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Panel Profile: Creating Strong Girls Who Bring Life to History

Nikki Steele / February 23, 2015

The voices of women and girls have largely been absent in our histories. Many Tucson Festival of Books authors, however, are beginning to change that by giving them voices in their historical fiction. By doing this, these authors help create a much broader, inclusive, and exciting history to teach our children.

Three children/teen authors talk about how they create memorable female characters during Saturday's "Creating Strong Girls Who Bring Life to History" at 11:30 AM in Education Kiva.

Cynthia Kadohata is an award-winning author who will be discussing the fascinating female characters she has written about in books such as The Thing About Luck, kira-kira,and Weedflower. The Thing About Luck was a 2013 National Book Award winner. Horn Book Magazinewrote that her novel kira-kira:

"[C]aptures both the specific experience of being Japanese American in the 1950s and the wider experience of illness and loss. Like Meg in Lois Lowry’s A Summer to Die, Katie is able to see what her family has lost and also what they’ve gained through her sister’s death, leaving readers with a glittering sense of hope."

Likewise, author Pam Muñoz Ryan's books wrestle with what it means to be family in the face of loss, distance, and change. Her books include ECHO, Esperanza Rising, Riding Freedom,and Paint the Wind. Of writing her female characters, Muñoz Ryan told Scholastic:

“Part of the appeal of writing is similar to the enchantment of reading. They are both quests. Except when I write, I’m the creator and choose the path. I can be as strong as Charlotte in Riding Freedom, as adventurous as Amelia and Eleanor in Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride, and as determined as Marian Anderson in When Marian Sang. I can begin as one type of character and evolve into another, like Esperanza in Esperanza Risingand Naomi in Becoming Naomi León. Or, I can sort out the issues of life by way of the unexpected journeys I take with my characters, as I did with Maya inPaint the Wind.”

The third author on the panel, Rita Williams-Garcia, discusses similar issues of family and the changing tides of history in her books. Her books—including One Crazy Summerand P.S. Be Eleven!—have been recognized by the Coretta Scott King Award Committee, American Library Association, and Parents' Choice.

Of her inspiration for writing diverse female characters in her historic fiction, Williams-Garcia writes:

"I learned to read early, and was aware of events going on as I grew up in the 60s. In the midst of real events, I daydreamed and wrote stories. Writing stories for young people is my passion and my mission. Teens will read. They hunger for stories that engage them and reflect their images and experiences."

To learn more about these authors and to hear their take on writing female characters in their historical fiction, make time in your schedule to attend the "Creating Strong Girls Who Bring Life to History" panel at Tucson Festival of Books this year!

Nikki Steele is a freelance writer in Phoenix, AZ. She writes about books at BookRiot.com. Connect with Nikki on Twitter at @nnsteele.

Named Sponsors

Arizona Daily Star
University of Arizona

Presenting Sponsors

Tucson Medical Center

Major Sponsors

Friend of the Festival
Pima County Public Library
Stocker Foundation
University of Arizona BookStores
University of Arizona - Facilities Management

Key Sponsors

Brucker Trust
Marshall Foundation
Monark Premium Appliance Company
William & Mary Ross Foundation
Western National Parks Association

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