What books did you read when you were a child?
I loved books about ordinary people overcoming obstacles to achieve their dreams. A few of my favorite books from childhood were The Diary of Anne Frank, Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume, Spin A Soft Black Song by Nikki Giovanni, Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, and Life Doesn’t Frighten Me by Maya Angelou, illustrated by Jean-Michel Basquiat. I also loved historical fiction, biographies and comic books with a vision for a more just world like Wonder Woman and X-Men.
If you could be a storybook character, who would you be?
If I could be a character in a storybook, I would be a phoenix-bird with the power of regeneration, adaptation, and reinvention.
What is the best thing about reading?
Reading is the least-expensive but most rewarding kind of travel I’ve ever experienced. It allows us to transcend time, space, and borders no matter where we are.
What is your all-time favourite book?
The Diary of Anne Frank. I have a tattered copy that my parents gave me when I was eight years old. I have read it hundreds of times since we took a family trip to her secret annex in the Netherlands. Her story and enduring spirit made an everlasting impression on me.
Other than reading books what is the most important thing a parent can do to help develop their children’s communication skills?
My parents both work in the communication sciences as a speech scientists and speech pathologists. I was taught that being able to communicate effectively was a human right. They exposed me to verbal education, vocabulary exercises, American sign language (ASL), and different modes of audio/visual learning. I was encouraged to write, speak and connect with others and most of all, I was taught that what I had to say was important and valuable at any age. Since I was born with a visual disability, I was encouraged to sharpen my other senses, and I believe that this led to me becoming a public speaker and media commentator.
How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
My parents have always celebrated my writing and encouraged me to develop my skills. My father was an English teacher before he went into the sciences. I grew up hearing his beautiful oration and reading his poetry. He remains one of the best editors I have ever worked with. My mother saved the first “book” I have ever written. It was a makeshift text I collated with staples and tape when I was five years old.
How do you encourage your children or grandchildren to read, what books do you enjoy reading with them?
I would recommend that parents read children books that affirm their sense of intrinsic worthiness, capture their imaginations and enable them to see themselves as creators, change-makers, leaders, and healers. Here are some great books that achieve this: Thunderboy Jr. by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales, Marigold and the Faraway Tree by Alison Fast, How Mamas Love Their Babies by Juniper Fitzgerald, illustrated by Elise Peterson, A is for Activist by Martha Gonzalez, illustrated by Innosanto Nagara, and Little Leaders: Bold Women In Black History by Vashti Harrison.
Jamia Wilson is the executive director and publisher of the Feminist Press. An activist and writer, Wilson has contributed to New York Magazine, the New York Times, The Today Show, CNN, BBC, Teen Vogue, Elle, Refinery 29, Rookie, and the Guardian. She is the author of Young, Gifted, and Black (Wide Eyed Editions), a co-author of Road Map for Revolutionaries (Ten Speed Press) and wrote the introduction and oral history to Together We Rise: Behind the Scenes at the Protest Heard Around the World (Dey Street Books).
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