Tag Archives: Renée Watson

Celebrating Authors

24 May

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Nervous anticipation buzzed in the room as I entered. Children, with  proud parents nearby,  mingled around a table of cookies and juice, all clutching letters in their hands. They were the authors of the letters and tonight was the night of the 2016  Oregon Letters About Literature Awards. Three of my 6th graders were honorable mentions and this was an event I didn’t want to miss for the world.

They’d written the letters all the way back in December, writing to an author whose book had moved them to some new sort of understanding. I sent them to the Library of Congress, who sent the best back to Oregon for judging. And here we were, five months later, celebrating.

Fonda Lee, local author of Zeroboxer,  opened the event. I was interested as she told us about the books and authors who influenced her, and the writing partners and critique groups that made her a better writer. I got weepy as she shared the comments Holly Goldberg Sloan, Renee Watson and Laini Taylor with whom she shared the letters the three  First Place winners wrote to. Not ten minutes in and I was emotional!

Pride swelled as my first student stepped bravely to front to read her letter aloud. Her mother, sitting in the same aisle as me, was not the only parent recording her child last night.This girl was very poised and spoke in a clear, confident voice. I chuckled when  my second student , the one I think of as my poet, went up. Like the first student, she wore a black dress, but, in her own inimitable style, she had Converse on her feet. I watched her parents, beaming proudly as they held back tears.

I listened attentively as the other students read their letters, but for me, the best had been read. Driving home from the event, I reflected on how much all my students have grown as writers this year. It’s been a year of big changes for me, but, tonight, I know I have done a good job.

Letters About Literature Logo 2015

Everybody Reads

23 Feb

Multnomah County Library’s 2015 “Everybody Reads” book is The Residue Years by Mitchell S. Jackson.

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This is an autobiographical novel for adults, set in  a tough neighborhood in Portland, OR during the 1990s.  I have my copy, but have yet to read it.

The Residue Years is too mature for young adult readers (12-18), but there is an alternative that has just been published.

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This Side of Home by Renée Watson is set in a Portland, OR neighborhood that is gentrifying.

Publisher’s Summary:Identical twins Nikki and Maya have been on the same page for everything—friends, school, boys and starting off their adult lives at a historically African-American college. But as their neighborhood goes from rough-and-tumble to up-and-coming, suddenly filled with pretty coffee shops and boutiques, Nikki is thrilled while Maya feels like their home is slipping away. Suddenly, the sisters who had always shared everything must confront their dissenting feelings on the importance of their ethnic and cultural identities and, in the process, learn to separate themselves from the long shadow of their identity as twins.

You and your teen could read different books on a similar theme and perhaps have a great conversation.

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