This blog post was written by Tylah Gantt, Communications Intern.
The CHAPTERS Reading Series at Girls Write Now provides an empowering space for girls to speak up and to speak loudly. CHAPTERS is where our young writers do more than grow, they flourish. If you were unable to attend one or all of the 2016 readings but want a taste of the powerful and unifying force, you can find a handy recap of each event below:
Tanwi Nandini Islam, author of Bright Lines (Penguin Books, August 2015), kicked off the 2016 series with an inspiring keynote presentation on strength in isolation. She lauded writing as an act of creation that stems from that space of solitude. Islam ended her speech by urging mentees to embrace their societal anger and inner turmoil when writing. Mentee Yesmil Polanco exemplified this sentiment with her socially conscious and self categorized rant, “To America and the World.” Polanco pointed out the inherent hypocrisy of a nation touting equality when people of color, especially women, continue to be disproportionately attacked and criticized. Other mentee highlights included Jodi Ann Fearon’s somber ode to painful breakups “The Unprecedented Destruction of You and I,” and Jenny Huang’s autobiographical and lighthearted story of sexual awakening and her bisexual awareness.
Overarching themes of independence and self-assurance emerged during the April 2016 CHAPTERS Reading. Keynote speaker Mia Alvar read a passage from her short story “A Contract Overseas,” from In the Country (Knopf, June 2015), dealing with a college student following her intuition and switching her major despite its inconvenience. The evening continued with more self-empowering pieces. Memorable performances included Miriam Kamate’s “To My Dear, Depressed, Sleepy, Friends”, a deeply emotional open letter to adolescents struggling with depression and anxiety, Diana Romero’s “History Speaks” a roundtable discussion between some of history’s most notable revolutionary women, and Laura Rose Cardona’s daring flash fiction “Keep Your Enemies Closer” which maturely and artistically details the life of a woman with schizophrenia from the perspective of her most prominent delusion.
At May’s reading, mentors and mentees alike showcased their quirky and distinctive voices. Keynote speaker Angela Flournoy, author of The Turner House (Houghton Mifflin, April 2015), emphasized “finding authenticity in being where you’re from” to encourage young writers to be true to themselves and their own stories. The audience was treated to an array of unique pieces from a dialogue debate about the usefulness of font Times New Roman, to playful letters, to past selves. Other highlights included Kristine Vera’s translation poem “Once Upon a Kristine” and Jadaida Glover’s deeply emotional “A Mother’s Prayer.”
The June reading was our last. Mentees celebrated the end of the program year and seniors celebrated their next journeys after Girls Write Now. Naomi Jackson opened the event with a moving keynote speech, connecting her identity to her writing, particularly in her debut novel, The Star Side of Bird Hill (Penguin Press, June 2015). Shanille Martin’s piece continued the theme of identity and artfully spanned the Caribbean Islands and Brooklyn. Rachel Aghanwa’s emotional reading of “Daddy Please” was a heartfelt piece pleading for her father’s return. Shirleyka Hector finished with a powerful tribute to her mentor, fellow mentees, and the organization. Because of Girls Write Now, she writes, “I learned to say whatever I have to say without distilling my opinions like unclean water.”
It has been an incredible year, full of enduring stories. We cannot wait for what the year ahead holds.
Check out photos from each event on our Facebook page and relive the night through videos on our YouTube channel!