>>EMILY (CART captioner):
Standing by. Testing one, two, three, four,
five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18.
** Got quiet really fast. I think Dr. Hayden said it well,
it’s like we’re in a library. [LAUGHTER]
** Welcome. I’m Leanne potter. I direct educational outreach
here. And welcome to this very special day. It’s special for a
number of reasons. For starters, it’s special because
it’s here at the library of Congress, and as many of you
know the library is the largest library in the world. Did you know —
I’ve got good notes — did you know that the library’s
collections contain almost 164 million items in a wide variety
of formats, languages, and subjects .
And did you know these collections are the single most
comprehensive accumulation of human expression ever assembled?
And if that doesn’t give you goose bumps, then maybe the
weather does. The collections are broad. They are broad in
scope and they include materials in more than 470 different
languages, more than 35 different scripts, and many
different media formats, from photographs to maps to drawings
to manuscripts, to sound recordings and more. The
collections even include books. ** I say that because sometime
we assume and not the others. We are here in the members room.
Not your typical meeting room, huh? The members room in the
Thomas Jefferson building in the Library of Congress is a good
reminder to all of us that the like of Congress is the main
research arm of the United States Congress. And today is
extra special because today’s event is not the kind of event
that happens every day. In fact, it only happens once every
two years. Today as you know we are inaugurating the new
national ambassador for young people’s literature who will
serve in this position until January of 2020. As you
probably know, an ambassador is someone authorized to be a
representative or messenger of something, a great ambassador is
smart, knows what he or she is talking about, is a champion of
an important cause, and is a supporter and a promoter of
others others. Hmm. You could almost say that the Library of
Congress is an ambassador of sorts. I am honored to
introduce you to Dr. Carla Hayden, the 14th librarian of
Congress. She earned her Ph.D. from the university of Chicago.
She began her career as a children’s librarian. She led
the library in Baltimore with the president of the American
library association and is absolutely aware of the power of
reading. She knows the magic of a good story and is a tremendous
ambassador for the Library of Congress. Dr. Hayden.
[ APPLAUSE ] ** Well, good morning. And
thank you, Leanne. I was all ready to sprint up and you
started doing what my mom always loved to hear. They never tire
that. This is a wonderful event and
just want to say welcome. I’m especially happy to see the
young people from Brooklyn middle school, the orange.
[ APPLAUSE ] ** In their wonderful shirts,
the orange sixth grade and teelt seventh grade. So you should
know that. And so welcome and we hope you come back many, many
times. One of the many pleasures of being librarian of
Congress is to host events like this. I have to say, though,
this one is very, very special. The inauguration of our new
national ambassador for young people’s literature is
Jacqueline Woodson. [ APPLAUSE ] ** Now, I’ve been saying of Ms.
Woodson for a long time and in my tenure at the library I was
very fortunate to work with someone who was — talk about an
ambassador, a champion champion, a mentor for young
people’s literature, Ms. Ms. Deborah Taylor.
[ APPLAUSE ] ** She had been an advocate, and
still is, for respecting young people by giving them the best
in literature. And being the person who also was able to spot talent early on. She was
the one and — the youth ambassador, Jin Yang, when she
said, oh, my, God, Carla, she’s going to be youth ambassador and
she’d been following him and then Jacqueline wood Woodson in
2004 Taylor selected miracle voice and I have my copy to the
Baltimore book and the library purchase copies for all young
people in the city and this was the book in 2003.
She also, and I’m going to embarrass her a little bit, was
the person who gave Tupac Shakur his first award. he took her car and picked up
Tupac Shakur at home, he was 14, to attend, and young people,
please don’t laugh, there was a beet to the book beet beat
contest. You should see their faces. Yes, a library of rap
contests, right? It was the ’80s. We were all boogieing.
Michael Jackson, it was boogie. And Deb tailor had a library rap
contest and she picked up young Tupac Shakur in her car. He was
14 and he performed his library rap, which is now in a vault at
the library because it’s in his own hand about the library’s
cool and he won the contest. And he also was very smart
because he put a C for copyright on it. So Deb Taylor, thank
you, thank you, thank you, because —
[ APPLAUSE ] ** Now, I mention Jane because
she’s with us here today and thanks to the center for the
books. We’ve had five and this will be the sixth youth
ambassador and I want to thank John Cole for having the vision
to say this is something that the Library of Congress should
do and also showing that respect for our young scholars who are
coming up. So John, we thank you for that.
[ APPLAUSE ] ** So we are so fortunate to have the
children’s book council support and every child a reader
foundation support. You have been wonderful to help the
library expand this reach and, Gene, I have to tell you, I have
samples of graphic novels from the folder library and from
other places that we would love to see the Library of Congress
have. Just saying. So, please, let me hand this back over to
Leanne, but thank you, thank you all for being here.
[ APPLAUSE ] ** Dr. Hayden mentioned that
Gene is here but sitting next to her is one of our impar doors.
