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Teen Book Festival Encourages Love of Reading

Irving-The North Texas Teen Book Festival was held virtually March 5 – 6. Teens, parents, and educators from all over the state heard some of their favorite authors speak, received swag from the publisher booths and participated in games, such as ‘Epic Fantasy Trivia,’ which were sponsored by the publishers.

The festival featured three keynote panels, almost 90 authors and several other panels that covered topics from biographies to fantasy books.

One of the first keynote presentations was a discussion about a new eight book chapter series called ‘She Persisted’ that is about, women who stood up, spoke up and rose up against the odds. All panels were moderated by Dr. Rose Brock, a Library Science professor at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX and a co-founder of the North Texas Teen Book Festival.

Before this current series, a trilogy of picture books was created by Chelsea Clinton. The trilogy was made up of the titles, ‘She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World,’ ‘She Persisted Around the World: 13 Women Who Changed History,’ and ‘She Persisted in Sports: American Olympians Who Changed the Game.’

Clinton had no plans to turn the theme into another series; however, fate had a different idea.

“I wrote the first ‘She Persisted’ book partly in reaction to a specific moment where we were seeing women who really needed to persist in early 2017 and kind of bringing the legacy of the great Coretta Scott King into action,” Clinton said. “I was reflecting about how often, Mrs. King is thought of as Dr. King’s widow. She was such an important civil rights leader in her life even before she met her husband and certainly after his assassination.

“Then I was thinking about how often the story of our country has been the story of women persisting, whether it’s the story of politics or arts or the sciences or education or public health. When I was thinking about all of this, I had a daughter who was two-and-a-half and a son who was a few months old. I was thinking, ‘Wow, I really want my daughter and my son to grow up with strong, celebrated women role models. I want [both children] to grow up reading stories written by women, centered on women, celebrating women.’

“I think I felt this way partly because of what was on our own bookshelves. This was in 2017, and the majority of picture books were still kind of written for boys and centered around boys and male voices. Even books about elephants, or cows, or frogs were gendered male and told from a male perspective and with a male voice. I was really frustrated by this, so I thought, ‘I should do something about it. I should try to help solve this kind of real inequity for young readers, including in my own house.’”

Because of this, the first ‘She Persisted’ trilogy of picture books was born. The project expanded when more authors contacted Clinton to ask if she would like to do a larger series with chapter books instead of picture books.

The other authors on the panel were Atia Abawi, who wrote about Sally Ride; Lesa Cline-Ransome, who wrote about Claudette Colvin; and Andrea Davis Pinkney, who wrote about Harriet Tubman.

The next keynote panel was called, ‘Shine a Light on the Many Insidious Forms of Racist Ideas-and on Ways Readers Can Identify and Stamp Out Racist Thoughts in Their Daily Lives,’ which was published in 2020. The participating authors were Dr. Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds, who co-wrote the book, ‘Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You.’

Dr. Kendi published a book called, ‘Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America,’ which won a National Book Award in 2017. He had nt planned to go any further with the book until he started getting feedback from readers.

“I think [Stamped from the Beginning] was already a story that was not easy to make accessible and understandable to older folks,” Kendi said. “But I think as more and more older folks read it, those older folks were upset they hadn’t read this information or learned its history. They hadn’t understood what racism historically has been. They didn’t really know what it meant to be anti-racist when they were younger.

“I kept getting feedback that said, ‘I really wish I learned this when I was a teenager, because it would have better allowed me to better understand my country.’ That feedback led me down the road to asking the great Jason Reynolds to adapt it and completely remix it, and of course, he told me ‘no’ over and over again.”

Reynolds, an acclaimed writer of young fiction, turned Kendi down many times.

“[I said no] because it was such a big, important book, and I was nervous. I was scared and a little insecure,” said Reynolds. “I asked [moderator Rose Brock] to cut my bio down, because I’m not that person. You win all these awards and do all the things that pushes you to the front of some invisible stage. But I’m still just a knucklehead trying to make it through high school with decent grades or working through college trying to figure out how to not drown in the academic rigor of my university just like the next guy.

“To be asked to do something like this was a heavy lift for me. I felt like this was something outside of my wheelhouse. I make up things for a living, not this true stuff I was asked to situate. Dr. Kendi is persistent, so I finally gave in. I’m glad I did, because this may be the most important work that contributes to the conversation of racism for kids I have ever done.”

The book has been called, ‘an unapologetic telling of the history of racism in our nation.’

Other panels covered book topics such as time-travel, love stories from foreign lands, autobiographies, kids taking action in society, mysteries, dystopian tales, science fiction, gender benders, writing jokes, fantasy, families, poetry and resilience as a young person. Some panels were aimed toward different age groups, educators and parents. All panels are available for on-demand viewing at NorthTexasTeenBookFestival.com/Panels.