Last week at the Skylight Gallery in Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Plaza, four local children’s book authors participated in a panel on their books and writing. The gallery is also hosting the photo exhibition “I Am Here: Girls Reclaiming Safe Spaces” by Delphine Fawundu—featuring black-and-white photos of black girls in New York City, Haiti, Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa. Local authors spoke about other writers such as Edwidge Danticat and Jamaica Kincaid, among others. See excerpts here and read full article in the link below:
When Ibi Zoboi was in high school in Bushwick and reading Edwidge Danticat’s “Breath Eyes and Memory,” she discovered her mother’s hometown in Haiti, Dame Marie, mentioned in the first few pages of the book. “It was then I decided to be a writer,” she said. ‘I had the desire to read but books weren’t that accessible for me,’ she explained growing up with an immigrant single mother. Two decades later and now an author, herself, Zoboi is committed to supporting reading for girls and also writers of color.
[. . .] The event was held in conjunction with and followed the Restoration’s annual RFK Memorial Holiday Party activities where the author’s books were given out as Christmas presents.
Three pre-teen girls from the Brooklyn Blossom Book Club began the afternoon by reading passages from National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming, a series of vignettes in verse of her childhood.
The panelists then gave background to their books before reading selections. Woodson read three chapters: she wrote of respecting leaving the classroom during the Pledge of Allegiance in respect to her grandparents’ Jehovah Witness beliefs; she told of her uncle becoming a Black Muslim in prison, and she described the historical origins of Bushwick, her neighborhood growing up.
Author Renee Watson read from her middle grade novel “What Momma Left Me,” which is about a girl in middle school coming to terms with the violent death of her mother at the hands of her father.
Children’s literature award winner Tonya Cherie Hegamin read from her historical fiction novel “Willow,” which is about life on either side of the boundary of slavery and freedom, the Mason-Dixon line.
The fourth panelist Zetta Elliot selected a passage from her self-published “An Angel for Mariqua” for early readers inspired by a girl she met on a school visit who was teased because her father was in prison.
Abadai Zoboi, age 12, led the pre-teens in questioning the authors by asking how much “does your environment affect” [your] stories. When Abadai asked, “Who inspired you?” Many of the panelists agreed that they learned about writing from reading other writers. Elliot mentioned Toni Morrison and Jamaica Kincaid. Woodson mentioned John Steptoe and James Baldwin.
[. . .] It was noted that of the 3,000 children books published a year, only three percent have main characters who are children of color.