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About erinentradakelly

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So far erinentradakelly has created 113 blog entries.

Why Libraries are Gold #NationalLibraryWeek

By |April 12th, 2017|Uncategorized|

I still remember the smell of my elementary school library — the scent of well-loved books and paperback leaves. I still see how the shelves are arranged — the tables in the center of the room, and the door that led to the playground.

And I remember the precious gem of Sideways Stories from Wayside School.

I checked out many books from my school library, including Halfway Down Paddy Lane, a childhood favorite. But every now and then I had an overwhelming bookwormy need to visit Wayside School. I loved Louis Sachar’s crazy and ridiculous stories and wished my school was more like Wayside, despite the evil Mrs. Gorf.

But I wasn’t the only one who loved Wayside. Most of the time, the book was already checked out. I had to wait and wait and wait. It would finally appear — its spine cracked and disjointed; pages worn from a thousand hungry fingers — and I would carry it home like a rare and precious gem. I had something that was in high demand, and it was mine! Fora time, at least.

If you asked me to write about the time I got a book from Amazon, what would I say? That I opened a box and there it was, less than forty-eight hours after I ordered it, barely enough time to grow impatient? Do I treat those books like rare gems? No, reader. I do not. I may read them and love them, but if you asked me to describe their spines and pages in twenty years, I’m not sure I would remember. 

There’s a reason why libraries are magical. They’re an experience, not a delivery service.

I Will Not Tell a Lie

By |March 30th, 2017|Uncategorized|

Tashi Levent-Levi, http://bit.ly/2odYMFLIn my debut novel Blackbird Fly, the main character Apple Yengko is voted the third-ugliest girl in school. There’s a rumor that she eats dog for dinner. The boys bark at her when she walks down the hall.

In Hello, Universe, Virgil Salinas — a boy in the special-needs class — is called “the R-word” by his neighborhood bully.

I received an email from an adult reader who had lovely things to say about the book, but wanted to know why I used the “R-word.” I thanked her (genuinely) for her feedback, and said I used the R-word because that’s the word Chet Bullens — the boy who bullies Virgil — would say IRL. She agreed, but said she still wished I hadn’t used it.

“It makes me uncomfortable,” she said.

I understand. Believe me. The word makes me uncomfortable, too. That’s why I never use it. That’s also why we have to write it.

When I’m working on a book, honesty is the most important thing to me.

I wish people would quit using “retard” as a way to cut someone else down. I wish we didn’t use “ugly” as a weapon against girls. I wish we all treated each other with kindness and respect. I wish life was never uncomfortable. (Then again, Virgil’s Lola says bad things have to happen. ‘If you don’t have bad things, you wouldn’t have good things. They would all just be things.’) But until then, I make this promise to my readers:

I will strive to use words that are realistic, even when those words are ugly. We need them exposed to the light so they can wither.

I will write scenes that are realistic (to the best of my ability), even when they’re uncomfortable. Because life is uncomfortable sometimes. Unfortunately for many, it’s uncomfortable most of the time. And those stories have a place. 

I will aim to write with honesty. I will aim to see you. Truth is empowering, and we all have a right to share ours. Click To Tweet

 

3 Things I Learned on Tour

By |March 22nd, 2017|Uncategorized|


Adults are kinda lame. (Sorry, grown-ups.) When I arrived and left, I was greeted with excited cheers and I suspect at least 50 percent of them had no idea who I was. They were just thrilled to miss class and loved me for it. But it’s a win-win situation. I pretend I’m a super-celebrity, they pretend they love me, and no one is the wiser. This doesn’t happen when I speak to adults. They just, like, sit there. At one point during the tour, I was asked to draw a pickle Godzilla. Adults never ask me to draw pickle Godzillas.

Wrinkle release spray can be used as perfume if your body spray is confiscated by airport security. Word to the wise: The scent doesn’t last long.

Hand sanitizer is the most important product ever created. When you’re skipping across the country and visiting thousands of kids, you don’t want to get sick. But going in and out of airports and schools exposes you to five bazillion germs. That’s just an estimate. Have you ever noticed how often people cough, sneeze, or sniffle? ALL THE TIME.

I bet at least one person in this photo sneezed on me when I wasn’t paying attention:

OMG I’M GOING ON TOUR … See?

By |February 27th, 2017|Uncategorized|


Let Me Read to You for #WRAD!

