Posts Tagged friendship stories

A PLACE AT THE TABLE: FOOD AND FRIENDSHIP

A PLACE AT THE TABLE

I am so excited to talk about A PLACE AT THE TABLE (Clarion Books) today! I mean, who am I kidding, I always love to talk books … however, A PLACE AT THE TABLE is close to my heart. I’ve been friends with and admired authors Laura Shovan and Saadia Faruqi for years now, and Saadia is actually a former contributing author here at Mixed-Up Files, so getting to be a small part of their celebration for this work is exciting to me.

A PLACE AT THE TABLE

This collaboration between Saadia and Laura is simply lovely. A PLACE AT THE TABLE is a story of friendship, food, and fitting in, of family, connections, and trust. 6th graders Sara and Elizabeth are struggling to fit in at their middle school. Sara just transferred from the Islamic school she’d always gone to, and Elizabeth is facing a changing landscape of friends she’s always known. They wind up in the same cooking class together, one taught by Sara’s mother, and after a shaky start, wind up as cooking partners. The story of their growing friendship, the things they have in common and the things they learn about each other,  is peppered with recipes from Sara’s Pakistani culture and Elizabeth’s Jewish culture.

And guess what? Saadia and Laura shared one of those recipes with us! Woohoo! You’ll get a chance to make your own Sufganiyot as well as appreciate the lovely artwork by Anoosha Syed on the recipe card.

And now that you’re salivating, let’s meet Saadia Faruqi (L) and Laura Shovan (R):

Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan

Interview: A Place at the Table

Origin Story and Writing Process

Laura: I had a loose idea for a novel based on my own childhood: a girl helps her immigrant mother through the citizenship process. But when my agent suggested working on a co-authored middle-grade story, something clicked. If this mother/daughter story were told by two girls from two culturally different families, the book could give a broader picture of what it means to be first-generation American. I admired Saadia’s writing and she’d shared with me that she’d recently gotten her U.S. citizenship. It was so exciting when she said yes to this project.

Saadia: It really was this moment of serendipity! Laura and I knew each other through the kidlit world, and she’d kindly helped me with a previous novel critique, but that was the extent of our relationship. Then she had the idea of a novel about immigration, and I jumped at the chance to discuss my very strong feelings on the subject in book form!

HMC: What was your writing process?

Laura: We are very grateful for Google Docs! Since this is a collaborative novel, we had to create an outline first. We planned which scenes and chapters would be told in Sara’s point of view, and which ones belonged to Elizabeth. From there, Saadia and I alternated writing the chapters. We always read each other’s work and shared comments and questions before moving on to the next chapter.

Saadia: It was very interesting to write a book with someone else, that’s for sure! For myself, I can tell you it was a struggle initially to be patient and learn, rather than lead all the time, which are two of my biggest faults. Once I understood that this experience was not only going to be different but also wholly worthwhile to me as a writer, I relaxed a little bit. The process has been great thanks to the internet, and conference calls and so much brainstorming. I remember sometimes even writing together while on the phone with Laura, one person dictating and the other typing. It really made for a wonderful experience!

Friendship and Food

HMC: Cooking is what brings your main characters, Sara and Elizabeth, together—it’s also how they bond. Since the two of you don’t live near each other, did you do any virtual cooking together?

Saadia: We didn’t do any cooking together, only because I’m never a willing cook for anybody! While food is definitely a major part of this story, it’s not a major part of my life. But since we’d chosen Pakistani food as the backdrop of this book, it fell on my shoulders to at least participate in the cooking aspects as much as I could. So I’d find YouTube videos of each dish we wanted Sara and Elizabeth to prepare, and then Laura would cook it on her own to test it out. Often she’d share pictures on social media, and I’d wonder – like Sara – how anyone outside my community could enjoy the dishes of my ancestors. It’s been an eye-opening experience for sure, and I know Laura’s family has enjoyed being introduced to Pakistani food!

