What’s New Around Here

Hi there! I’ve been doing some housekeeping around the site and wanted to quickly summarize what’s new for folks. As always, I appreciate you stopping by.

  • Updates to the Publications, Podcasts, Multimedia page. You’ll find a link to my new column with Ed Leadership, my guide for educators for Jacqueline Woodson’s latest picture books (I was so honored to write these), and other resources I’ve written that you might find useful.

  • Updates to my Year-In-Reading page, where I chronicle what has kept my reading life moving along, albeit at a very different pace. But, it’s my pace, and the books I’ve read have been quite lovely.

  • Updates to where to Find Me and How to Contact Me. Thank you for reaching out and bringing me to your schools! I have limited availability for 2023; if you’d like to work together, please, be in touch and we’ll see if a collaboration makes sense.

  • A dedicated page to my book, Literacy is Liberation: Working Toward Justice Through Culturally Relevant Teaching. The book continues to be so well received! Thank you for letting me know, leading book studies with your faculty about it, and DOING THE WORK. Please take a minute to share a positive review wherever you got your copy, as word-of-mouth from other readers is the strongest endorsement I could hope for (and for which I’d be so grateful). I’m here to help you, too! Let me know if you need me. I’d love to work with you.

Finally, it’s still August. Barely. I’m holding on to this poem by Lorca; last stanza from “August” is below.

August.

The little boys eat

brown bread and delicious moon.

Flowers for all of us.

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#31DaysIBPOC: Reasons

One of my favorite emails to receive arrives on Sundays. Suleika Jaouad’s Isolation Diaries prompts. She began these tiny delights early in the pandemic. I signed up randomly then, not quite sure what to expect, but also relishing the fact that it would be something I could look forward to that would temporarily transport me from the dread and uncertainty I felt as everything changed so rapidly. 

Fast forward three years, and while life continues to be uncertain, I still receive these Sunday joys. I don’t always write to them, but I read Suleika’s invitations, which have documented much of her life throughout this time, and welcome them for the potential that beckons, simply by slowing down to read them. 

It is in that spirit that I write this post to kick off our fourth year of #31DaysIBPOC. Wow it’s been a YEAR, hasn’t it? I’ve never quite felt so weary, so disappointed, so…as I have over this past year. I’ve often found myself coming down much more on the side of thanking clarity for the gifts it reveals about people and systems, and also rage that this is how we can treat each other, particularly our Black children. I’ve felt so vulnerable as I’ve witnessed and experienced how, again and again, schools can give up on Black children and Black families, how “community” doesn’t necessarily mean all children, and how “normal” has meant a nearly soul-crushing march back to maintaining systems that have never even thought of Black folks as human.

Thus, when this week’s Isolation Diaries prompt, #192, arrived last Sunday, it was a perfect meshing of National Poetry month and a reminder that even in a storm, there is good. That good can be so small, though, that it can be overlooked, I realize. 

My post this year is just that: a response to Nikita Gill’s poem “Reasons to Live Through the Apocalypse”. The prompt was: “What are your reasons to live through the apocalypse? Record them in a prose poem or a long, lovely list.”

As you read this month’s entries, there are plenty of moments to reflect, pause, and think about what good remains (however you choose to define it, and not in some toxic positivity way), and how each #31DaysIBPOC writer is helping us to think about our current moment. And, too, if one of these writers has a book, or a fund they support, or something else, please support them, as these gifts they are giving us all require a tremendous amount of energy and vulnerability. Happy May. Thank you for joining us again.

Reasons.

