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    Exclusive Book Cover Reveal: For Black Girls Like Me by Mariama J. Lockington + An Interview!

    For Black Girls Like Me by Mariama J. Lockington COVER REVEAL!

    In partnership with Macmillian Children’s Publishing Group, I am thrilled to be revealing the cover for the forthcoming July 2019 book For Black Girls Like Me by Mariama J. Lockington.  The cover is illustrated by Jamea Richmond-Edwards.  I also had the opportunity to ask the author a few questions which you can read below.

    • Total Pages: 336 pages
    • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
    • Publication Date: July 30, 2019
    • Recommended Ages: 8-12 and up
    • Pre-Orders: Available for Pre-Order Now!

    Synopsis

    I am a girl but most days I feel like a question mark.

    Makeda June Kirkland is eleven-years-old, adopted, and black. Her parents and big sister are white, and even though she loves her family very much, Makeda often feels left out. When Makeda’s family moves from Maryland to New Mexico, she leaves behind her best friend, Lena— the only other adopted black girl she knows— for a new life. In New Mexico, everything is different. At home, Makeda’s sister is too cool to hang out with her anymore and at school, she can’t seem to find one real friend.

    Through it all, Makeda can’t help but wonder: What would it feel like to grow up with a family that looks like me?

    Through singing, dreaming, and writing secret messages back and forth with Lena, Makeda might just carve a small place for herself in the world.

    In this lyrical coming-of-age story about family, sisterhood, music, race, and identity, Mariama J. Lockington draws on some of the emotional truths from her own experiences growing up with an adoptive white family. For Black Girls Like Me is for anyone who has ever asked themselves: How do you figure out where you are going if you don’t know where you came from?

    Author Interview

    WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE FOR BLACK GIRLS LIKE ME?
    When I was a kid I was always looking for books that mirrored my experience growing up as a transracial adoptee. I searched library shelves for stories about curious black girls with white parents—black girls with mothers who gave them away, but I never really found them. Instead, I’d find and devour books about spunky orphans like Heidi or Anne (with an E!) of Green Gables because I was able to relate to the resilience and questioning personalities of these characters. I wrote For Black Girls Like Me because it is the book I needed to read as a kid, a book that reflects the kind of family that looks like mine.

    WHAT DO YOU HOPE READERS WILL TAKE AWAY FROM READING YOUR BOOK?
    This is a book about adoption, yes, but more than anything it’s a book about a young black girl searching for her voice. It’s a book about a multiracial American family trying to love one another, despite difference and human flaws. My hope is that adoptees will read this book and see some small part of their experience validated. I also hope that this book will spark conversation about identity, race, and belonging between siblings, parents and their children, teachers and students, and anyone else who has ever asked themselves: Where do I belong? I hope that this book will be a friend to someone who needs it.

    HOW DID THE EXPERIENCE OF WRITING THIS BOOK DIFFER FROM WRITING YOUR PREVIOUS BOOK, THE LUCKY DAUGHTER, OR OTHER THINGS YOU HAVE WRITTEN?
    Well, The Lucky Daughter was a book of individual poems, about varying topics written for an adult audience. In earlier drafts, For Black Girls Like Me was also written for an adult audience. In 2013, I graduated from my MFA program at San Francisco State University with a collection of about sixty prose poems about a nameless adopted pre-teen black girl. The manuscript was much more abstract, and I was having a hard time taking it to the next level. When I published my article “What a Black Woman Wishes Her Adoptive White Parents Knew” on Buzzfeed in 2016, my now editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, reached out. She asked if I’d ever considered writing a fictional book based on my own experiences as an adoptee, but for a middle grade audience. I was SO excited by this prospect, since my other passion in life is teaching and working with youth. I have a Masters in Education and I have worked with education nonprofits for more than ten years. When I thought about this girl I kept writing poems about, about writing her story more concretely for a younger audience, giving her a name, something just clicked. I was able to dive back into the manuscript and I began to write Makeda’s store in short poem-scenes, with a stronger narrative thread.

    WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BEGIN WRITING AS AN AUTHOR?
    Since I was little, I’ve known I wanted to write books. I used to make my own books out of cardboard, glue, and string. When I was about 12 I saw the movie Harriet the Spy, and I’ve been keeping a journal ever since. At first writing down my daily observations and telling stories was about survival, about creating worlds bigger than the one I sometimes felt confined to. But ultimately it was music that helped me find my path as an author. Both of my parents are classical musicians, and while I did not grow up in a particularly religious household, music is a kind of religion in our family. I played the flute and piano growing up and the practice of music led me to explore the possibilities of other kinds of creative arts. Eventually, music led me to formally studying writing in High School and beyond. Like my main character, Makeda, music helped me find my voice and my discipline. It has always been an anchor for me.

