. It means a hat tip and a nod of approval from fellow writers, comrades in storytelling, allies in the work of documenting the inner and outer lives of children. And I am immensely grateful for any and every word of praise.

This blurb is from a wonderful human being whose presence in the children’s lit word is a force unto itself. I’m honored to receive this acknowledgment from award-winning author Jason Reynolds.

“Brimming with culture, magic, warmth, and unabashed rawness, American Street is ultimately a blistering tale of humanity. This is Manchild in the Promised Land for a new generation, and a remarkable debut from Zoboi, who without question is an inevitable force in storytelling.”

-Jason Reynolds, award-winning author of THE BOY IN THE BLACK SUIT and co-author of ALL AMERICAN BOYS

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I’ll be slowly unveiling of the beautiful cover of AMERICAN STREET, due out everywhere on February 14, 2017–Valentine’s Day. Of course, it’s a love story, and then some!

Every inch of the cover tells a story, including the white space. That’s why I love it so much! I’ll be including blurbs from some truly amazing authors (such an honor!) along with tiny glimpses of cover. It’s indeed a maze, a puzzle, a roadmap of sorts. By Friday, I’ll reveal the full cover and all the broken pieces will come together, very much like my characters and the story.

So, without further ado, below is the first praise for AMERICAN STREET:

“Zoboi’s nascent storytelling gifts ensnare from page one. To this spellbinding voice of the new generation, I bow.”

-RITA WILLIAMS-GARCIA, New York Times bestselling author and three-time winner of the Coretta Scott King Award.

My favorite YA novel by Rita Williams-Garcia is EVERY TIME A RAINBOW DIES, and it features a Haitian-American girl, a love story, birds, and Brooklyn. Of course, my heart melted when I received this praise from Rita! Thank you so much, Rita!

Now, here’s a colorful and mesmerizing snippet of the cover:

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This story… If I didn’t post, tweet, or blog about it, I squeezed it into this book. ‪#‎sayhername‬ ‪#‎blackgirlmagic‬ (literally) ‪#‎HaitiLovesDetroit‬ ‪#‎HaitiLovesFlint‬ ‪#‎HaitiLovesNOLA‬

From Publisher’s Weekly:

Alessandra Balzer at HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray has preempted author Ibi Zoboi’s YA debut, American Street. Infused with magical realism and the author’s own experiences, this coming-of-age story follows a Haitian immigrant girl thrust into the world of Detroit’s west side; as Fabiola struggles to get her mother out of a U.S. detention center she’s forced to confront the true meaning of family and home, even as she falls in love. Publication is slated for winter 2017; Josh Bank and Hayley Wagreich at Alloy Entertainment negotiated the two-book deal for world English rights.

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I wrote a guest post for an amazing new blog started by some equally amazing librarians and children’s book experts in the field–Reading While White.

I really wanted to address a recent debate sparked by an award-winning YA author, but she’s not the focus of this piece, really. You can read the full essay here.

“I don’t like to read” is a something I hear very often in New York City public schools, which I’ve learned to translate as, “I don’t like to read what my teachers make me read.” Which, in fact, does not always mean, “I don’t like to read books that don’t reflect my experiences.”

I once asked a class of Brooklyn ninth graders, many of whom were avid readers, if they’d like to see a Twilight or Harry Potter set in the ‘hood. They all shouted no. I didn’t ask them why. I already knew the answer.

My children’s school has an annual book fair. I have a hand in selecting the titles sold there, and of course, I pick out a wide range of diverse books that reflect the school’s demographic (which isn’t very many). I handed a copy of Christopher Grant’s Teenie, with a beautiful black girl on the cover, to a beautiful black girl. She scrunched up her face and shook her head, as if I’d just handed her a plate of chocolate-covered Brussels sprouts. She’d already bought two John Green novels—neither of which had any black girls on the cover, or in them.

As I’m writing this, my almost 11-year-old comes over to announce that she’s just finished reading Edwidge Danticat’s new YA novel, Untwine. She tells me to read it soon so we can discuss. Yesterday, my almost 13-year-old returned Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’ to me. “How was it?” I asked. “It was interesting,” she said. “It’s not as vanilla as the other book. It’s not vanilla at all.”

By vanilla, she means white. Not just white people, but a white feel, a white tone. A book can have only white characters and feel very much not-vanilla—there’s something universal about the voice, the characters, and the themes. She’s probably heard me say this about books. And maybe, in some indirect way, I’ve taught my daughters how to read like this. Because their mother is a children’s book writer, and has to read the canon as part of her job, my daughters are privy to most of the award-winning, bestselling, and even some of the obscure, and under-the-radar children’s books. This sets them apart from their peers, and maybe their ELA teachers, too. I tell them they’re privileged in this sense. They’re little black girls who love to read, and own books, and have parents and grandparents who read. This is their black privilege.

