AuthorsFrom the Wire

In Conversation: Gary Gray Jr. and Joanna Ho

In this captivating conversation, poets and educators Gary Gray Jr. and Joanna Ho engage in a heartfelt dialogue about their respective picture books and the importance of empowering young readers to embrace their identities. Gray Jr.’s debut book, “I’m From,” draws inspiration from his deep sense of belonging within his community, and the challenges he has faced outside of it. Meanwhile, Ho’s new picture book, “Say My Name,” explores the celebration of history and culture behind the names of six children, emphasizing the significance of correct pronunciation. Both authors strongly believe in the power of storytelling to promote understanding, representation, and empowerment. With beautiful illustrations by Oge Mora and Khoa Le, these books come to life, touching the hearts of readers young and old. Ho’s dedication to authenticity shines through her engagement with different groups of people and listening to their experiences, while Gray Jr.’s book is a heartfelt tribute to his nan and the community of Preston, Nova Scotia, where his story begins.

In Conversation: Gary Gray Jr. and Joanna Ho

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Background Information

Gary Gray Jr. and Joanna Ho are both talented authors who have made significant contributions to the world of children’s literature. Gary Gray Jr. is a Black Canadian poet and educator, known for his thought-provoking and powerful writing. He is the host of the podcast ItsPersonal and recently released his debut picture book titled “I’m From,” which is illustrated by the talented Oge Mora.

On the other hand, Joanna Ho is the author of the breakout picture book debut “Eyes That Kiss in the Corners” and the YA novel “The Silence That Binds Us.” Her new picture book, “Say My Name,” is a celebration of the history and culture behind the names of six children, emphasizing the importance of correct pronunciation.

Both authors have been motivated by their personal experiences and a commitment to promoting understanding and empowerment through storytelling. They believe in the power of literature to help young readers embrace their identities and foster a sense of belonging.

Gary Gray Jr.’s Book: ‘I’m From’

Gary Gray Jr.’s book, “I’m From,” is inspired by his deep sense of belonging within his community. Growing up in Preston, Nova Scotia, Gary’s community became an integral part of his identity. Through his book, he aims to capture the essence of this unique community and share it with young readers.

The story in “I’m From” revolves around a young boy who takes the readers on a journey through his community, showcasing the beauty and diversity that exists within it. The book highlights the strong bonds of family and kinship that Gary experienced while growing up.

Additionally, “I’m From” also sheds light on the challenges Gary faced when he was outside of his community. It explores the instances where he felt different or faced discrimination. By addressing these challenges, Gary hopes to empower young readers and encourage them to embrace their unique identities, regardless of the obstacles they may face.

In Conversation: Gary Gray Jr. and Joanna Ho

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Joanna Ho’s Book: ‘Say My Name’

Joanna Ho’s book, “Say My Name,” is another remarkable piece of children’s literature that draws inspiration from personal experiences. Having faced mispronunciations of her own name throughout her life, Joanna understands the importance of embracing and loving one’s name.

In “Say My Name,” Joanna introduces readers to six children from diverse backgrounds, each with a unique name and story. Through the vivid illustrations by Khoa Le, readers are transported into the lives of these children, where they learn about the significance and cultural roots of their names.

The book emphasizes the importance of correct pronunciation and encourages readers to respect and honor one another’s names. By sharing these stories, Joanna hopes to foster a sense of understanding and empathy among young readers, while also empowering them to lift their voices and celebrate their identities.

The Power of Storytelling

Both Gary Gray Jr. and Joanna Ho firmly believe in the power of storytelling to promote understanding, representation, and empowerment. Through their books, they aim to create a positive impact on young readers and help them navigate their own journeys of self-discovery and acceptance.

Storytelling has the unique ability to build bridges between people from different communities and walks of life. By sharing stories that reflect diverse experiences, authors like Gary and Joanna can break down barriers and foster connections among readers of all backgrounds.

Additionally, representation is a crucial aspect of storytelling. When young readers see characters who look like them or share similar experiences, it can empower them and instill a sense of belonging. By providing diverse and authentic representation, authors can contribute to the development of a more inclusive society.

Both “I’m From” and “Say My Name” serve as powerful tools for empowerment. They encourage young readers to embrace their identities, stand up against discrimination, and celebrate the rich tapestry of cultures and communities that make up our world.

In Conversation: Gary Gray Jr. and Joanna Ho

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Illustrations in the Books

The illustrations in both “I’m From” and “Say My Name” play a significant role in bringing the stories to life. Oge Mora’s illustrations in Gary Gray Jr.’s book captivate readers with their bold and vibrant colors. They beautifully complement the text and add an extra layer of depth to the story.

Similarly, Khoa Le’s illustrations in Joanna Ho’s book are praised for their beauty and impact. The illustrations transport readers into the worlds of the six children whose stories are shared in “Say My Name.” The attention to detail and the intricate depictions of cultural elements add richness to the overall reading experience.

The illustrations in both books serve a dual purpose. They not only enhance the visual appeal but also aid in understanding and connecting with the stories on a deeper level. The skillful artwork elevates the narratives and allows young readers to fully immerse themselves in the worlds created by the authors.

Authentic Representation

In her book “Say My Name,” Joanna Ho went the extra mile to ensure authentic representation. She engaged with different groups of people and listened to their experiences to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges individuals face when it comes to their names.

By actively reaching out to diverse communities, Joanna was able to create a book that is reflective of the experiences of children from various cultural backgrounds. She wanted to ensure that the stories in “Say My Name” were relatable and resonated with readers from all walks of life.

Joanna’s commitment to authentic representation stems from her belief in the power of personal narratives. By listening to the stories of others and incorporating them into her work, she harnesses the power of shared experiences to promote empathy and understanding among young readers.

Dedication to Community

Gary Gray Jr.’s book, “I’m From,” is not only a testament to his own experiences but also a dedication to his community. The book is inspired by his nan and the vibrant community of Preston, Nova Scotia, where his story begins.

Through “I’m From,” Gary aims to honor his community and shed light on its unique culture, history, and resilience. By showcasing the beauty and strength of the community, he hopes to inspire young readers to celebrate their own backgrounds and the communities they belong to.

Gary’s dedication to his community extends beyond the pages of his book. He actively engages with the Preston community and uses his platform as an educator and poet to uplift and empower the voices of those around him. His work serves as a catalyst for positive change and social growth within his community.

Conclusion

Gary Gray Jr. and Joanna Ho’s books, “I’m From” and “Say My Name,” respectively, are powerful contributions to the world of children’s literature. Through their writing, they empower young readers to embrace their identities, understand the importance of correct pronunciation, and celebrate the diverse communities they belong to.

Both authors understand the power of storytelling to promote understanding, representation, and empowerment. By sharing their personal experiences and engaging with diverse groups, they create books that resonate with readers from all walks of life.

The illustrations in both books amplify the narratives, bringing the stories to life and captivating young readers. They add an extra layer of richness and visual appeal to the overall reading experience.

Gary Gray Jr. and Joanna Ho’s dedication to their communities is evident through their work. Their books not only serve as a tribute to their personal experiences but also as a celebration of the communities that have shaped them.

Through their commitment to authentic representation, Gary and Joanna provide young readers with opportunities to see themselves reflected in literature, fostering a sense of belonging and empowerment.

Overall, “I’m From” and “Say My Name” are books that empower young readers, encourage understanding, and promote the embracing of identities through the power of literature.

Source: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-authors/article/93218-in-conversation-gary-gray-jr-and-joanna-ho.html