The weeks when yellow forsythia bloom. Calling an old friend who says, “I’ll always pick up the phone when you call,” and knowing he means it. Losing my balance and my 7 yo reaching out with “Mommy, let’s hold each other’s hands.” Spring peas that are beginning to grow up a trellis. Stopping by to play dodgeball with second graders. My partner’s insistence on dancing together in the kitchen as well as her constant reminders and quoting of the Nap Ministry that rest is our right and I need to do more of it. Surprise deliveries of Jeni’s Ice Cream from my bestie. Thoughtful packages that arrive in the mail containing books of poetry, excerpts that are invitations to a book I might like, and a Ketanji Brown Jackson postcard reminding me to persevere. That moment when, on college trips with high school juniors, we crest the hill of a gorgeous campus on a day when the sun is shining just right and they can see themselves thriving there. Anyone who purchased, shared, reviewed, or recommended Literacy Is Liberation. Fiction, especially ones listed here. Unschooling. Black children playing outside together. Listening to their laughter. Dreaming of summer on the Vineyard. Writing and sending a card to someone and telling them that I bought it “because it reminded me of you” (and actually having the stamps to do it!). Deep River sour cream and onion potato chips. Bearing witness to a new teacher talk through their career plans and desire to teach Black children in the city. My mom’s recounting of the fun she had going to lunch with her two sisters.Melissa on the Real World: New Orleans Homecoming. Finding a candle with a nice scent at T.J. Maxx that won’t give me a migraine. The monstera plant my partner gifted me that sits beside my desk and brings more comfort and joy than I ever expected (does this make me a #plantmom?!). When my nephew keeps one of my audio messages. Podcasts, particularly Didn’t I Just Feed You, Still Processing, Truth Be Told and The Stacks. Reading all three of Jacqueline Woodson’s most recent picture books (SO GOOD). Group texts that are simultaneous sites of encouragement, celebration, mourning, love. Red Birkenstocks, especially when my sun takes them and wears them himself. Voice notes. The way my mom asks, “He diiiiid?” when I tell her a story. A wise friend’s advice about how to accept compliments, especially as a woman writer: “Thank you. It’s true.”  Carolina Wrens that visit the window bird feeder long after the other birds have departed. Brunch. Sitting on a bench reading beside my sun who is also reading. Our morning walks to his school. Donut holes. Pho. Happy stories of Black women winning…


This blog post is part of the #31DaysIBPOC Blog Series, a month-long movement to feature the voices of Indigenous and teachers of color as writers and scholars.

Please CLICK HERE to read this year’s and previous years’ contributions.

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5 Things I Learned While Writing a Book

Hi there. It’s been a minute, I know. But I’ve been doing some things: trying to live through a pandemic, starting a new job, and, well, writing a book. Literacy Is Liberation: Working Toward Justice Through Culturally Relevant Teaching with ASCD is coming out in February, 2022. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?

Page Proofs! Almost there…February ’22 is SO CLOSE!

SAME.

It’s definitely been a process. And, because I’m celebrating submitting the page proofs a moment ago, I immediately wanted to capture a few feelings before I forgot them. Here they go, in no particular order…

  1. You can write a book. I interact with so many different people who are doing amazing things. If you want to write a book, please, write your book. Then, I hope that if you want to find a publisher you can find one like ASCD that made the process one that made sense to me, that figured out how to work with me, and that shepherded me through from start to finish. Much of this was all about belief: once I wrapped my head around acknowledging that I HAD to write about my practice if I wanted to really understand and own it, then the universe kind of opened up. That said…

  2. You have to commit to actually writing that book once you convince yourself. As much as I hoped, it wouldn’t write itself. That meant that I had to get a system together for keeping track of my references (Zotero, FTW), getting myself on a schedule, and reaching my goals I’d set for myself. I channeled much of the discipline I thought I’d never need again once I wrote my dissertation, lol. Indeed, having a schedule and a timeline, while also telling folks who will hold you gently accountable, definitely helped.

  3. Take the time to write your acknowledgements. I asked for more space for my acknowledgements and STILL didn’t get to thank all the people I wanted to. However, I did the best I could. I also know that people will read them, so I wanted to be sure that when and if they did, they would know how grateful I was for them. Thus, even if you feel like you don’t want to do any.more.writing, get some water (or something stronger), jot down a list of all the people, see them in your head cheering you on, and write to them. It’s a fabulous way to wrap up a project.