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I am so excited about this story, of course! And I’m proud to be working with editor extraordinaire, Andrew Karre of Dutton Young Readers/Penguin, who helped usher into the world NO CRYSTAL STAIR: A DOCUMENTARY NOVEL OF THE LIFE AND WORK OF LEWIS MICHAUX, HARLEM BOOKSELLER by Vaunda Michaux Nelson.

From Publisher’s Weekly:

Andrew Karre at Dutton has bought Ibi Zoboi’s debut middle-grade novel My Life as an Ice-Cream Sandwich, the story of Ebony Grace, her sci-fi-fueled imagination, and her search for a place she can be herself, set against the backdrop of the hip-hop explosion in 1980s Harlem. Publication for the first book is tentatively slated for fall 2017. The second book in the deal will be a young readers’ biography of Octavia Butler. Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency brokered the deal for world rights.

 

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There’s a new YA novel set in post-earthquake Haiti. So exciting! There’s now enough post-earthquake Haitian literature for a whole college course!

I was so honored to be able to review this book for the New York Times!

‘HOLD TIGHT, DON’T LET GO,’ BY LAURA ROSE WAGNER

When we are uncertain that the ground beneath our feet will not rumble and shift and swallow us whole, even the very next minute carries with it looming doubt. This is one of the ways Haitians say goodbye: ­Demen si Dye vle — “Tomorrow if God is willing.” Tomorrow is not promised, and when it does come, with all its roils and jolts, kenbe fèm, pa lage, “hold tight, don’t let go.” That is the title of Laura Rose Wagner’s debut novel, in which such Haitian idioms abound. This coming-of-age story conveys the country’s deeply entwined faith and fear of the unknown through the eyes of a teenager named Magdalie Jean-Baptiste.

You can read the rest of the review here.

There’s also been lots of talk about reviews for diverse books lately. Author Malindo Lo wrote an excellent four-part piece on the subject for Diversity in YA. Here’s what I think is an important quote that conveys why it’s important for reviewers to clearly depict culture, race, sexual orientation in diverse books.

If a trade review only hints about race or LGBT or disability issues, then I turn to blog reviews and Goodreads to confirm my suspicions. But more often than not I find that trade reviews do include details about the book’s diversity, and lately it has become increasingly common for trade reviews to state a character’s background quite plainly. I appreciate this because that’s why I’m reading these reviews, and I think an up-front statement that a character is gay is much better than an insinuation that the story has something to do with sexuality. It removes some of the stigma from historically marginalized identities, and it helps those of us who are seeking out these books to find them.

You can read more of Malinda Lo’s excellent piece here.

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I’ll be hosting a reading and book signing with recent National Award Winner Jacqueline Woodson, Renee Watson, Tonya Cherie Hegamin, and Zetta Elliott as part of the I AM HERE: Girls Reclaiming Safe Spaces exhibit!

All of these wonderful authors’ books feature stories that highlight the magic and wonder of black girlhood, including Woodson’s BROWN GIRL DREAMING

My daughters and their friend will be asking the authors a few questions as part of the Brooklyn Blossoms Book Club

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A degree in basket weaving… This is supposed to be a metaphor for a useless degree—a degree that will reap no financial rewards whatsoever. There’s an art to basket weaving, of course. In fact, I own many baskets, like the colorful baskets from West Africa, the ones made from recycled magazines, and the ones from the craft store. 

Baskets are necessary. They are vessels. Humanity has always needed vessels. We, in our bodies, are vessels. And we all come from the ultimate vessel–the womb. 

Someone had to weave my baskets with their bare hands. I have a couple of “fair trade” ones, or some made by single mothers in Kenya with shredded bits of American fashion magazines (the irony). I don’t suppose there’s some giant factory with intricate machines weaving baskets. So, of course, there are still basket weavers in the world, and they learned the ancient art from somewhere and from someone. 

My degree in Writing for Children and Young Adults is like a degree in basket weaving—not the “useless” part, but the ancient art part. Telling stories to children is an ancient art. We’ve all been told stories. Stories are our myths and folktales that have evolved into our religions and worldview and cosmology. There are still children being born, of course. So they need stories. The stories of their families, their communities, and their cultures are what ground them to this place, what settles them into their own skins. 

The old stories will give them a frame of reference, a foundation. The new ones will affirm the here and now for them. They will connect them to a certain zeitgeist. 

One of my favorite authors, Ursula K. LeGuin, wrote an essay called “The Carrier Bag Theory.” Part of the idea of the essay is about subverting the lone hero narrative where a man goes forth on an adventure and follows a straight and sometimes narrow path to heroism. There’s evil in the world. The world needs a savior. One man, and only one man, was born to save this world. But he must battle beasts, resist tempting sirens, and confront he becomes the hero of his world. Stories that follow this trajectory are more like ropes or fishing lines or arrows or phallic symbols. Male-centered, and for the most part, Western-centered. They too have served their purpose in history.  

