Albania. Kosovo. London. Tibet. Brooklyn. Times Square. Grandparents. Lost friendships. Journeys, emotional and joyous, physical and arduous. Politics, electoral and cultural – of race, class, gender, sexuality, nationality, ethnicity.
New Worlds, Girls Write Now’s 2013 collection of work by its mentors and teen mentees, is nothing if not diverse, a vibrant book that serves partly as community celebration, partly as straight-up literary anthology. You’ll get to see the organization’s heart and soul, each pairing of one professional woman writer and one teen girl, from their writing to a snapshot of their relationships to the monthly community writing workshops everyone attends together starring guest authors across genres.
The mentors (I’m one! finishing my third year) and mentees meet for at least an hour weekly, taking time to write, edit and pass on the writing life from one generation to the next. Thanks to community events like our CHAPTERS reading series and the monthly workshops, we’re lucky enough to get to know other program participants, too. I’m always struck by the girls’ willingness to deliberately challenge assumptions, explore new identities and dive deep into their personal stories – where they’ve come from, who they are, who they want to be. Then I’m struck by their tremendous talent and the quality of their work.
All of the staples of popular fiction and poetry you might expect from a crowd of teen writers – love, the supernatural, fantasy – are well-represented in the anthology. There’s lots of other good stuff; political writing, powerful writing about families, the experience of New York City as an immigrant; too many gems to possibly name-check here. Many of the mentors’ contributions were inspired by their mentees’ work. In “Finding Frida”, mentor Amy DiLuna quotes her mentee Christina Butan, author of a poem about Frida Kahlo, “Viva La Frida”:
Each tiny stanza was a miracle.
“every time I touch it I hear
the bus crashing
your bones breaking and your heart
thumping wildly within mine”
Still others, myself included, took the opportunity to explore different genres of writing than those to which they’re devoted in their day jobs. Each year’s anthology represents many journeys, some more literal than others, and New Worlds is no exception. You can explore the work by theme (such as relationships, history, strength and identity) and meet each mentor and mentee through the pages and follow the chronological path of the community through the year’s workshops. The anthology isn’t just a memento of a commendable after-school program; it’s another in a tradition of award-winning books – and yes, very much about the writing in and of itself.
If you’re looking for a decidedly different (yet powerful) summer read whose proceeds will go directly to support girls in New York, I encourage you to pick up a copy of New Worlds. Open a window into the minds and hearts of some very special young women and the community devoted to helping them succeed.
- Read the press release and get in touch.