I think they ought to stand up, please. [ APPLAUSE ]
** I think she’s within — I think she’s marvelous. Thank
you, Dr. Hayden. It is my pleasure to welcome Carl lenders
up here to the podium, director of the child’s book council and
of every child a reader. He is busy. He oversees the
development and expansion of both organizations programming
and that programming includes a few things you probably heard
before. How about children’s book week? And the children’s choice book
awards as well as the national ambassador for young people’s
literature. Carl, come on up. [ APPLAUSE ] ** I have a B in psychology. I
was fit to work in a bookstore, that was my education, but thank
you all. Okay, who likes magic? Good answer. Give me three or
four minutes to say some it’s and I have a magic trick. Shana
‘s going oh, no. Thank you to all the young people here.
Brooklyn middle school, school librarian. Thank you very much
for being here. The room is full of a lot of other young
people. Adults whoever young at heart, spirit, and we are that
way every day because we read, write, illustrate, publish, and
share books with children and teens every day and that keeps
us young at heart and that’s a joyful thing. We say we go to
work. We love going to work. It is work, but it’s a joy every
day to do our work to bring books to young people everywhere
. I want to take a moment, minute and a half or so or two
or three to deal with the hundreds of thousands of people
every day who bring books to readers everywhere. Some of us
here today and watching on live stream, not too nervous, book
publishers who discovered talented writers print their
works and get them to readers. There’s a lot more than that but
I only have five minutes. The book publishers also support the
work of children’s book council and every child a reader,
including the ambassador program. Thank you all here
today. Thank you for the board members who made it and thank
you for all the council members watching at work. Some of us
here today are librarians, those amazing people in every town and
city in America. I’m a library kid from a small town. Went
there every day bringing books to kids and adults everywhere.
A special thanks to the super hero librarians. Dr. Hayden,
Library of Congress, and injury staff, Leanne, Karen, Gail,
Wendy, all a joy. Thank you very much. Scarlet from Vermont
, thank you for coming down. [ APPLAUSE ]
** She was on our selection committee which I’ll come back
to in just a moment. Some of us here are independent book
sellers for, those passionate people who with librarians in a
community they’re the roots, in touch with everybody in America
more than all of us can ever be, hundredses of thousands of book
settlers who read the books ahead of time and reach the
heart and soul through America. We would not have the diverse
spirit, talent, literature without independent book sellers
and librarians. We have an independent book seller, Deandra
Beard, thank you for coming. Thanks for being here, being on
the call with us. It’s wonderful. This one’s
underlined because you went to public school. To the teachers
here today and everywhere I consider your professions as
important in the health and well-being of our kids and to us
as much as doctors and nurses. Public school teachers rock.
[ APPLAUSE ] So do college teachers. We have
two of them here. Sarah, thank you for coming in and.
[ APPLAUSE ] ** And Susanna Richards who is a
children’s art illustration guru , historian, friend of us in general and good idea
person. [ APPLAUSE ]
** To the media here today thank you for protecting the free flow
of information every day. Without you we’re in trouble. And who review books, very
important. To others here at home the importance of getting
books and stories to those in need every day from first book
to workshop, library movement which is awesome from open books
to the PTA and more organizations and charities and
places, ALA, ABC, it’s an acronym world but you all every
day getting books to people who need books which is important.
I’m here on behalf of my small but passionate wonderful team
back in New York, Lauda, Scffit, Ryan Mepa and Kelly graham. I
know you haven’t got water in the office that you’re hugged
around the coffee machine. It’s rough. And for two people here,
Walter bolten and if he will Felicity who made all the
interviews happen. And for Jacqueline given the interview
it’s so wonderful. It’s stressful. Thank you for doing
that. We got major coverage across the country. I think
we’re talking about 100 million-dollar media impression
about books, reading, love of books, it was wonderful. And
Shanena, my director of program supportership.
[ APPLAUSE ] ** You’re here in two years.
She does so much and I cannot thank you enough. To the magic makers, the writers
, illustrators everywhere who create the word and future
stories that delight us every day, and, yes, talking back to
the young at heart thing. John Testa, your books make me smile.
Jin Yang, thank you Smalley lin Woodson, what a gift to the
world you are. You teach us, make us wiser, better, stronger
. Love of books and art
illustration and highlight last year was your selection of
ambassador. We’re happy for you and the young people you’ll
reach with your message, energy, and power of storytelling.
Thank you all of you in the book world. You make a difference
every day. We’ll see you again until book week, the first week
in May, national festival of book. Jackie’s on the road
talking, selling her books, doing her thing . All right. Time for a magic
act. I am going to disappear back to my seat.
[LAUGHTER] ** And let the real magic makers
take the stage. [ APPLAUSE ] ** Thank you, Carl. Very nice.
It is my pleasure to be reminded that I’m shorter than Carl. It
is my pleasure to welcome Jin Yang to this stage. I’m going
to tell you about him just in case you didn’t know. For the
past two year Jin has served as the fifth ambassador for young
people’s literature. He was born and raised in California
and is the son of Chinese immigrants. Has been drawing
comics since the fifth grade. In 2006 his book, American born
Chinese was published and became the first graphic novel to be
nominated for a national book award. And it was the first to
win the American Library Association’s prince award. In 2013 his two volume graphic
novel about the boxer rebellion was nominated as well for a
narnl book award and won the L.A. Times book prize. In
addition — and I could go on, but — in addition to cartooning
he is also a teacher. He is currently teaching creative
writing and has been a tremendous national ambassador.