LeGuin proposes in her essay, the Carrier Bag story. The bag is like the womb, the vessel, out of which all the elements of a story can spring forth. In this sense, baskets hold our stories. And stories carry our cultures, our traditions, our morals and taboos. And to weave baskets is to weave our brokenness back together again—to remember the stories that made us whole. 

So when I look around my community, at all those statistics and articles and documentaries about a lack of this, and a dearth of that, and woe the poor children, the underserved, the underprivileged, and the at-risk, there is indeed a crisis. My day job(s) take me into different schools throughout NYC, I have children in public school, and my husband is a veteran public school teacher. I know firsthand that there’s a problem—a big one. And it has to do with stories—the stories children are reading and internalizing about themselves, and the stories they read and hear about other people and the supposed power they have in the world. When the stories we hear and read are not the ones told by our foremothers and forefathers, it’s like having tupperware in place of baskets. Okay, bad analogy. It’s like having plastic bags for baskets. Okay, worse analogy. But I hope you get the point.

I recently came across a video about expensive art degrees. It makes me sad. And for a moment, it made me feel not very smart. But I had to shift my perspective. I truly believe art is healing work. I have to see it as such. And art is a science. Basket weaving is a very intricate science— think fractals in math. And the most valuable thing I learned from story art school is that great stories, like baskets, can have mathematical patterns. Yes, like the snowflake the snowflake method. They can be graphed and charted and measured and quantified. It’s a science and it’s a healing art. 

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I Am Here: Girls Reclaiming Safe Spaces- an 
exhibition of photographs and words curated by Delphine Fawunda & Ibi Zoboi

From Curator, Ibi Zoboi:
As a mother of two daughters, it’s become crucial for me to constantly think of safe spaces for them to truly grow and dream and know that the world belongs to them. I don’t try to hide the negative truths about their world, instead, I let them know that they are safe within their own bodies and there are indeed safe spaces all around for them to play and laugh out loud. 

As a writer for children, I know that reading can be a safe space for little brown girls. By highlighting quotes from successful black women and books that feature black girls on their covers and within their pages, I want to affirm that their stories are indeed relevant. There is such a dearth of images of little black girls simply being their wonderful, unique selves. The I AM HERE exhibit will serve as a safe space where girls and their families can simply embrace the magic and joy of girlhood. 

About Delphine Fawunduhttp://www.delphinefawundu.com/

Brooklyn Blossoms Book Club, literacy
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for the mothers. and the holes they must fill. 
 
The breath, the sweat
the in, the out
the rhythm
the push, the pull
the force, the life
the egg so round
the pulsing
the heat
the rising like air
the pounding, the pounding
the rhythm
the pain
the scream
the push, the pull
the cries so sweet
the life so warm
the body so small
the nestling in arms
the suckling on breasts
the life, the life
the rhythm, the rhythm
the changing
the feeding
the loving
the cooing
the kissing
the snuggling
the life, the life
the breath so new
the stumpy legs
the tiny feet
the world so wide
the very first steps
the school
the words
the songs
the alphabet
the teachers like them
the students like us
the tests
the homework
the stepping-ups
the laughter
the play
the smiles
the sunshine
the snow
the darkness
the high-tides
the joyrides 
the fear
the calls
the prayers
the songs
the worry
the coughs
the sneezes
the bites
the bumps
the salves
the syrups
the soothings 
the fingers
the toes
the deepening voice
the uncles
the aunts
the grandfathers
the mothers
the blood
the ancestors
the africans
the humans
the mountains
the valleys
the rivers
the oceans
the moonlight
the sun
the stars
the stardust
the dust
the ashes
the powder
the gun
the bullets
the holes
the blood
the rhythm
the breath 
the beat
the silence
the light
the stream
the ladder
the clouds
the heavens

 

the Rhythm
 
poetry
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Here’s the second event for the Brooklyn Blossoms Book Club! I love the idea of a U.N. sanctioned International Day of the Girl (October 11th).  This brings to light all the atrocities that girls are facing around the world. I saw Girl Rising (10×10 Action Campaign) a few months ago and was moved to tears by each of the girls’ stories, especially the one from Haiti, of course. Check out the trailer, a short feature with Edwidge Danticat, one of the narrators, and a flyer for the event!

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Mom of the month?! Okay. I’ll take that. Though this was part of the mater mea feature. I do feel special, however. No impostor syndrome here. I deserve all accolades. I used to type while nursing. That involves some serious skills.

Read the interview here on the Huffington Post.

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My children and I were featured on this wonderful site highlighting mothers of color. I worked with a fantastic team of journalists, editors, and photographers. Very impressive. So honored to have had the opportunity to share my mothering story. I remember wanted to know all the details in the lives of other mothers. How in the world was it possible to do it all. My youngest is now 6. I did it. I survived. We all survived, in fact. Unfortunately, my husband Joseph was not featured here. Understandable. But there does need to be a pater mea.

You can get a glimpse into my home life (they took photos of knickknacks!) and my beautiful children and read all about how I manage (or mismanage) it all here on matermea.com.

interview
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