  4. You have to reconcile the worry you feel about putting your ideas out into the world with the bigger picture of why it matters and, well, DO IT. I mean, look, Gloria Ladson-Billings is the GOAT, and here I am, talking about culturally relevant teaching. Does it feel new? No, in some ways, AND YET, we still ain’t getting it right. So, there was lots of space there to really think through how we can do it while also helping educators build community, talk about race, and get ourselves together. But I still have dreams about “OMG, is she gonna yell at me?” Well, I hope not, and I also hope this book contributes to the requests so many teachers have about all the issues I address in the book.

  5. Build in small rewards and play with your people along the way. I am trying to uncouple myself from the productivity industrial complex, but OMG is it hard sometimes, especially when there are deadlines to meet, meetings to attend, and dinner to at least consider making. I’ve realized that small rewards are actually quite big for me. I enjoy doing absolutely nothing, watching Grey’s Anatomy, writing letters, dreaming about home…so many things. When I’d get stuck, or needed a bit more motivation, I’d do those things and, lo and behold, I’d get my mojo back long enough to wrap up a paragraph. I also am grateful for my people who were NOT writing a book and therefore insisted I eat, play, scream, dance, play BeyBlades or Pokemon, draw some pictures, read a book, write a poem, or anything that made me realize I am a human being. We are connected to other people. Writing a book didn’t come in the way of that, and I’m happy my work on boundaries, while often aspirational at best, enabled me to love on them, be loved on, and still complete this project.

I know this picture above might be familiar to some people, as I posted it on social media, but the FEELING of having the page proofs in my hand, and to be celebrating over hot pot with my dear friend after so much time apart, was something I wanted to hold on to. Thus, I put this picture here to remind myself of the joy that also accompanied this project.

I am going to put in a plug for finding yourself a really good editor to bring you along. I worked with the fabulous Acquisitions Editor, Allison Scott, from ASCD who presented me with a timeline and helped me get my goals together. She was also the best warm demander/cheerleader I needed. I also got experience writing for ASCD in different mediums: shorter pieces that helped me define my voice, get feedback, and make decisions about what I wanted, and needed to write about. It’s like the low-stakes practice we get young writers to do daily; so much so that when the bigger thing comes along, you’ll have been mentored, received feedback, and feel ready to take the next right step for you.

Please, now, write a book. If you want to. Or reach out to someone (like emailing Acquisitions at ASCD) to talk through ideas and help chart a path forward (plus, it’s FREE). I mean, people have been telling me for a looong time I “should” write a book, but it was only when the time, place, and publisher aligned did it make sense for me to do. If that time is for you, then, I hope you’ll do it, because, especially for BIPOC folks, there is SO much we know and do that others need to understand, and there are publishers who are so interested in our stories that they’ll help us along: mentorship, guidance, and publishing. Our stories are powerful; get to writing!

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#31DaysIBPOC: Gratitude & Goodbye

I loved concluding the series this year. It allowed me the time to go back, reread and savor the gift that #31DaysIBPOC is. I was able to be moved over and over again at the range of experiences, the brilliance of the writing, and the complexities of living.

Thank you to everyone who wrote, to everyone who read and shared these essays, and who will continue to revisit them in the year to come. To our growing family of supporters: Please support these professionals! For the ones who have Venmos or causes they support, donate in solidarity or to say thank you. If you are looking for people to lead your professional development, please, hire these folx and all the folx who have written for the series over these three years. And, of course, please pay them what they are worth.

I pulled lines from all this month’s posts to compose this found poem of gratitude for all of our writers and to close out May.

The highest gratitude goes to my dear friend, Tricia Ebarvia, who is the very best collaborator I could have wished for and who is proof that I am abundantly blessed with so many good people in my life. Be well, everyone.