    HOW MUCH OF YOURSELF, OTHER PEOPLE OR YOUR OWN PERSONAL EXPERIENCES DO YOU PUT INTO YOUR BOOKS?
    While For Black Girls Like Me is fiction, it’s based on some of the emotional truths of my experience growing up as a transracial adoptee. There are some ways in which I drew from my own memories to write Makeda’s character. For example, I made both of her parents musicians. But then I let my imagination run wild and allowed myself to move past the autobiographical. As I was writing, I found that my characters took on new complex identities and histories that are different from the identities and histories of my actual family.

    WHICH BOOKS HAVE INFLUENCED YOUR LIFE THE MOST?
    This question is so hard for a bookworm like me! As I mentioned, as a kid, it was any story about an orphan— Annie, Anne of Green Gables, Heidi, or any story about a young kid who has to survive on their own in the wild— My Side of the Mountain, Hatchet, Island of the Blue Dolphins. I felt a kinship with these characters, as they struggled to make a way for themselves, without always knowing where they came from or if they belonged.

    As an adult, my all-time favorite book is Sula by Toni Morrison. I re-read it almost every year. To me, it is an epic love story between two best friends who are full of contradictions. I love that it is a story about black girlhood, black womanhood, friendship, and how sometimes we fail to speak the same language as the ones who raise us or come up with us. But we love them fiercely anyway.

    IF YOU COULD GIVE ADULTS ONE PIECE OF ADVICE ABOUT READING WITH CHILDREN, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
    Don’t gloss over or skip subjects in books you think your child can’t understand, especially when it comes to race and identity. Be OK with being uncomfortable, with not having all the answers. Books help all of us learn about different perspectives and experiences— even adults. You don’t have to be the expert, you just have to be willing to grow alongside your child, ask questions, and listen.

    HARDCOVER, PAPERBACK OR E-BOOK (WHEN READING A BOOK ON YOUR OWN)?
    Team Hardcover all the way! There is nothing more luxurious than the weight of a hardcover book in my lap and a hot cup of tea in hand.

    FICTION, NON-FICTION OR SOME OTHER GENRE (WHEN READING A BOOK ON YOUR OWN)?
    I read anything and everything I can get my hands on. I am a poet at heart, so I read a ton of poetry, but I am also an avid reader of fiction. Lately, I’ve really been enjoying reading short story collections. I can read at least one story before I fall asleep!

    WHAT BOOKS ARE ON YOUR NIGHTSTAND OR E-READER RIGHT NOW?
    If you follow me on Instagram, I periodically post #nightstandselfies which feature an overzealous stack of books I hope to get to. Right now, at the top of my pile, you’ll find: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires, Other Words for Grief by fellow adoptee, Lisa Marie Rollins, and Ghost by Jason Reynolds.

    ARE YOU WORKING ON ANY SPECIAL PROJECTS THAT YOU WANT TO SHARE WITH OTHERS?
    I work full-time for a youth nonprofit, so this fall I am busy writing curriculum and delivering programs. I’m also excited to be working on a YA project— a queer, black girl love story. It’s very fresh, so that’s all I’ll share for now, but stay tuned! And of course, I’m getting ready to launch For Black Girls Like Me and hopefully go on book tour.

    HOW CAN PEOPLE GET IN TOUCH WITH YOU ON SOCIAL MEDIA OR ON YOUR WEBSITE?
    You can find me on Twitter @marilock, or on Instagram @forblackgirlslikeme (Which frequently features pictures of my sausage dog, Henry!)

    Check out For Black Girls Like Me when it publishes in July 2019!

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    children's books, interviews

    Author Interview with Anna McQuinn

    Last month I had the pleasure of reviewing Anna McQuinn’s latest book entitled Lola Gets a Cat.  You can read my review here.  Lola Gets a Cat will be released on February 14, 2017 (Valentine’s Day & International Book Giving Day), but it’s available for pre-order now.

    I also had the opportunity to interview Anna McQuinn and ask her a few questions.  Check it out!

    How did you come up with the characters Lola and Leo?

    The characters kind of developed organically. With Lola I sent out to write about a little girl having some new experiences and the first story I wrote had her go to the library. Well, in the course of writing (and also based on readers’ reactions to her) I realized she’d developed into a little book-loving girl.