Fitting In

 HMC: Mrs. Hameed’s cooking class centered on South Asian food is also a part of how you explored some of your themes of bias and racism. Food is such an important part of culture and religion—and sometimes people can be mean about food unfamiliar to them. What do you hope your readers will think about as they read the cooking scenes?  

Laura: My hope is that readers will become more adventurous eaters after spending time with our book. I loved learning from South Asian YouTube chefs and trying out their recipes while researching A Place at the Table. As our editor said, food is often our first experience when we learn about a new culture.

Saadia: Which first-generation kid hasn’t been laughed at for bringing their stinky or weird lunch to school? It’s a heartbreaking part of immigrant life, and really the first step into disassociating with your culture in a new environment, especially for kids who just want to fit in. My hope with this book is that readers will learn to appreciate the food of other cultures, and understand that it’s something that can bring people together rather than make them stand out. 

HMC: NOTE TO OUR READERS  … don’t forget … at the end of this post, we’ve got a treat for you … Elizabeth’s Bubbe’s Sufganiyot recipe. It’s a jelly-filled donut. YUM.  

What Sara and Elizabeth Express

HMC: What was the most important thing for your character to express?

Laura: The most important thing Elizabeth expresses in A Place at the Table is speaking up when you know someone is hurting. She learns this from Sara, who makes it clear that being a friend means standing up for each other. Elizabeth is able to take that lesson and apply it to her home life, by advocating for her mother.

Saadia: I wrote this book to showcase my own children’s struggles with being first-generation kids, especially my son’s, who was in middle school when we started writing. So I wanted to express all the hurt and confusion that comes from that, but also give readers some insight into how to move past these challenges and have a positive middle school experience. 

HMC: What is the most personally meaningful part of each character’s journey?

Laura: Elizabeth’s story overlaps with my own childhood experience in many ways. Unfortunately, my mother didn’t have a close female friend to share the joys and challenges of being an immigrant with. It was especially meaningful to me to give Elizabeth’s mom a special friend in Mrs. Hameed.

Saadia: Personally, Sara’s journey towards more kindness and understanding of her own culture, and of her parents, is the most meaningful. We see her start out as a person who emotionally shuts herself away so she doesn’t have to deal with the drama at school, but she’s also hurting because there’s such a huge gap between herself and her parents culturally. It’s a common thing for first-generation kids to go through. To have Sara work through these conflicts was very important to me, because I hope my own children can do the same as they grow older. 

Coping with Stress

HMC: Elizabeth and Sara are coping with some pretty scary issues for children, including depression and financial worries, not to mention whether their mothers will pass the citizenship test. What do you hope readers will take from the way the girls coped with these stresses?

Laura: Saadia and I were part of a panel at NCTE 2019 focused on first-generation stories. One of the resources we shared was an education article that outlined several specific stressors that children in immigrant families cope with. These included mental health, finances, and loss of culture. Though A Place at the Table is a work of fiction, our aim was to accurately portray the challenges that first-generation kids experience. My hope is that readers, whether they are adults or children, will have a deeper understanding of those challenges and how they affect their students and peers.

Personal Connections

HMC: Laura, what about Elizabeth is most like you? And least like you?

I was tall and awkward (and into Doctor Who) as a sixth grader, but Elizabeth is much more brash and outgoing than I am.

((Like reading this interview with Laura Shovan? Click HERE to read another interview — from the Mixed-up Files archives.))

HMC: Saadia, what about Sara is most like you? And least like you?

I was very grumpy and prickly in middle school, just like Sara! But her artistic talents are something I could never emulate. 

((Like reading this interview with Saadia Faruqi? Click HERE to read another interview — from the Mixed-Up Files archives.))

HMC: Maddy is a challenging character. Was it difficult/painful to write her voice?

Laura: It was easy to tap into the shifting friendship story, because it’s one I experienced in middle school. The hardest part was showing why Elizabeth remained so attached to Maddy. Her view of Maddy had to change gradually through the book as Elizabeth developed a more mature view of what friendship means. 

Saadia: Maddy is, on the surface, every POC child’s nightmare! Someone who is popular and outgoing, but has loud, negative opinions about people who are different. However, we never wanted any of our characters to be cookie cutter ones, so it was important for us to explore Maddy’s motivations and give her some redemption. 

