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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, diverse books

    Cover Reveal: Like Vanessa by Tami Charles + A Giveaway!

    I’m so excited to host the book cover reveal for the forthcoming March 2018 middle grade debut novel by author Tami Charles!

    Oh, and the back story about the actual cover of the book is quite inspiring.  There’s definitely powerful messages of dreaming big and persevering despite the odds.  Read below and let me know if you agree.

    It was always a dream of mine to meet Vanessa Williams, tell her how she’s inspired me, and give her a copy of the novel. I had the opportunity to do that last November after one of her concerts here in New Jersey. Her agent, Brian Edwards, was kind enough to arrange a meet and greet. A few months after giving her my book, I received the most surprising message in my inbox:

    “Congratulations Tami on your debut release, Like Vanessa. It’s such an honor to be the focal point of this wonderful book! Without a doubt, it will be inspiring to a new generation of young, talented girls well on their way to promising careers.”   – Vanessa Williams, Multi-Platinum Recording Artist, NY Times Best Selling Author, Fashion Designer and star of Television, Film and the Broadway Stage

    Part of this lovely quote is featured on the cover of Like Vanessa! In addition, one of my favorite authors, Rita Williams-Garcia, provided a glowing endorsement. And last but not least, the cover is illustrated by the one, the only Vanessa Brantley-Newton! Vanessa herself is from Newark, New Jersey, and has a beautiful singing voice very much like my main character. 

    I consider myself lucky to have the blessings of three powerful women who inspire my author journey!

    Q&A with Tami Charles!
    What inspired the story we read about in Like Vanessa?
    One day, when I was thirteen, my mom went to the mall…without me. (I know, the nerve, right?) A pageant director and her winners were there passing out flyers to recruit for their next pageant. My mom brought the flyer home and asked me if I wanted to participate. I had always watched Miss America, but I’d never done a pageant before. The only reason I had the courage to enter was because I knew that someone came before me and made history. That person was Vanessa Williams.  This is how Like Vanessa was born. I merged a childhood hobby and heroine of mine into a tale of a thirteen-year-old girl who made her own history, against all odds.

    What was your favorite scene to write (no spoilers, please!)?
    With some convincing from her grandfather, cousin, and teacher, Vanessa shyly decides to audition for her school’s pageant. The night before the audition, Vanessa writes in her journal to ask God to make her beautiful. What she doesn’t realize, though, is that she’s been beautiful all along.  I enjoyed watching that reality unfold.

    What books from your own childhood inspired Like Vanessa?
    As a young reader, I wasn’t exposed to the Rita Williams-Garcia’s, Meg Medina’s, and Kwame Alexander’s of the literary world. Don’t get me wrong, I loved (and still love) Anastasia Krupnik and Ramona Quimby! But I didn’t see myself in those stories. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I started reading the books I would have begged for as a child.  Two books in particular that guided me on this journey were: The Skin I’m In, by Sharon Flake and One Crazy Summer (series), by Rita Williams-Garcia.

    If you could have readers walk away with one message, what would it be?
    Achieving a goal is not easy, but do it anyway. Do it with pride, knowing that someone came before you to pave the way. And if there is no path, make your own…like Vanessa, like Oprah, like Malala! You are powerful and significant and worthy!

    Can you tell us what you have coming up next?
    I’m currently revising the follow-up to Like Vanessa. The story will focus on the bully, Beatriz Mendez, from book #1. Beatriz wasn’t born mean. Once upon a time, she had a dream. We’ll see it reignited in book #2.

    About the Book
    Middle graders will laugh and cry with thirteen-year-old Vanessa Martin as she tries to be like Vanessa Williams, the first black Miss America, by reluctantly entering her own beauty pageant.

    In this semi-autobiographical debut novel set in 1983, Vanessa Martin’s real-life reality of living with family in public housing in Newark, New Jersey is a far cry from the glamorous Miss America stage. She struggles with an incarcerated mother she barely remembers, a grandfather dealing with addiction and her own battle with self-confidence. But when a new teacher at school coordinates a beauty pageant and convinces Vanessa to enter, Vanessa’s view of her own world begins to change. Vanessa discovers that her own self-worth is more than the scores of her talent performance and her interview answers, and that she doesn’t need a crown to be comfortable in her own skin and see her own true beauty.

    You can pre-order a copy of the book here!  Publishes March 13, 2018 from Charlesbridge Publishing.

    Author the Author

    Former teacher. Wannabe chef. Debut author. Tami Charles writes picture books, middle grade, young adult, and nonfiction. Her middle grade novel, Like Vanessa, debuts with Charlesbridge in March, 2018. The novel has been selected for the Junior Library Guild’s Spring 2018 collection, “Indies Introduce” 2018, and the SCBWI Book Launch Award.

    Tami’s picture book, Freedom Soup, debuts with Candlewick Press in fall, 2019.  She also has more forthcoming works with Candlewick, Charlesbridge, and Albert Whitman & Company. Tami is represented by Lara Perkins, of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

    Connect with Tami!
    Twitter | Instagram

    The Giveaway!
    Enter for your chance to win an advanced copy of Tami’s forthcoming book!  Open to US residents age 18 and over only.

    Like Vanessa Book Giveaway!

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