His platform, reading without walls has challenged all of us
to stretch our reading habits in very important ways. Jin.
[ APPLAUSE ] ** Good morning, everyone. I am
so excited to be here. Two years ago in this same building
in a different room, but same building, I got the fanciest
thing that I own. I got the national ambassador for young
people’s literature medal and the last two years
have been among the most amazing of my life. I want to thank Dr.
Hayden, Carl, and Shayna and everyone else for your support.
I want to especially thank the librarians and teachers and book
sellers that have made these past two years so magical. Last
two years I’ve gone around the country to talk to young people
from all different communities in America. What I’ve
discovered is that kids love books. Despite what what some
adults might lead to you think, kids still love books. And they
love books for the same reason we all love books. It’s because
stories help us make sense of our lives, of the world. That’s
why I am so excited to be here today, because today we all in
this room get to witness one of the greatest story tellers of
our time receive the martial ambassador for young
people medal. Jackie Woodson is one of my heroes. She is a
person that I deeply admire. I admire her not just as a writer
but also as a human being. I believe that her ambassadorship
is simply going to be an extension of the work she’s
already doing. If you have had the pleasure of reading one of
Jackie’s books, if you had the pleasure of sitting in on one of
her speeches, you know that words, whether they’re spoken
into a microphone or written on a page, she
teaches about the world, helps us make sense of life and the
world. Her words bring us hope, bring about change. Like I
said, she’s one of my heroes. And if she isn’t one of yours
yet, give her a few minutes. Wait until she gets up here.
She’ll be one of yours too. Thank you all so much for being
here. I know you all are just as excitedderred as me to
celebrate ambassador Jacqueline Woodson. Thank you so much.
[ APPLAUSE ] ** Thank you. And thank you for
your last two years. [ APPLAUSE ] ** I asked Jin to stay here with
me. Now I’m going to ask Dr. Ha why,den to join us. We’re going
to start telling you really cool things about Jackie.
Jacqueline Woodson is the author of more than two dozen award
winning books for young adults, middle graders, and children.
Her books address important topics, such as bullying and
kindness, incarceration, identity, mixed race experiences
and much more. Among her many accolades, she is a four-time Ne
wberry medal winner, and a two time Heretta scolt Scott
king recipient. ** In 2014 she received the
national book award for her New York Times best selling memoirs
brown girl dreaming. You all read this book? It’s an amazing
book. [ APPLAUSE ] ** Which was also a recipient of
the new Barry, NAACP image I award and cyber honor. In 2014
Jacqueline Woodson was named the young people’s poet laureate by
the poetry foundation and some of her other books include the
other side, each kindness, coming on home soon, feathers,
show way, actor Tupac and foster and miracle boys.
** She is also the recipient of the Margaret Alexander Edwards
award for lifetime achievement for her contributions to young
adult literature. The winner of the Jane Adams children book
award and was the 2013 United States nomny for the Hans
Christian Anderson award. Penguin young readers will
celebrate the 20th anniversary of her if you came softly with
a special edition of the adored story of star crossed love
between a black teenage boy and his Jewish classmate. ** And later this year the dream
of America, a middle grade novel written by Woodson and the day
you begin, a picture book also written by Woodson and
illustrated by Ralph yellow pes will be published. But today —
should we get a drum in here ( drumming) she officially becomes
the sixth national ambassador for young people’s literature.
Dr. Hayden is going to make it official as soon as Jackie gets
up here and places a medallion around her neck.
[ APPLAUSE ] ** Our photographers right there
waiting for a picture and then I’m stepping out of it. All right. Excellent. Dr.
Hayden and Jacqueline are going to have a conversation. With
ten minutes into the conversation Jacqueline is going
to come up here and make some remarks especially for all of us
and then we’ll open it up for questions from the audience
starting with our students from Brooklyn middle school. Thanks.
** Well, this is just an honor for all of us, and a special
pleasure. ** Yay.
** Special, special pleasure. Yes, my copy. My copy. Just
saying. But you have been such an inspiration.
** so have you, Dr. Hayden. Thank you.
** Now, I remember my favorite book was called bright April and
it was the first time that I could see myself in a book.
Little girl, she was brown, had pigtail, all of that. And I you
talk about not seeing yourself reflected and that’s why miracle
voice was one of the things that wow, what’s that mean to see
yourself. ** Well, I think it’s so
important looking back on the work of Dr. bishop who talked
about the importance of young people having both mirrors and
windows. So they have books where they can look in and see a
brown girl or a young Latin boy or an Asian girl and see some
part of their identity in the book and that’s the mirror and
it makes them aware of their presence in a bigger world. And
I think we also talk about books having windows. So you see into
other worlds and for me as a young person growing up I had
many, many windows into white worlds and very few books where
young kids of color were reflected on the pages, until I
think one of the earliest books I remember reading was Virginia
Hamilton’s — oh, what’s — Zeally, about two kids and they
were going down south and there was so much of me on the page.