Open Mic

HMC: Open Mic Question – what else would you like us to know about Sara and Elizabeth or about A Place at the Table?

Laura: I would like you to know that I actually own Elizabeth’s TARDIS (from Doctor Who) high tops.

Saadia: I’d like you to know that Mrs. Hameed is a lot like me, except the cooking thing!

HMC: I absolutely love that you have those high tops, Laura. Coolest thing ever! And Saadia, I loved Mrs. Hameed’s calm, loving energy so much. Thank you both so much for doing this interview with me, and best of luck to you!

Laura Shovan

Author Laura Shovan

Laura Shovan – Author

 Laura Shovan’s debut middle grade novel, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, won several awards, including NCTE 2017 Notable Verse. Her novel Takedown was selected by Junior Library Guild and PJ Our Way, and was on the ALA’s Amelia Bloomer list of feminist books. A Place at the Table, co-written with author/activist Saadia Faruqi, publishes on August 11 (Clarion/HMH). Laura is a longtime poet-in-the-schools in Maryland. She likes to knit, bake bread, and doodle robots. 

Saadia Faruqi

Author Saadia Faruqi

Saadia Faruqi is a Pakistani American author, essayist and interfaith activist. She writes the children’s early reader series “Yasmin” published by Capstone and other books for children, including middle grade novels “A Place At The Table” (HMH/Clarion 2020) co-written with Laura Shovan, and “A Thousand Questions” (Harper Collins 2020). Saadia is editor-in-chief of Blue Minaret, a magazine for Muslim art, poetry and prose, and was featured in Oprah Magazine in 2017 as a woman making a difference in her community. She resides in Houston, TX with her husband and children. 

Launch Events and Finding A PLACE AT THE TABLE

A PLACE AT THE TABLE is available here:

  1. Bookshop.org
  2. Amazon

You can also attend these virtual launch events:

  1. Houston: Brazos Books, 8/8 at 3 pm Central Time
  2. Baltimore: The Ivy Bookshop, 8/11 at 6:30 pm Eastern Time

Anyone doing curbside pickup at the Ivy will receive some book swag.

Bubbe’s Sufganiyot Recipe

And now … at long last … the piece de resistance … the recipe for Elizabeth’s Bubbe’s Sufganiyot, featuring the artwork of Anoosha Syed.

Bubbe's Sufganiyot Anoosha Sayed

Meet the Creators of DC’s Newest MG Duo: An Interview and Giveaway

AntiHero CoverWelcome back, Mixed-Up Filers.

Today, we’re chatting with the creators of the newly released Anti-Hero from DC Comics, authors Kate Karyus Quinn and Demitria Lunetta and illustrator, Maca Gil. Thank you all for joining us today!

My first question is for all of you. Can you tell us a little bit about Anti-Hero?

Kate and Demitria: Anti/Hero is the story two 13-year-old girls. Sloane thinks she’s a villain and Piper very badly wants to be a superhero. The girls end up battling over the same stolen object, an experimental scientific device. When the device accidentally powers on, the girls switch bodies. Now Sloane and Piper must learn to work together – or risk destroying each other.

Maca: It’s also super sweet but packed with fun and crazy action involving chases, drones and giant mutant creatures. It’s pretty cool.

Another question for the group. Hummingbird and Gray are completely new characters in the DC Universe? What was the process of creating them like?

Kate and Demitria: It was amazing! To add new characters to the DC Universe is a “when lightning strikes” sort of opportunity. How often does it happen? And to be able to add two new amazing female characters is even better!

When creating them, though, we weren’t really thinking about them as DC characters. Instead, we wanted two create two multifaceted girls whose problems our readers could relate to and understand.

 

 

Maca: I think if I ever see anyone cosplaying Piper or Sloane my heart is going to melt off of my chest. This has been an amazing opportunity and I’m so happy I got to do it with this team.

Kate and Demitria, what was the process of co-writing like? Did you each choose a character’s point-of-view to write from?

