Mentee Maxx Carr, who attends LaGuardia High School, absolutely loved Tomi Adeyemi’s book, The Children of Blood and Bone (Macmillan). Girls Write Now was honored to receive an invitation from Macmillan and the Tonight Show to join Tomi Adeyemi and Jimmy Fallon, for the Tonight Show’s Summer Reading Series. Here, Maxx shares her experience.
On a rainy Tuesday evening, I was procrastinating in the best way possible — I was finishing a book that I had started reading only the day before, and I was loving every minute of it. I’d purchased Tomi Adeyemi’s debut novel, The Children of Blood and Bone, just a few days before but had wanted to read it for months. The good thing about summer (among many other good things) is that I can read for fun rather than for school, and I get to overanalyze all the parts I want to instead of the parts that my teachers tell us to.
The Children of Blood and Bone turned out to be one of my favorite books I’ve read this year. It’s been a long time since since I’ve come across a book that I can’t put down — the last time I had this feeling was in middle school, and I was afraid I would never again feel the thrill of connecting with a narrator or story in that same way. All 523 pages of The Children of Blood and Bone left me more intrigued than the trailer for the new season of Doctor Who. I loved every twist and turn, every fierce battle fought, every single time a character made a discovery about themselves and their capabilities.
A few days later, I received an email from Program Manager Izzy Abrams at Girls Write Now, inviting mentees to a Q&A with Jimmy Fallon and an author, who was yet revealed to me. I secretly hoped it would be Tomi Adeyemi and couldn’t believe when it was! I was glad I RSVPed early. We could submit questions for Tomi, and I had a good one. I was curious to know how she wanted people to react to her book and what meaning she wanted it to have for her readers, so I asked: “What was the impact you wanted to have on people and their lives with this book?”
On a not-rainy Tuesday evening, I wandered through the city, trying to read building numbers without making weird eye contact with strangers. It was the day of the Q&A, and I wanted to make sure I didn’t get lost on my way to the NBC building before 7 PM when the event would begin. I arrived and was pleasantly surprised to discover we would all get copies of the book that Jimmy Fallon and Tomi Adeyemi would sign after the Q&A.
My fellow Girls Write Now mentees and I sat in the front row, which increased my excitement even more. Jimmy Fallon and Tomi Adeyemi came onstage to applause and cheers. Tomi spoke about how many people have told her that the book has encouraged them to take a leap forward and not give up their dreams even when it seems impossible. She told the audience about meeting a girl who has sickle cell anemia; they both cried as the girl shared her story, and Tomi in turn felt inspired by her.
Another mentee had submitted a question asking if Tomi had any advice for teen writers, to which Tomi replied to keep reading and writing. She also said to keep in mind that we (Girls Write Now mentees) have already taken the first step to achieving our dreams in the writing field: we’ve acknowledged that we are writers at heart. Admitting that to herself was something she had struggled with for a long time before realizing that writing is something that she wants to do.
Following that question, Jimmy read my question, and Tazmin, a fellow mentee who was sitting next to me, nudged me, because she knew it was my question. Tomi answered that in her childhood when she was writing she would subconsciously take herself out of her stories, because the stories she was reading didn’t feature someone like her as a hero. With The Children of Blood and Bone, she wanted to inspire young writers to include themselves in their narratives, especially if their perspective or background is underrepresented in pop culture.
People discuss the importance of representation because so many grow up without anyone to look up to in mainstream media who reminds them of theselves. This is why people are excited every time a movie like Love, Simon, or Black Panther gets released: people see themselves in the story and in the adventure —they get to see themselves outside of their own situation.
Going to this event and hearing an author talk about their book the way Tomi spoke about hers was incredibly significant for me as both a writer and a person. As a writer, it was inspiring to see someone who not only worked hard on writing, finishing, and publishing a story that she wanted to write in the way she wanted to, but also was so successful that her novel ended up being the number one new book for several weeks and was chosen as a book to be read by the entire audience of a talk-show host, one whose reach and influence are global.
As a person, and still in some ways as a writer, it was inspiring to see someone who had decided that it was time for her story to be told and who put herself back into the stories she wrote. Each character in The Children of Blood and Bone must go on a journey to discover their true selves. Although our journeys may not have the same magic that the character of Zélie tries to restore, the story makes the reader want to develop their own magic, the magic that can only be found within themselves but can benefit the world depending on how one uses it. After reading Tomi’s book, I wanted to discover what my magic holds and where it will take me. The only question is, where will yours take you?
Mentees weigh-in on meeting Tomi and Jimmy:
I thought #TonightShowSummerReads was very positive. The advice that Tomi gave for young writers was inspirational. Being able to be part of a program that supported reading and young writers was amazing. —Tasnim Tarannum
The night was amazing! I was becoming stagnant with my writing due to stress and when Tomi talked I felt my passion ignite once again. One of my favorite things she said was “it’s not about if it happens, it’s about when.” That quote moved me so much and it made me more confident about my future. I am so thankful I got this opportunity.
PS: I can’t put Children of Blood and Bone down I feel like im in a movie. —N’Kaylah Simmons
It was lovely hearing Tomi talk about her book and her genuine wish to share the joy of literature with everyone. Even better was that Jimmy was there to support the reading movement and provide some hilarious commentary during the Q&A. I had a good day but being able to end it by meeting Tomi and Jimmy made it a great day. Thanks so much. Tuesday night was amazing!—Jacqueline Thom
Being able to attend the #TonightShowSummerReads was such a magical experience because I saw myself in Tomi Adeyemi. I love that she understands the importance of representation and I took her words of encouragement to heart. —Ayo Akintayo