Saturday, October 29—The 14th annual Boston Book Festival took place in Copley Square over the weekend. Lower School English Faculty Lisa Stringfellow participated on a panel with other local middle grade and YA authors called “Pushing Back Against the Pushback: Uplifting Marginalized Books for Young People in an Age of Censorship.” The panel was co-organized and moderated by Winsor parent and Palestinian-American pediatrician Eman Ansari P'20, '24, '28.
“Classrooms, libraries, and even bookstores have become cultural and political battlegrounds in which marginalized groups fight for visibility, truth, and power,” said the Boston Book Festival in their event description, asking, “How can each of us stand up for books that represent others’ stories?”
Ms. Stringfellow and Dr. Ansari were joined by three other panelists including Federico Erebia, whose forthcoming YA novel Pedro & Daniel is about Mexican-American brothers and their resilient bond despite the lifelong hardship of unrelenting colorism, homophobia, and violence in their home. Nora Lester Murad, an activist and educator, is author of the YA novel Ida in the Middle about a Palestinian-American girl who faces anti-Arab racism and finds strength in her people’s struggle. Betty G. Yee is an elementary school teacher whose young adult historical novel Gold Mountain follows a young Chinese girl who takes her twin brother’s place working for the Central Pacific Railroad Company.
The panel of authors fielded many questions during the session. “Often teachers are fearful of addressing issues regarding the LGBTQIA+ community, race, gender etc. in class because of parental pushback,” said Dr. Ansari. “Since you are a teacher as well as an author, how would you advise teachers to frame these issues when using texts like A Comb of Wishes in the classroom?”
Ms. Stringfellow explained, “Books that students read should reflect the real people in the world and the real issues they face. Students in our schools have loved ones and family members that identify in many different and intersectional ways. They might even be questioning their own identity and feelings. Books are a way to understand other people and the world around us.”
Dr. Ansari founded the book club at Boston Children’s Hospital as part of her advocacy for literacy and DEIB efforts. Ms. Stringfellow regularly speaks to school and library groups and at book festivals, such as the Middle Ground Book Fest