Kate lives in Western New York and Demitria is in Wisconsin, so we wrote long distance, communicating via text, email, and the occasional phone call. In between all

that back and forth we wrote the script by constantly passing it back and forth. Kate would write a bit then send it to Demitria. Demitria would tweak what Kate wrote and add a bit more. Then back to Kate, to okay or change again what Demitria changed on her stuff, read what Demitria added, and then add a bit more. In the end, both are our fingerprints are on every single sentence.

Also for Kate and Demitria, there’s a lot of emphasis on family throughout the story. Was that something that you wanted to focus on early on? Or did it develop out of the body switching plotline?

We definitely wanted to focus on family, because it shaped so much of who the girls are and how they experience the world around them. Piper, despite her parents being absent, has a really strong and supportive family unit. Sloane, on the other hand, has a loving Mom, but because of work she isn’t around much. And Sloane’s grandfather…well, he’s definitely not the type of role-model you’d want a kid to have.

Maca, how did you come up with the costumes for each girl’s alter-ego?

Piper loves fashion and wearing crazy colors, she is strong and full of energy. The visual cues that represent her have to be dynamic and striking. Sloane, on the other hand, is a lot calmer and hates to stand out. Visually she has long vertical lines (her hair and her height help with this!) and she loves black. When I came into the project Kate and Demitria had written such rich and alive characters that designing them was a treat. They also get even cooler costume design as the story progresses; I can’t wait for you all to see.

Also for Maca, I saw (and loved) your Batgirl illustration on Burnside. Have you always been a DC comics fan? Are there any easter eggs that readers should keep an eye out for?

Thank you! Admittedly, I only started once I was out of college and a bit older, but so many women characters in the DC universe grew on me so much and so fast. Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Batgirl! There are so many amazing ones, and their designs and stories are so iconic. I would completely die for Piper and Sloane to have a crossover with some of them someday.

For Demitria and Kate, this is your first MG novel. How does writing for MG differ for writing for YA and adult audiences? Also, it’s your first graphic novel. So, how did that process differ?

Writing MG was so fun because we were allowed to really let our silly and playful sides let loose. Both of us tend to write YA with darker themes, so it was really fun to play in this world where even at their worst—things were a little lighter.

Is there anything else about the story that any of you would like to share?

Kate and Demitria: We had to come up with an MG safe expletive for Sloane to use and decided on Zooterkins. We would love to see it catch on!

Maca: So many pancakes get eaten throughout this story. I had to stand up and make some for myself a couple of times due to having to think about them so much.

(Honestly, same. I definitely made some pancakes after reading this.) What’s the best piece of creative advice that you’ve received that you’d like to pass on to other writers and artists?

Kate: Even when you want to quit—don’t. Just keep writing. Or creating whatever you create.

Demitria: Writers need to read! Anything you can get your grabby little hands on.

Maca: Copy and study your favorite artists, but do it properly! As long as you keep your inspiration sources diverse, your product will end up being uniquely yours because of your own sensibilities, strengths and limitations.

What is something that people would be surprised to learn about you?

Kate: I hate horror movies. They literally terrify me.

Demitria: I make no secret of my dorkiness, but sometimes it still surprises people.

 Maca: I have played over 400 hours of Animal Crossing: New Leaf

Who is your favorite DC character (apart from the ones you’ve created)?

Kate: Wonder Woman!

Demitria: Batman!

MeetMaca: Batgirl of Burnside <3

What are you working on next?

Kate and Demitria: Hopefully more MG graphic novels!

Maca: I’m currently storyboarding for a feature film, but I can’t wait to do more comic books.

How can people follow you on social media?

Kate: I’m @KateKaryusQuinn on both Instagram and Twitter or you can visit my website www.KateKaryusQuinn.com

Demitria: I’m @DemitriaLunetta and my site is www.demitrialunetta.com

Maca: I’m @macagil on Instagram!

Thank you so much for the interview!

 

AntiHero is out now! Get your copy here or try your luck in our give-away!

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