Assembling a poem, being moved by the voices…

Found Poem for #31DaysIBPOC

Because I come from a lineage of strong-willed, determined, fierce women I foolishly thought I was invincible.1
I didn’t talk about this Black soul scar with my parents until I was 43 years old.2
Imagine being afraid to sleep for days, months, years, and lifetimes and you will still only understand a fraction of my rage, my exhaustion, my fear, my loneliness, and my deep, deep sorrow.3

Today, I am ready to tell the story of my darkest times, to reckon with these times publicly because in the light, there is healing.4

You are not made for simple palates.

I knew the power of stories, that’s why I began telling stories in the first place.6
I shudder to think of all the cultural pride I sacrificed at the altar of attempted assimilation over the years.7
What is “excellent” about lacking the courage to face our history, learn from it, and forge a path forward that is not built on the backs and blood of Black people, the theft of indigenous land, and the criminalization and imprisonment of those we fear?8
A Palestinian mama has no control over her fate or the fate of her children. Her daughter is a Palestinian.9

If we truly believe that we want schools to be a safe place for students, why aren’t they?10

Despite my own experiences and intimate knowledge of the variations of being Black, here I was limiting my view of Black students and what they would need and where they would be. 11
I will not traumatize you based on YOUR cultural identity and connections to family, place, land, tradition, and language; rather it will be a celebration ALL year.12
I want more parents to ask questions. I want educators to welcome their questions, and when necessary, I want us to change what we’re doing in the classrooms or spaces where we teach.13

And all that I had lost, willfully lost…was it too late to reclaim? 14

But she has shown me, even still in these struggles, we resist, we love and we find joy.15

Sitting next to all that is too much are also other things, things like truth, community, kinship, and love.16

The difference between me as a child and me as an adult is that as an adult, I don’t listen to other voices to validate my own experiences anymore.17
I center Black joy and Black folx living they regular degular lives in my instruction.18
We need to resist through joy. We feel it deeply. We feel it urgently.19
Our power resides in our collective strength. We are what we are seeking.20

As a Black person I couldn’t believe that escaping for freedom was even debatable.21
They may fire their cannons or launch their missiles, but I stand firm with my flag erected, for I will fight no more.
Representation is important but that is only a step toward liberation.22

I am getting better at reminding myself that those who harbor hatred need to work on themselves…and get out of my/our way.23
You are a divine being worthy of rest.24
You, showing up exactly as you are, isn’t just good enough–it’s inspiring, and brave, and powerful.25
We can be the love we need and the joy this world tries to take away.26
We can come to realize how small our world is and how big the rest of the world is but, even with our wings clipped, we can visit beyond the margins of our cage.27

We shall revel in the abundance of each other.28

This blog post is part of the #31DaysIBPOC Blog Series, a month-long movement to feature the voices of indigenous and teachers of color as writers and scholars. Please CLICK HERE to read yesterday’s blog post by shea martin(and be sure to check out the link at the end of each post to catch up on the rest of the blog series).

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Chatting About Literacy Is Liberation with the #G2GREAT folks Thurs. 3/10: Come Through!

See you on Twitter!

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March 7, 2022 · 4:15 pm

Preview My Book + Get Some Ideas for The Rest of the School Year: Thurs. 2/10

I’m having a free webinar hosted by ASCD where I’ll be thinking through how to gather ourselves and end the year positively for our BIPOC students.

I’ll be pulling bits from my forthcoming book, Literacy is Liberation: Working Toward Justice Through Culturally Relevant Teaching, now available for pre-order.

Register here. Hope to see you soon!

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2022: A Year-In-Reading

I continue to be coming around to my new reading life which is, as this moment, out of sync with how I used to read. I have leaned hard into books that I want to read, not should or need to read, but ones that I want to read. That got me into a groove last year and I hope it will anchor me through 2022, also.

If you’re interested in 2021 and 2020, those links are also here for you.

