"Where's the author?" Reflections on my first school visit as a published author
I had my first author visit today and it was SOO much fun! Well, actually it was my 2nd, if you include the talk I did for my daughter's 3rd grade classroom before I was published. When I spoke to my daughter's class a number of years ago, I made a point to discuss how, growing up, I had never read even one picture book about an Indian American child--not a single one. I gestured to their classroom library. Then, I showed them a picture of me in Kindergarten and stated clearly that that was a picture of me, a child who was a future author (and didn't know it!).
When speaking today, I was going to omit that discussion--the kids were younger, only in preschool and kindergarten--and I wasn't sure that they were going to be able to last through a long discussion about me before we even got to my book. Also, the teachers said I wasn't the first author to come visit the school, another author had previously visited, whose name I recognized, an author with a lot more school visits under his belt, which left me feeling a bit nervous since this was my first author visit with so many kids!
But then, as soon as the first class filed in to sit down, the very first thing a student said to me was, "Where's the author?"
"I'm the author!" I explained.
"You?" the child asked, surprised and even a little incredulous.
That's when I knew I couldn't omit that part. The previous author they had met was a white man, and so it was incumbent upon me to be kind but clear with them, that yes, an author can have brown skin and black hair and look like me or like anyone else.
We're still not at a place where kids know that authors CAN in fact look like me. But I hope we can get there, and until then, I will be sharing my pictures and saying this frankly to students.