Friday, November 27, 2015

Grateful to get it write(right).

A writer writes what she knows from her life, her own experiences.  She writes with passion and honesty.

If she gets it right she hopes she will connect with even one reader.

She is grateful when she does.  It is remarkable that our lives can intersect so profoundly with people we have never even met.

This week I had this note from a reader.  I am grateful that I got it right and grateful that she let me know.  Lovely that she contacted me during this season of Thanks.

This little book out of print and still brings joy to readers and to me.

I have always wondered what your experiences were that inspired you to write "When Africa Was Home." When curiosity finally led me to stumble across your website and bio, I felt like I should share with you how much your book has meant to me and my family.

My parents were missionaries in a remote area of Papua New Guinea. My sisters and I all grew up there and it was and is still our home. My mom tells us that when she first read a worn and tattered copy of your book one night in a missionary guest house, she finally understood what it was like for us kids. Every time that we went to visit America her and my Dad were going to their home, but we were leaving ours.

Ever since then your book has been a cherished book in our house. My sisters and I read it over and over again as children because it was the only book that told the story of our lives. Every experience that Peter had, we had. I remember my mom telling us about how we had to wear shoes in America, and that we could not longer eat with our hands. In America we played indoors, and there weren't any trees to climb. In your book. The first time that I heard a vacuum in America I leaped on my bed to get away from it.

Thank you for writing your book and telling our story.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thankful for Diversity in my Life

Counting my blessings and shamelessly self promoting!

Check out this video discussion about books for children about refugees featuring Four Feet Two Sandals and My Name is Sangoel.

Coffee Break Confidential: Refugee Revelations
Posted by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. on November 19, 2015 in Coffee Break Confidential, Eerdfolk | 1 Comment

And the interview with yours truly.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Where is Beatrice Now?

Sometimes our dreams change.  Beatrice did go to college but she did not train to be a nurse.

At Utali College she majored in Hotel Hospitality.

Now she works in the Hotel industry in Nairobi.

She is also continuing her education.

Here is Beatrice now.
What a lovely hard working young woman!  Courageous and determined.

And here is what Wendy Stone the photographer who illustrated Beatrice's Dream has to say about the journey:

Beatrice's Dream:  I first met Beatrice in 2006 when she was 13 years
old living in Kibera slum. I met a well known children's book writer,
Karen Williams, when she was a visiting author at my daughters school in
Nairobi. She was eager to write a book about a child living in a slum.
We found Beatrice through an NGO that I worked with in Kibera. Karen met
with her and wrote her story.  I spent one day with her photographing "a
day in the life of Beatrice".  Karen already had a literary agent for
her other books. We put together a proposal but it took 2 years for the
agent to find a publisher who was interested in the book.  Finally she
found one, and the publisher wanted many more photos of Beatrice. This
was in 2008 to 2009, right after the political riots in Kenya. Large
areas of Kibera burned to the ground and Beatrice was nowhere to be
found.  I had to take more photos. So I took the photos of Kibera and
her school and teachers and friends but without Beatrice being there. 
It worked! The publisher loved the photos and they approved the book.
But then the next hitch was that they needed her to sign a release
giving them permission to publish her story and photos. It took us one
year to find her. Finally in 2010 I managed to find her through an ad
that I ran in the daily newspaper with her photo titled Missing Child.
The next morning I received an anonymous phone call informing me that
Beatrice was a student at State House Girls Boarding School in Nairobi.
Fortunately she had a sponsor who was paying for her private schooling.
I went to visit her that same day but the school refused to let me see
her without the presence of her social worker, who was her guardian, at
the time. It took several attempts before I managed to meet with her. 
It was an emotional reunion and I was relieved to see her looking so
well.  The school would not let Beatrice sign a release form for the
book since she was still a minor and her social worker guardian was very
suspicious of my motives, most probably thinking that I was eager to
make money from this book. I had to hire a lawyer to intervene in the
case. The lawyer met with the Social Worker and finally he approved the
book. This happened just two weeks before the publisher's deadline, over
a period of several months. I met with Beatrice to show her the first
draft of the book for her final approval. She asked that I omit two
photos of her brother, which I agreed to.  After the book was published,
Beatrice graduated from school and lived with her guardian's family. I
was still living in Kenya at the time and was able to assist her in
visiting colleges and making decisions about her future.  The royalty
from the book paid for her education at Utalii College where she majored
in Hotel Hospitality.  She is now working in the hotel business in

Monday, November 2, 2015

Greenwich Reads Together: I was there with Sangoel!

 Once at an author visit promoting one of my books, a grandmother said to me,  " My granddaughter is nothing like the girl in your book.  Why would I buy your book?"   I was speechless then but I have had time to think.   Look around your child's or grandchild's classroom.  It is probably the case that the child on at least one side of her is not of  the same race or socioeconomic class or same color as she is.  They may not speak the same first language.

Why read?  For entertainment, to learn about yourself, the world, to laugh, to cry, to share... 

And that is just what Greenwich, CT  is doing..the whole town!  My Name is Sangoel was chosen this year along with Americanah by Chimamande Ngozi Adiche for adults and Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate for mid-grades for the town read.

The National Center for Education Statistics reported that in 2014 more Latino, African American and Asian children were enrolled in US Public schools than non-Hispanic White children.