January 2022

The Love Songs of W.E.B. DuBois by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers
I couldn’t stop reading this one once I began. A few years ago, I remember reading Pachinko as voraciously. Like, unable to do anything except perform basic functions because I was absolutely consumed by this intergenerational, historical, contemporary, beautiful novel about Black women and mothering and legacy, and race and…it’s incredible. I’d definitely have it in classrooms and I’d also consider putting it into conversation with The Known World by Edward P. Jones. Jeffers’ characters stay with you. I haven’t stopped thinking about them since I finished the book. A fantastic way to start a new year. Anchored in Black women.

February 2022

This Close to Okay, Leesa Cross-Smith
I have a soft spot for Leesa Cross-Smith after loving her So We Can Glow, a collection of excellent short/flash stories. This novel is about two people who find each other at moments when they are both fragile (CW: suicide, just know that). Then, they put each other back together-ish, in ways that are humane and realistic and that make you really grateful for folks who take the time to check in on us. Leesa C-S writes a beautiful sentence; she’s the type of writer who actually uses interesting words throughout, and those words are delightful and surprising, and memorable. Truly enjoyed this book, suspended all doubt while reading it, and was glad I did because the novel was quite satisfying.

The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You, Maurice Carlos Ruffin
I was preparing for a trip to New Orleans and wanted a book to help me ease back into that vibe. Ruffin’s collection of short stories was unexpected, heartbreaking, and fabulous, all at the same time. He writes well, encouraging you to take a second, third, and even fourth look at sentences and the people and places within them. They are important glimpses of the people whom, as a tourist, one might overlook or not pay attention to, or even think they’ve come to New Orleans to forget. However, Ruffin insists we pay attention, hear the stories, consider who we don’t see, or choose not to see, when we visit these places.

This Boy We Made: A Memoir of Motherhood, Genetics and Facing the Unknown, Taylor Harris

March 2022

While We Were Dating, Jasmine Guillory

A Map Is Only One Story: Twenty Writers on Immigration, Family, and the Meaning of Home, Edited by Nicole Chung and Mensah Demary

Somebody’s Daughter: A Memoir, Ashley Ford

April 2022

Fiona and Jane, Joan Chen Ho

Brown Girls, Daphne Palasi Andreades

May 2022

Lakewood, Megan Giddings

Punch Me Up to the Gods: A Memoir, Brian Broome

June 2022

Cafe Con Lychee, Emery Lee

Take My Hand, Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Memphis, Tara M. Stringfellow

July 2022

Instructions for Dancing, Nicola Yoon

August 2022

You Are Your Best Thing: Vulnerability, Shame, Resilience, and the Black Experience, Brene Brown and Tarana Burke

By the Book, Jasmine Guillory

Set Boundaries, Find Peace, Nedra Tawwab

September 2022

Olga Dies Dreaming, Xochitl Gonzalez

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Literacy Is Liberation

I’m excited to share Literacy Is Liberation: Working Toward Justice Through Culturally Relevant Teaching by ASCD in February 2022. Please visit this page for updates and information.

Pre-Order Now Live:

I’d love it if you pre-ordered Literacy Is Liberation. Information here.

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Resources for Building & Growing Your Black Children’s Books Collection

If you’re looking for places to learn about and purchase Black books, here are a few of my favorites. As always, please make sure when you purchase books you are:

-striving for “inclusive diversity” according to expert Dr. Violet J. Harris:

-only purchasing #ownvoices

-purchasing from Black-owned bookstores (shout out to my local one, Frugal Bookstore)

-gifting, sharing, and telling publishers that we need more, more, more of these

And, of course, this is only a brief list. If you have others you’d recommend, please leave them in the comments. Thank you!


Frugal Bookstore (@FrugalBookstore) | Twitter

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A New Day Dawns: Exciting News!

I’ve taught writing with fantastic students in the Crimson Summer Academy at Harvard for over a decade. It’s one of the most important jobs I’ve ever had, and it’s the job I’ve loved the most in my career.

So, imagine my face when the process was completed and I could finally announce that this happened…

“Won’t you celebrate with me?” to quote Lucille Clifton.

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