Another one was Mildred’s role thunder hear my cry. Opened to
see a reflection in myself in Cassie and suddenly realized
that there I was on the page and that
I could be on the page. Not only could I be on the page but
I could be — I could grow up to be a woman of color who wrote
because here was am I dread tailor, Virginia Hamilton, women
of color telling stories. I think it’s — legitimizes us
that we don’t realize our absence until we see that
presence on a page. ** You mentioned wanting to
write. How young were you when you said I like this writing?
Reading but writing. I want to do that?
** I’ve known I wanted to write since I was seven. I remember
as a young person loving the physical act of writing, of
holding a pencil and words made sentences and sentences made
paragraphs and that writing was organic. All you needed was
that pencil and paper and imagination and the rest was
there. You didn’t need any expensive paraphernalia to be
able to create art. ** Wow. Turning to the — in
terms of pair nailra and things like that because there are so
many distractions and things so people have said read something
disappearing and what’s going on with young people. What do you
— ** I don’t think — I think we
see fewer books sometimes with you I don’t think people are not
reading. I think sometimes we have to wrestle them and get
their paraphernalia out of their hand and remind
them of the glory of reading but I think as Jin said, young
people love story and they love being engaged that way and there
are many ways in which we read. So I think even though we’re not
always seeing them with a book in their hand, they have one in
their ear. Sometimes they’re reading on the tablet, sometimes
someone is telling a story, sometimes they’re creating a
story in their head some way. So I think it’s definitely got
more challenging but we’re a country that has always had to
shift. So we figure out ways of engaging people where they are
and if they are in a world where there’s a lot of technology then
what are we going to do to shift them toward reading, how do we
get them to shift from that technology where they’re
engaging with narrative. ** Poetry as another way, a
gateway into that. Now, when did you start with poetry as
another extension of — ** You know, I didn’t — I was
very afraid of poetry when I was a kid. I always thought it was
just kind of this secret code that I wasn’t meant to
understand and it wasn’t until — I remember hearing an album,
my mom was playing this album and it was Giovani. It was
spoken word and I was like what is that. My sister was that’s
Nicky, that’s poetry. And I’m like no it’s not. I understand
that. That’s not poetry. And then later on Lagston Hughes and Claude Mc KAY
unlocked it so that I could begin to understand other poets
the more kind of incom incomprehensible, but poetry I
learned to do the work of deconstructing poetry because I
had the gateway from Langston Hughes and Nicky Giovanni, Gyendolynn Brooks and so many of
the writers that helped me figure that out.
** I remember my grandmother, Paul Lawrence done Dunbar and
how could you do the dialect. She said I know. I can do it.
** Had a great — yeah, got to love him.
** Now, Tupac we mentioned and rap is another way.
** He was an amazing poet. I mean, Tupac when you look at the
rose that grew from concrete and just he was not only a poet; he
was an activist. And I think that’s what was so phenomenal
about him as so many of the young people who were wrapping,
they were telling stories, they were telling history. They were
breaking down where we are in the moment and they were doing
it in a way going back to shifting where young minds could
understand what they were trying to say. And they were asking
big questions and I think that’s what all good literature does is
ask questions of the reader of the listener about the moment
they’re in. ** Speaking of the moment, your
platform, reading equals hope and change for your time, how do
you see that evolving? Because this is an interesting time to
be an ambassador, to work with young people, to ask questions,
to answer questions. ** So reading equals hope times
change is a platform that I came up with, that we came up with
that speaks to the fact that reading does allow — we go into
a book because we’re hopeful for something. We’re hopeful for a
good story, hopeful to meet some mirrors on the page. We’re
hopeful for great characterization. And when we
come out of a book, we’re different. And that difference
is because we have met the writer halfway. I’m going to
talk about this in my very short talk after this. I think that
books can change us, help us begin to have the bigger
conversations. They can help us see the world and identities and
ideas that we never thought about before until they have
been brought to the page and we met them on the page. So I
think we come out of a book different than we were when we
went in it. ** Now, one of the questions I
had here that you have been aplawrded and criticized for
tackling tough issues. Getting back to respecting young people
that they can handle discussion about tough issues. They’re
looking to books sometimes to help them through it, foster
care, incarceration, and why is that important that we have it.
** I think the first thing is I’m not trying to hear the
haters. You know what I’m saying? From the beginning of
time people who have had — who have tried to create change have
been blasted against, right? And I think it’s because people
are afraid. When we look at the issue of mass incarceration in
our country, I think it’s a sin not to speak to it and not to
let the young people who have — who know — who have people in
their families, in their lives, incarcerated let them know
they’re not alone on that journey and that there is
nothing wrong with their family makeup and there is nothing —
you know, when I wrote visiting day is because I had grown up
with my uncle in prison. It was this kind of thing we weren’t
supposed to talk about. And I never understood where the shame
came from and looking at it now again going back to mass
incarceration, how can we try to hide something so visible in our
society. And if we don’t talk about it we can’t begin to
change it. We can just kind of make believe it doesn’t exist.