Indeed in one of the 5 schools I visited, there are children from 60 countries and they speak over 30 languages.

Here is what one mom had to say about my visit:  I just wanted to let you know that Lindsay could not wait to share the details from the author visit and about the book My Name is Sangoel.  It lead to a great discussion about refugee camps and especially what is happening in Syria right now.  How nice to have an author bring up such a relevant topic.   Thank you to everyone who found the author and brought her to Greenwich.

Shouldn't we be raising children ready for a future in a diverse world who can succeed in diverse communities and schools?  That is a question for the grandmother from that earlier author visit.  a question for all of us.

Greenwich, Connecticut gets it and the students there get it.
They read they discuss, the learn.  They have fun!

 Like Sangoel they are creative problem solvers.   I tried it too:

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Meet Wendy Stone: Photographer for Beatrice's Dream

Photo Presentation

Nov. 4th, Wednesday, 6 pm
The Metropolitan Opera Guild
The Rose Building
165 West 65th Street, between Broadway and Amsterdam, 6th floor

Free for members of PWP, $10.00 for non- members to pay at the door

Wendy's remarkable, compelling photographs of Children in Africa captured my imagination and led to our collaboration that turned into the book Beatrice's Dream.

If you are anywhere in the NY Metropolitan area on November 4, 2015, this presentation is a must.

Wish I could be there!

Read more about Wendy:

Photojournalist, Wendy Stone, has been working in Africa covering
international aid and relief work for 27 years. Her clients include
UNICEF, UNDP, UNHCR, WFP, The Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller
Foundation, Centers for Disease Control, The World Agroforestry Center,
USAID, Project Concern International and many others.

During the 1990's she worked as a news photographer and covered the war
in Somalia, the war in South Sudan, the story of the Lost Boys, famines
and droughts in the horn of Africa and the AIDS epidemic in eastern

She has also photographed colorful traditional ceremonies and
the indigenous people of Kenya including the Maasai, Turkana and
Rendille peoples. She has worked for many years in the slums of Kenya,
photographing the programs of non-profit organizations.

Her first children's book, "Beatrice's Dream: Life in an African Slum",
was published in 2011 by Frances Lincoln Press, in London. Beatrice is
the story of a 13 year old orphan living in one of Kenya's largest
slums, Kibera.

Wendy will be the guest speaker on November 4th at the meeting for
Professional Women Photographers, where she will be showing her
photographs and speaking about her work. All are welcome.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Diversity Inspires and Heals

 These responses to Four Feet Two Sandals were drawn by 2nd graders in an ESL class.

Newcomers to an American school, they are from the Chin State of Burma.  Their English is limited but they understand what it means to share and care.  They relate to the characters and the story told in this picture book even though it is not a story of Burma.

Four Feet Two Sandals is about two refugee girls from Afghanistan in a refugee camp in Pakistan.

Refugee children around the world can relate to loss of country, home, family.   Perhaps a story they relate to will help them find their place in a new home, a new world.

Let's hope they are welcomed in their new schools by new friends.  And may their classmates be caring and sharing, open to learning about the world they come from, the world we live in.

We need more books with diversity for all children!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Moon connections and the Peace Corps

This is the view of the beginning of the "Blood Moon" super lunar eclipse on Sunday over our back fence.

We live on the Navajo Reservation in Chinle Arizona.  Clear skies, unobstructed horizon.

Our youngest son Jonathan is in Paraguay with the Peace Corps.  He happened to be on What's App.  We shot him a photo, which reminded him about the eclipse.

He went outside to watch the sky and see the moon disappear into a pink haze.  Two different worlds, same moon.  We watched virtually together.

I clicked photos frustrated that I could never capture the beauty knowing there would be thousands of photos on social media all better than mine.  Tried to remind myself to be in the moment and not experience it through the lens.

Meanwhile our daughter in Cincinnati quips on another app, "the gods have forsaken us!"

In typical Jonathan fashion we get a brief virtual history lesson from his part of the world,  " I think a Mayan or Aztec chief saw a lunar eclipse in his dream.  He took it as an omen.  Shortly thereafter the Spanish arrived.  Is this eclipse an omen of my arrival in Paraguay? "

This is the way our family rolls.

Another sibling in DC wants to know if Jonathan is alive or has his heart been sacrificed to the blood moon.

I am beginning to wonder if this virtual togetherness is enhancing the experience or detracting from it.  But we are spread all over the world and we are experiencing a significant moment together.  Different worlds, same moon...sharing.

I couldn't help remembering when Steve and I had just arrived in Malawi, Africa more than 30 years ago.  We too were in the Peace Corps.  I was a new mother.  I was away from home and family.  I was homesick in a world so very far away and so very different from home.

I held Peter in my arms and looked at the full moon(no eclipse that night) and took comfort that my family could see the same moon.  No virtual sharing then.  It took at least two months for mail to go out and return with a response.  If I had written home that night, by the time I received a response I would have been settled into life and the adventure, on to new concerns, new joys, new news.

Forgive my motherly sentimentality here.  But I could not help thinking as the moon turned a gray-pink:  Different worlds, different means of communication.  Connecting us.   Always changing.

The moon?  May change phases but it is the same moon connecting us in some small way.  We were lucky to share the moment.