Linda Michel-Cassidy interviews speakers at the Mill Valley Library After Hours series to discover the eight books that made them who they are.
Librarian Natalie McCall chats with debut author Ryan Douglass. Ryan’s book, The Taking of Jake Livingston, is about a teenage boy who has to deal with ghosts and racism at his mostly white college prep school. It’s a horror coming-of-age story that offers both scares and the exploration of real-world issues.
Natalie and Ryan talk about what it’s like being horror-loving children, spooky racism, and what the editorial process is really like. This episode is a must-listen for any aspiring writers!
Eight Books That Made Me: Aisha Saeed
Librarian Natalie McCall chats with New York Times bestselling author Aisha Saeed. Saeed has written books for both teens (Written In the Stars, Yes No Maybe So) and children (Amal Unbound, Bilal Cooks Daal). She has also contributed essays and short stories in various collections (Hope Nation, Our Stories, Our Voices, Once Upon An Eid).
Natalie and Aisha talk about rewriting Goldilocks (to depict her as the little house-destroying criminal she was!), letters to Judy Blume, and how stories about people of color can be just as universal and relatable as “classics” about white people.
Eight Books That Made Me: Jasmine Warga
Librarian Natalie McCall chats with Jasmine Warga. Warga is the author of the New York Times bestseller Other Words For Home. Other Words For Home earned multiple awards, including a John Newbery Honor. She is also the author of young adult books, My Heart and Other Black Holes and Here We Are Now, which have been translated into over twenty different languages. The Shape of Thunder, her next novel for middle grade readers, will be published in May 2021. Originally from Cincinnati, she now lives in the Chicago-area with her family.
Natalie and Jasmine talk about books as a vehicle to ask questions about the thorny topics of life without being prescriptive, the randomness of grief, how books about girly girls can be universal for all readers, and modern reading culture (blogs! Reviews! Goodreads! Oh my!).
Eight Books That Made Me: Justina Ireland
Librarian Natalie McCall chats with Justina Ireland, author of fantasy novels for young adults including the New York Times bestseller, Dread Nation (a genre-bending historical novel featuring finishing school zombie slayers). Justina also writes for the Star Wars franchise, including the books Lando’s Luck, Spark of the Resistance, and A Test of Courage. Her middle grade novel Ophie’s Ghosts comes out in May.
Natalie and Justina talked about whether The Great Gatsby is actually any good or if readers have been brainwashed into thinking it’s a classic, the behind the scenes working of the hype machine in YA publishing, and the portrayal of “Black pain” in literature. Justina also gives hope to aspiring writers when she describes selling her most successful book to a publisher when it seemed like her career was over.
Eight Books That Made Me: Brandy Colbert
Librarian Natalie McCall chats with Brandy Colbert, award-winning author of books for children and teens (The Voting Booth, Little & Lion, The Revolution of Birdie Randolph, Finding Yvonne, Pointe, The Only Black Girls In Town). Brandy was born and raised in the Ozarks (Springfield, Missouri!) and has a degree in journalism. She is on faculty at Hamline University’s MFA program in writing for children and lives in Los Angeles.
Natalie and Brandy talked about both the magic and colonialism in their favorite children’s classics, loving feminism with a bloody edge, and what it’s like to be the only black girls in town (and literature!).
Eight Books That Made Me: Kim Johnson
Librarian Natalie McCall talks with Kim Johnson, author of This Is My America, a thrilling mystery that explores racial injustice and the American justice system (think The Hate U Give meets Just Mercy). Kim was active in social justice as a teen and college student and now mentors student activists and leaders in her role as a college administrator.
Natalie and Kim talked mysteries (are you the type of reader who sits back and enjoys the ride or the type that searches for clues to solve the case?), the limited opportunities which have existed for Black writers in American publishing, and whether young readers should be protected from reading about dark or frightening topics.