“Mom, mom, a famous author taught us today!” exclaimed a camper, Noah, to his mother one afternoon in June as she picked him up from PageSlayers. Noah’s mom casually nodded her head, until Noah shoved Untwine, a young adult novel, in her face. “Look, she wrote this,” he said.
His mom’s eyes widened. “Wait. You met Edwidge Danticat? Oh, my god. I love her books!”
During each PageSlayers session we always bring in special guests for our kids, but during our inaugural session we had an extra special guest come: world renowned author Edwidge Danticat. Edwidge has been an ardent supporter of PageSlayers since the very beginning and a source of inspiration when it comes to moving the hearts and minds of young people. During her visit to our classroom last month, she gave students a lesson on story structure, answering the five W’s, and how to create a superhero/shero protagonist from scratch. On the heels of the release of her latest book, The Art of Death, we chatted with Edwidge about her visit.
What was your experience like teaching our PageSlayers?
It was a great experience, one that moved me very much. I spent summers in our apartment in New York watching television with my brothers from the time I was 12 to the time I got a summer job at 14. I wish we'd had something like this. It was wonderful to see how these young people experience writing and express themselves.
What is one highlight you remember from teaching in the classroom?
There was one young man who seemed hesitant at first and even said he would be bored. I recognize this as fear of trying something new. At the end of the session, he admitted that people keep saying he's smart, but he does not believe that himself. He ended up writing a very good piece of writing, one of the longest for the session.
As a critically acclaimed author who is welcomed in many spaces, why do you believe it is important for you to spend time with young children who may not be aware of your work?
Because I am one of those children. At least, I was. I don't want young people to think that a writer is someone who sits on top of a mountain and sends missives down from up high. I want them to know that a writer is a regular person just like them, but works hard and grows and nurtures this talent and puts a lot of time and effort into it. It's important for me to let them know that they too can do what I'm doing if they work hard and put a lot of heart into it.
What do you enjoy most about getting up in front of such young audiences?
I love seeing how they even surprise themselves when they come up with something unexpected. I love their sense of wonder at their own imagination and abilities.
As a devoted champion of the arts in Miami, why do you believe it is important that kids in Miami—and Opa-Locka in particular—have access to a program like PageSlayers?
All kids should have access to wonderful things. I am keenly aware of that as a parent more than anything else. It's unfair that so many kids in our community are lacking so much that other kids take for granted. All kids should have wonderful programs like this on a routine basis.
Any last words?
It was so wonderful to visit the program. I hope it continues to grow every year.