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Tikkun Olam One Story at a Time: Author Kelly Yang

Tikkun Olam One Story at a Time: Author Kelly Yang

Stories have the power to transport us and to transform us. Through literature we can see ourselves and see into the lives of others; we can learn history and also see visions for a better world; we can have our own thoughts and share our ideas with other; and we can find ourselves and be inspired to be our best selves.


Last year, as part of our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging (DEIB) work, we invited award-winning author Carol Boston Weatherford and illustrator Jeffrey Boston Weatherford to speak with our students. Ms Weatherford’s writing is largely focused on the American black experience and history, as are her son’s artwork and rapping. The time listening to and writing with the Weatherfords was so powerful that we decided to create an annual visiting author program, Tikkun Olam One Story at a Time, to focus on the work and stories of authors of diverse backgrounds and experiences. Thanks to the donations of members of our Board Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee, this year we have invited three authors, Kelly Yang, Kekla Magoon and Saadia Faruqi, to share their books and personal journeys as authors of color.


On Friday, February 18, Kelly Yang, author of the Front Desk series, visited with McGillis 3rd-6th grade students. Her soon to be released book New from Here is a story about courage, hope, and resilience as a Chinese American boy fights to keep his family together during the initial outbreak of the coronavirus. Kelly shared with the students that her inspiration for her new book was her youngest son’s experience of having to move from China to the United States, a country in which he was a citizen but a stranger, and the difficulty of leaving his father, who stayed in China for his work.  As she wrote, she realized everyone has a “pandemic story” and she has invited students around the world to share their story on her website, What’s Your Pandemic Story?


Ms. Yang also discussed her previously released books, which many of our students have enjoyed. Ms. Yang writes about her childhood through courageous characters who navigate a world filled with racism, struggle, joy, and accomplishment. She also shared her writing process and tips for how students can be writers and answered questions from our students.


The time with Ms. Yang inspired discussions throughout the School, as students were energized by her enthusiastic encouragement to write their own stories. Students in Ms. Lanie’s 5th Grade class shared some wonderful insights from their time with Ms. Yang. “I liked it when she said that seeds of ideas could grow into trees. She said that writing for fun was just as important as writing for school,” shared Violent. Another student, Jack said, “It was cool to meet someone who has done something so great. I thought it was cool how she turned her down time during the pandemic into something productive.” “I appreciated her courage and vulnerability,” said Brynlee. Owen saw his own life reflected in Ms. Yang’s words, “I can compare her to my mom, because my mom is also very hardworking, responsible, and independent.” Literature has the power to be a mirror but also a window into another person’s lived experience. “I think Kelly Yang is brave, caring, and kind. It was nice how she told her story and to learn about her life that is different from mine,” said Addie.


I liked it when she said that seeds of ideas could grow into trees. She said that writing for fun was just as important as writing for school."  ~Violent, McGillis 5th Grader


In lieu of an honorarium, Ms. Yang asked us to purchase copies of her new book for our students. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we will be distributing a copy of New From Here to each student in 3rd through 6th Grades in March when the book is released. “You could hear the cheering through the building when they heard this announcement during their virtual visit with Ms. Yang,” said Director of Ethics and Community Liz Paige, who organizes the annual author visits.


On Monday, February 28, 7th and 8th Graders will meet with Kekla Magoon and learn about her writing of the non-fiction book, Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People. Students in Kindergarten through 2nd Grades will meet with Saadia Faruqi, author of the Yasmin series, as well as The Wonders We Seek: Thirty Incredible Muslims Who Helped Shape the World to be released on May 3, 2022.

Tikkun Olam - McGillis One Story Author Series

Parents and students may purchase books by our visiting authors through the King’s English website. Books will be delivered to the School in April/May.


If you would like to learn more about the school’s DEIB work or donate to support this annual event, please contact Liz Paige.