So I think any writer who’s going to try to have harder
conversations is going to get criticized. I remember writeing
where an African-American boy gets killed by cops in a case of
mistaken identity, people — I remember people saying this
would never happen. And this was 20 years ago and at some
point you kind of question your own reality because you think,
oh, maybe this doesn’t happen but you know it does and that
kind of gas liting can happen when you don’t have the proof of
books and experiences in the world so that you can go to that
book and go, yeah, I’m not alone in this. I was right in
thinking about that because someone else is thinking this
too. ** And young people can see it
and discuss it and they can handle it.
** Mm-hmm. ** I think they can.
Now, you also said brilliance is passion recognized. This is a
wonderful phrase. In termination of encouraging young
readers and authors and poets, that they see that.
** They know — I think it was so important. I was talking to
my book land friends and we were talking about their talents and
their plans for going — what they do. It is, I think, that
sometimes people think there’s just one way to be brilliant.
Maybe only academic brilliance or — but I think I think our
brilliance is our passion recognized and celebrated, right
? I know that I’m kind of a good writer and it’s nice
because it’s also what I love to do. And I think because I love
to do it I want to do it the best that I possibly can. I
remember having a teacher say when you choose a career, choose
something you love doing because you’re going to be doing it for
the rest of your life and I think that those words stayed
with me because I thought hopefully I would live a long
life and the idea of waking up every day and being unhappy with
the work you’re doing was heartbreaking to me. So I honed
the thing that I felt was my brilliance and worked at it
until it became the thing I wanted it to be in the world,
the stories I wanted to tell and I think everyone has that thing
that they’re really good at that they really love doing and our
work as adults is to not kill that fire. Your work as young
people is to not let that fire get murdered. And then we get
to see all of that brimmans in the world in a way that
transforms it and transforms us. ** Can writing help with that?
You said look through moments in time into a more hopeful place
about writing or expressing it, using it along the way.
** I think writing can help with everything (chuckles). I think
writing is the bomb. I talk about writing because I have
questions and I do think that there is a way when we can sit
and begin to figure out who we are and who we’re becoming and
what the questions are we have through writing and reading. I
believe deeply, deeply and I love when young people want to
be writers because I know here because of Nicky Giovanni, Langston Hughes, gend Lynn
brooks. I would not be here if they were not here. I feel the
young people are here because of us, because of, you know, Gene
and John and Catherine and me and let that circle be unbroken.
Let people keep coming and telling their stories because y’all must have some amazing
stories to tell about this moment in time.
** I see you’re nodding. Do we have time for a few remarks? ** Yes.
** And I’m going to exit. ** Thanks, Dr. Hayden. I’m not
going to be long because I am so much more interested in your
questions. Maybe I’ll answer a few of them but I love when
young people ask me questions. But I was told I needed to say
something about becoming ambassador.
Is it still morning because I start with saying good morning.
Okay. Oh, I have a — people who are live streaming is my
sound okay? I’m good? I could keep using this? I could use
both of them. Thank you. So it’s an amazing honor to
stand before you in the Library of Congress this morning. It’s
also an honor to be living in this time to bear witness to our
countries ‘ beautiful and complicated history and its
immense possibility. Because I do believe we’re living in a
time of great, great, great possibility .
What an honor to follow the footsteps of groundbreaking
ambassadors that came before me, Jin Yang, not only my absolute
hero which makes me think he read my speech because he called
me his hero. [LAUGHTER]
** But he’s also a hero to both my children and to many children
. Camillo who was the inspiration for us naming our
cat Fred, who never fails to make me laugh or choke up with
each book she writes. Catherine Patterson, one of the kindest
people I know. Walter Myers who came into this world and left it
with his untimely passing filled with a body of work that changed
consciousness of so many young men and boys of color and so
many others as well. I miss Walter. Walter, who
during his advertisement as national ambassador time as
national ambassador tirelessly spoke to those who had not
thought about themselves as part of the bigger world or deeper
narrative. Beloved pioneer, John Chesta, neighbor, friend,
and awesome writer sitting among us this morning. I would not be
here without y’all. First and foremost I want to
thank the people who have worked beyond hard to bring me to this
moment, the most fabulous Library of Congress and Dr.
Carla Hayden, my sister from another mother and hisry maker.
My dear friend Debbie tailor and all of my people at Pratt
library. It was here doing a reading from my first novel last
summer that I rediscovered the breadth and depth of libraries . Reading, conversations,
children’s programs, program for young mothers, adult literacy
classes, passport renewals, puppet making, all of it was, is
happening at the libraries. At Pratt and nationwide. As I
began to travel I saw in every single state the enormitity of
what libraries both large and small had to offer anyone who
stepped through their doors. I rediscovered libraries aren’t
just for some people, they’re for all people.
I like to thank the children’s book council, every child a
reader and the commit that chose me to succeed Jin, Deandra,
Sarah, Earl, Travis, Dara, and Ellen and of course Jin. I love
your faith in me and I’m grateful, I think.