    This shouldn’t have come as a surprise and I devoured books as a little girl myself – but I don’t think you are always conscious of this kind of thing as you write. To be honest, it wasn’t until Charlesbridge Publishing began writing back cover copy, that it dawned on me!

    Leo was a little bit more considered. Of course I wanted him to be a book lover too, but I wanted him to have his own personality. So I thought about his characteristics quite a bit more at the outset. I see him as a little adventurer, having new experiences and being quite fearless.

    Do you plan to start a new series of books with new characters in the future?

    I’m not sure about a series, but I have just begun work on a nursery rhyme book. I must admit that with all the changes in both the US and UK recently, I have found it quite hard to concentrate on writing – though I have been inspired to pull out a story I’d been working on and given up on about a little ferret who is bullied… watch this space!

    Besides your own, what were some of your favorite children’s board, picture, or chapter books you’ve read or come across within the past year?

    I was about to say, this is easy – but then you said within the past year. I don’t feel I’m that up to date… I’m a huge fan of Suzanne Bloom and excited about anything new from her; I think the Baby Loves books from Charlesbridge are super cute; and I read Rat Runners by Oisin McGann recently – fabulous story! Did you know that I have a Goodreads page where I review books I read?  You can check it out here. The character Lola also has her own Goodreads page too which can be found here.

    What are some of your must-have children¹s books for a home library?

    Ok, this is easy. Here are my favorites:

    Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse – Kevin Henkes
    Please, Baby, Please – Spike Lee & Kadir Nelson
    Crispin, the Pig Who Had it All–  Ted Dewan
    Whistle for Willie (and anything else by) Ezra Jack Keats
    What About Bear? – Suzanne Bloom
    Feeding Friendsies – Suzanne Bloom
    You Are Not Small – Anna Kang
    It’s a George Thing by David Bedford
    Global Babies (the whole series of books)
    Always and Forever by Alan Durant
    I had a Favorite Dress by Boni Ashburn
    One Word From Sophia by Jim Averbeck and Yasmeen Ismail

    Do you have any literacy rituals that you practice in your family or practiced in the past?

    My Dad was a great bed-time storyteller (there’s a nod to that at the end of Lola Loves Stories).  I especially loved his stories about when he was a small boy. However, when he’d told me a few and then I begged for ‘just one more’ he would begin a story “there was once a little girl called Anna” and for some reason I never wanted these – perhaps because it signaled the last story of the night.

    Besides reading, what are some other things parents can do to set their children up for literacy success?

    Talk! And sing! With very young children, I advise parents to just describe what the child is doing. It feels funny until you get used to it, but it really helps children to learn words to describe what they are doing. You can extend it to emotions too. Sometimes when a child is upset, saying “Oh that really upset you now, didn’t it, you thought it was unfair (or whatever)…” is better than trying to fix something and gives children a vocabulary of words to describe their emotions. Finally I would say READ! Children really notice if a parent encourages them to read, but is never seen reading themselves.

    If you could give parents one piece of advice about reading with children, what would it be?

    Never give up and never EVER decide ‘this child just isn’t into books’.  By never give up I mean trying – be ready to abandon any book that’s not working or just let go mid-way through if your child is getting wriggly.
    Your child may have enough in 2 pages and that’s OK – there’s no obligation to finish every story in one sitting.
    The Irish Children’s Laureate has a lovely piece of advice here.

    Hardcover, Paperback or e-book (when reading a book on your own)?

    Paperback

    Fiction, non-fiction or some other genre (when reading a book on your own)?

    Oh, I often have one of each on the go. I’m currently reading Silk Roads a non-fiction book by Peter Frankopan, and I’ve just finished The Storyteller by Jodi Piccoult. I often have one ‘deep and meaningful’ book on the go alongside a more pacey thriller so I can read depending on my mood.

    Name an adult book that:

    a) Inspired you Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned (Walter Mosley)
    b) Made you laugh out loud We Are all Made of Glue or The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I am
    c) You recommend to others often
    Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned (Walter Mosley)
    Room by Emma Donoghue
    Orange Mint and Honey by Carlene Brice
    The Binding Vine by Shashi Deshpande
    A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
    Just Like Tomorrow by Faiza Guene
    The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe

    What books are on your nightstand or e-reader right now?

    Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun , Silk Roads and Swing Time

    Are you working on any special projects that you want to share with others?

    I’m writing a new Leo book – he goes for a check-up. The illustrator, Ruth Hearson has just sent me the first few rough drafts which is SO exciting!

    How can people get in touch with you on social media or on your website?

    On my Facebook page or here on my website.

    Your turn: Did you enjoy this interview?  What other authors would you be interested in learning more about?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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