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“Jump at the Sun!”

Zora Neale Hurston once wrote that her mother encouraged them to “jump at the sun.”

That is what we want the teens in the literary circle to do. Through the power of reading, to imagine and reimagine their world. It is a power of liberation to be immersed in stories that resonate and reflect with you.

The Hurston and Hughes Literary Circle is well underway in our first ever virtual summer. We have teens from several states who engage together every Tuesday afternoon. The summer promises to hold out that exuberance of youth that thinks nothing is impossible to them. Remember being a little kid and thinking if you jump high enough you can reach that thing? I want them to keep reaching.

I invite the teens every year to help us reorder the books and to consider what they want to read. This is an updated order for the remaining dates of the summer. This is also Black Book/Black Bookstore/Black Publishing week, from June 14-21, 2020. I’ve already ordered some volumes from Mahogany Books in Anacostia to consider for 2021. One of our circle parents also gave us the name of Olive Tree Books in Springhill MA. We learned about Frugal Bookstore in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston and where I live, there is Eyeseeme Bookstore. What Black owned bookstore would you suggest?

We are reading SLAY by Brittney M. Morris and The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson today, June 16, 2020.

Next week, June 23, 2020, they are being children again and finding a picture book that features Afrodiasporan teens. It is one of three upcoming sessions where middle school and high school are together. I have 33 years of books and have a few I want to share. What is a picture book you would share? I still remember reading Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats to my sons when they were little.

June 30, 2020 we are reading Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite. This book is rather long, so the high schoolers have a couple weeks to finish it. Middle school will be reading Akata Witch by Dr.Nnedi Okorafor.

July 7, 2020 is our Poetry Week and an opportunity for the middle and high school to come together again. I want them to find a poem by a Black poet and share it. Together, we will read I Wear the Mask by Paul Laurence Dunbar, Harlem by Langston Hughes, I, Too, America by Langston Hughes, Yet Do I Marvel by Countee Cullen, Incident by Countee Cullen, Boston Year by Elizabeth Alexander, Ego Tripping by Nikki Giovanni, and Between Ourselves by Audre Lorde.

July 14, 2020 we are reading Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson for high school and Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

July 21, 2020 will be Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler for high school and Zahrah: the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor

July 28, 2020 will be How Long Til Black Futures Month by N.K. Jemisin for High School and Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds. The circle teens will be asked to deeply read one of the short stories and each of them will lead a mini discussion on it.

August 4, 2020 – that will be a writing and reading week for school. I will be on a plan from Missouri to Connecticut during the time of the literary circle and won’t have access. We are asking the teens to spend that time writing. What is their literary story? How are they capturing history? Where is creativity providing an outlet for them. They will share it during our final gathering (note – this is a change to the previous ending)

August 11, 2020 – our final gathering of the summer. We will celebrate what we’ve read, explore what is happening in the literary world, encourage and challenge each other for the school year and if they choose, remain in contact with quarterly pop-ins.

Summer 2021 will also be virtual because we have greatly enjoyed connecting young people from around the country in this literary space. Stay tuned!

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