[LAUGHTER] ** For it. I wouldn’t be standing here
without my penguin family, my longstanding editor Nancy
Paulson, Jen, Felicia, Cecelia and the rest of the crew. A
writer writers in solitude and then steps outside of the
solitude to get the help they need to shape their work into
something that the rest of the world can understand.
When I wrote brown girl dreaming there were 31 rewrites before it
became the book so many of y’all have read and then some tweaks
between the first and second edition. So if you have that
first edition, hold on. My eyes in the world are my own
eyes and the eyes of those who I trust deeply. Nancy, thank you
for being my second set of eyes in the world. I am thankful too
to my amazing family, my partner Juliette, our children, Toshi,
Jackson, and Laroi, all my sisters from other mothers, Jane
Sessing and the ones who couldn’t be with us as well.
There are a lot of them. Y’all would be sitting here forever.
[LAUGHTER] ** And I want to thank those who
have been with me on this journey from it feels like the
moment it began, including Katy Horning, Dr. Radeen intish shop,
Dean Snyder. In this room with us this morning are those who
guide us now as ancestor , Virginia Hamilton, my mom and
grandmother. Let us each take a moment and remember someone who
has left this place for the next one, who continues from that
place to walk with us. In the afternoon can American tradition
there is a calling of names. We call our ancestors back into the
room where we acknowledge that because of them, we are. Let us
take a moment and remember friends, loved ones, relives,
anyone we can think of, writers who have left us and who remain
important and call out their names. ** (Away from microphone). ** Thank you. Your world is as
big as you make it. I know for I used to abide in the
narrowestnest in the corner, my wings pressing close to my side,
but you cited a distant horizon with the guideline and circled
the sea and I throbbed with a burning desire to travel this
immensesty. I battered the Cordons around me and craideld
my wingsz on the breeze, then sorried with the utter most
reaches — I’m sorry, and sorried to the other most
reaches with raptture, with power, with ease. I wish I had
written that poem, but I didn’t. Tfers written by Georgia Douglas
Johnson who for more than 40 years hosted a salon right here
in D.C. on Smith street southwest for those of you who
don’t know a salon is basically a gathering where you come eat
food, drink good wine and organic milk, young people.
[LAUGHTER] , read your work and the work of
others, maybe get a sypher going and share ideas about the world.
Through the sharing of these ideas you begin to change your
own way of thinking and the way others think. But it starts
with gathering. Through Douglas’ salon came some of the
most influential writers of the Renaissance, from Angelina Wells
Gremky, Gene Tumer, poets at the end of my tenure — I
will know how to pronounce the word, and we will all know them.
Reading equals hope times change . When Georgia Douglas Johnson
began those writes salons no one knew that the Harlem Renaissance
would take a very important place in history. No one knew
that one day Mildred tailor would write roll of thunder,
hear my cry, that Jin Yang would write American born Chinese,
that same Monday J. or tease would write people shall
continue or the absolute Sherman Alexii. The people in Douglas’
salon walked into that room with the books they were writing or
reads. They walked into that salon with hope. They read,
they talked, they laughed, drank beer, wine, and milk, they sang
and changed the world because of them I am. Because of them we
are all gathered here. Yesterday my family and I spent
the day at the American museum of African-American history and
culture again right here in D.C. It took over 100 years to make
that museum a reality. First it was dreams, then it was built,
then people opened their trungses and suitcases and books
and pulled history from African-Americans in this
country from the crevices into which that history was
delicately and lovingly packed away. They knew a time would
come when that history would need a home. Now is the time.
As national ambassador my hope is to begin a conversation our
country is hungry but oftentimes afraid to have. Some days this
place feels like a country divided, a country in despair, a
country hungry for a way out of no way. What the books will
continue to show us is there is magic in this moment we’re
living in now. There is so much possibility. To the young
people gathered today, that power to create change is in
your hearts and heads and hands. I am often asked about my
writing. When you write this book or that book what were you
trying to teach? . I write to learn. I write
because I have so many questions that I have to answer and the
only way I can answer is by putting pen to paper. The only
way I can find hope I’m looking for in a particular moment is to
put that hope on the page and when I’m done like many writers
my hope has been that the reader will meet me halfway. Bring
their own ideas and experiences and hope to the narrative I’ve
created. My hope for the next two years is we come together in
many rooms to talk, that we meet the authors halfway and talk
about what our hopes are for the future, our equations, plans for
change, that we hold salons and classrooms and libraries and
book stores and living rooms around kitchen tables, in
playgrounds, at hair salons and barber shops, that we find the
books that tell the stories we need to hear and use those
stories to write the next chapter in this country’s
history. We remember a time when people were not allowed to
learn to read because reading led to freedom. It’s a lot of
things to be — it’s a lot of things in this room at this
podium in front of all of you in this moment in time. It’s scary
, thrilling, mind blowing, imagining the unimagineable.
The writer activist Audrey Lord said we can sit in our corners
mute and we will still be no less afraid. I believe that
reading equals hope, hope times change. I believe that me plus
you equals a conversation. I believe that hope minus fear
equals change. I believe that listening plus hearing minus
judgment equals friendship. These are just a few of my
equations in the next two years I’m eager to gather and hear
yours. [ APPLAUSE ] ** You did good.
** Thank you. ** Outstanding. Well, now it’s
time for some questions and my audiovisual team has told me
there are two mics that we can float around the room if you’ve
got one in your hand would you let me see it? Awesome.
Perfect. So how about one of you come over to this side and
one stay on that side. If you guys could raise your hands when
you’ve got a question, we’ll make sure that you get the mic.
The reason we need to make sure you use the mic is so that our
audience that’s watching the live stream and our recording
can hear your question, okay? ** And if you could say your
name when you ask the question, that would be so helpful.
** My name is Christian Strickland.
** Hi, Christian. ** what do you plan to do after
your term is over? [LAUGHTER]
** Thanks, Christian. Oh, man. I think it’s going to
go so fast. I plan to rest. I don’t plan to stop writing
because I talk about how much I love writing. I plan to be
right here all willing putting this medal on the next
ambassador. ** My name is Louis seaia
Brisbane. What do you plan to do while you’re ambassador?
** I plan to do a lot around trying to get people to gather.
I don’t — one thing you have to do as ambassador is travel
around the country. Legitimately only have to travel
five times, right? That was one of the promises of being
ambassador . I think there are all kinds
of ways together. I think we can Skype. I think people can
come to book festivals. I think we can gather in classrooms. I
plan to help kind of get the conversation going from wherever
I am. I hope to meet a lot of people, travel to a lote of
juvenile detention centers and group homes and places like that
to meet people who might not have otherwise met authors. My
family’s going to Mississippi in April so I’m planning to go to
some of the play schools and libraries in rural Mississippi
while I’m there and really just begin having a conversation that
I hope will become a very nationwide conversation .
** My name is Cameron Jackson and I was wondering do you guys
have anybody in mind to be the next ambassador?
** Cameron’s already ready to sack me. He’s like do you have
someone in mind for the next impairs door? Cameron, I’m
sure they’ll take your request. ** High hi, hi, my name is Dionne. How old
were you when you published your first book.
** That was published when I was in my early 20s. It took me
about four years to write that book because I didn’t know what
I was doing. So unlike many years it took me to do brown
girlt dreaming, by it was finally published in my early
20s: There was a book that was published before that that was
really bhadly written by me and really badly illustrated by
Floyd Cooper and that book is not in existence anymore.
Sometimes a librarian will pull it out and say I got that book
but last time .
** My name is Destiny Perry. Out of all books that you have
read and the characters you have met in those books, what book or
character is most like you. ** That’s such a great question. Oh my goodness. It’s so funny
because I feel the person that comes to mind that first said
that’s me was Cathy Logan and roll of thunder, hear my cry. I
feel like also Franny and daddy was a return and Francis Nolan
and a tree grows in Brooklyn, any time there was a girl around
the age I was when I was reading and who had something so for me
a tree grows in Brooklyn the mirror was Brooklyn because
that’s where I live. Everything Brooklyn about that book I was
like I know this even though it took place probably 40 years
before I began reading it, but I did and still do find myself in
so many characters and they don’t have to be the same —
preferred gender, right? I found myself in characters like
ghost, Jason Reynold’s book. I read that book and I was like
yeah I was a runner. I could probably beet him but — so
really so were a lot of characters.
** My name is joes lin Rose and my question is have you ever
thought about having another career instead of writing?
** I don’t know if anyone heard the question, have I thought of
having another career besides being a writer. No, I don’t
think so. I would probably want to be a singer. Just kidding.
My family’s laughing because they’ve heard me. Yeah, no.
** My name isadere. Did you have a place to go where you
write a story. ** Once my family leaves the
house I’m usually writing at the kitchen table, but I tend to —
I like writing downstairs in my office because it’s quietest.
Every time I write I put headphones on. So it helps me
drown out the rest of the world. So even though I don’t have to
physically leave a place, I do have to kind of cover up my ears
so that noise isn’t coming in. But I have been able to write on
sub waist. ways, cafes, libraries, as long as I have my
earphones on. Because I don’t want to hear other people’s
conversations. ** My name is Shakara. Did you
ever expect to be the ambassador for national young people’s lit
tier? ** Nope.
[LAUGHTER] ** My name is Louie Redmond. My
question is: Did you have any challenges becoming an author
and how did you overcome them? ** You know, it’s a good
question. I always quote Catherine Patterson who says the
main role of writing is BIC, but in care. The older I got
there are more and more things as Dr. Hayden and I were talking
about, there are more things that distract you from writing
and so as a young person I didn’t know writers. I didn’t
know that someone — it wasn’t like now where you could
actually need a writer and hear them talk or go online and see
them talk or even look at the back of the book and see their
photo and know stuff about them. It was a very different time.
Writers seemed really far away and something unattainable,
something you couldn’t do. For some reason I knew I always
wanted to do it and I wasn’t sure how I was going to. I
think the first huge challenge for me was faith, right?
Believing that I could write these stories that might some
day get published. But in the process of writing the sphrees I
realized that writing made me happy. Even if they didn’t one
day get published I loved writing them. And then the big
challenge was finishing stories and then rewriting stories.
Because you write something that you think is done, right,
Jackson, and then you realize up to rewrite it and rewrite it.
That was a challenge. Then once realizing how rewriting made it
a better story. But I think there are always going to be
challenges and the question is when you get to the challenge
what you do with it because there’s always going to be the
book that falls apart and you could either just stop writing
and start a new book which is going to fall apart and you stop
writing that one and start a new book which is going to fall
apart or you can push through when it’s falling apart and get
to the end of it. I ask my fellow office everything we
write falls apart. That’s when we know the real work is about
to get started. ** My name is lorn and my
question is how do you come up with the topics for your book?
** So there’s a saying if you survive kindergarten you have
enough to write about for the rest of your life and I think
it’s true. I think so many things happen to us every day
and I’m sure John and Jin will tell you this, it’s hard to not
write. It’s hard not to find material. So, you know,
thoughts I have, conversations I have, sometimes things I read,
sometimes other books inspire me . Sometimes questions I — a
lot of times it’s the questions I have that I’m trying to figure
out. When I wrote the book feathers that was actually
inspired by a story called a selfish giant by Oscar Wild and
the book was originally called the Jesus boy because that’s
what I called the main character in the selfish giant. It was
inspired by something I first read in the third grade. So I
think that’s where the whole — the longer you live the more
stories you have to write. ** Is there a specific theme —
** What’s your name? ** Oh, my name is justice.
Is there a specific theme or topic in all of your books or
are they like different in each one?
** They’re pretty different. I don’t write series because I get
bored after like the second book. I’ve’s spider to do it
and then I either kill the characters off or have them move
away or let they want have a hatchly happily ever after. I
write realistic fiction. That’s the genre. I write it both in
verse and narrative. But usually my characters are
different. I’ve written a trill lodgegy. I’ve written books
that have equals sequels but that’s about as long
as I can get. ** I’m Dionne and my question is
out of all the books that you’ve written 1:00 is your personal
favorite? ** I’m sure again my fellow
ambassadors will say the same thing. I like them for
different reasons. I don’t have — do y’all have favorites?
When you’re writing it it’s the experience you’re having with a
book. Sometimes if the book is really old you get tired of it.
I have books I like less than other books but I don’t have a
favorite yet. ** Your questions have been
terrific. You need a mic. It’s coming.
There you go. ** Carl. When you first started
writing, did you show it to a friend? You seem preallot
confident and you knew your book was good but what was your first
validation? My point being one of these people from brook rine
starts writing, would you tell them just go ahead or show it to
a friend? ** I would say the question is
who are you writing to? I think you show it to people you trust
because there are two kinds of criticism, right? 24R’s
constructive criticism that makes people running back to
your work and there’s deconstructive criticism, which
makes you want to throw it away. You want to show it to the
people who are going to say, you know, here’s all the things I
love about this book and here are some of the questions I
might have. Because that’s helpful and makes you want to go
back to it but if someone says, you know, I don’t know, this
sucks or you should never write again, that speaks to their
criticism. I don’t even know why you’re writing that. But
one thing I do is I like — I always think it’s really
important when you have something new and you say to
them ask me three questions. What three questions do you
have? Tell me something positive, oh, I love that
character, I wonder why he decided to do this. I wonder
what’s going to happen to him next and that gets you excited
and makes you want to write the next draft or add to it. So
questions, not destructive criticism.
** All right. I think we’re going to wrap things up. That
was — just stay right there for a minute. Really, stiewbs from
Brooklyn middle school, thanks so much.
[ APPLAUSE ] ** Can I just say one thing?
** Yeah. ** So I am sorry, I just wanted
to give a plug of the book change the narratives of
literature and I want to thank them for being in the room even
though they’re not in the room. ** Well, I am confident that our
young people’s ambassador — our ambassador for young people’s
literature is well on her way to making lots of friends in the
next couple of years and getting all of us to think about very
thoughtfully about reading and writing and I really can’t say
enough. This has been a terrific conversation this
morning and really so glad that all of you have been here. I
have a couple more thank yous I want to extend. I want to make
sure that my colleagues, Karen Jaffe why and Sasha and Monica
Valentine get a big high-five. [ APPLAUSE ]
, as well as all of the volunteers from our young
readers center, our molted tie media team, library photographer
Shawn and our special events person Clay who I don’t see but
events like this at the library don’t happen magically. They
happen when people come together and make things happen. We are
briesed at the library to have an amazing team of people who
pull together events like this. Thank you to all of my
colleagues for making today work .
[ APPLAUSE ] I want to make sure as we leave
we ask the kids to go first. I’d like you guys to kind of
come around this way. You can give Jackie a high-five as you
walk by. Our colleagues have a special gift for you from
penguin. They are signed copies of one of Jackie’s book. If you
haven’t read it yet I bet you will tonight. Awesome.
Congratulations again, Jackie. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
We’re off to a great year. [ APPLAUSE ]
** All right, kids, you can get started. Come this way and
thank you all for joining us.