By |February 16th, 2017|Uncategorized|

On World Read Aloud Day, readers of all ages celebrate literacy and the pure joy and power of reading aloud. In honor of #WRAD, here is a snippet of me reading chapter two of HELLO, UNIVERSE. Please take time to read aloud today, especially to the young people in your life.

Once upon a time, I was a little girl.

By |January 27th, 2017|About Lifestuff|

I knew a few things about life back then. They were:

  • When you’re a girl, there is nothing worse than being ugly. Therefore, it’s a top proirity to be pretty.
  • You should always be yourself, unless yourself doesn’t fit in, in which case you should stuff yourself down and reshape yourself to conform so you won’t be alone.
  • You should be ashamed about what makes you different, because it’s the root cause of all your problems.

I now know that none of these are true. But when I was eight, nine, ten, twelve, or fifteen, they were. And for many children today, they still are.

As a mestiza in a non-diverse southern community, I had the weighty sense that I was not-pretty, and my ethnic background didn’t allow me to conform. So I stuffed it down and was ashamed of it. My eyes, my complexion, my hair color, my nose, my stubby eyelashes — they were all vile to me. I believed, like many girls before me, that being pretty meant blonde hair and blue eyes. I wanted to be like Dionna, a girl who went to my school. Her hair sat in soft blonde ringlets. She always wore fashionable headbands and cute dresses. Her eyes were round and blue. Everyone wanted to be around her. Even her name was beautifully sophisticated. Dionna.

Meanwhile, my eyes slanted just enough to be traitorous. They were dark. And I had no adorable headbands or cute dresses. Also, my hair was coarse.

I used to think: If I have to be Asian, why can’t I at least have Chinese hair?

It’s embarrassing to admit that. But it’s true.


I read a lot. Judy Blume spoke directly to me. Her books were my thoughts come to life. But there were missing pieces. Her characters were mostly white middle-class Yankees. I was a whitish Asian in the working class who was being raised in the deep South, even though neither of my parents were Southerners.

So what was I?


A co-worker recommended a book to me many years ago. It was Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. It’s unfortunate that Toni Morrison is the only African American author that many White people can name, but it’s fortunate that I was given the book.

On the surface, I had little in common with Pecola. She was a Black girl growing up in Ohio after the Great Depression. She suffered from horrific abuse. Her family struggled to get by in a society where Whiteness was goodness. My family’s lack of money was an inconvenience. Pecola’s poverty was oppressive. Pecola was told, again and again, that she was ugly. This fueled her one greatest wish: To have blue eyes.

I thought about the times I stared at my own eyes in the mirror and wished they would turn blue. The nights I went to sleep and prayed that I would wake up looking “more American.” How I took it as a compliment when someone said, “Oh, I just thought you were White.”

As readers, we relate to most characters on an empathic level. But I related to Pecola in a more meaningful way. I was a whitish-Asianish girl with food on the table and she was a poor Black girl in the years after the Great Depression, but she managed to reach across the divide of time, fiction, race, age, economics, and social status to say: I know we are very different, but in some ways, we are the same.

Today is Multicultural Children’s Book Day. Make sure you celebrate it. Remember why #WeNeedDiverseBooks.

Celebrating 75 Years of Little Golden Books

By |January 19th, 2017|About Books|

This is a year of great celebration! It’s the 75th anniversary of Little Golden Books.

When I flip through the pages of a Little Golden Book, I travel back to a time when the Poky Little Puppy nosed through my childhood bedroom, the Fuzzy Duckling swam across my bookshelf, and Scuffy the Tugboat tried with all his might to make it across my carpet.

But none was more beloved than Grover. Despite his brick wall and ropes, I always made it to the end of the book, only to discover that the titular “Monster” was none other than lovable Grover himself.

Take time today to pay homage to a literary staple. I know I will.

Infographic: My Year in Books

By |December 21st, 2016|About Books|

My Favorite Reads of the Year

By |December 13th, 2016|About Books|

Of the 100+ books I read this year, these are the 12 that stayed with me. They share only one thing in common: Each sentence made me want to get to the next one. 

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collage-3collage_2collage-4

Do You Love Louisa May Alcott because of Little Women? I Don’t.

By |November 29th, 2016|Uncategorized|

louisa-mayToday is Louisa May Alcott’s birthday. When we think of LMA, we think of Little Women. Well, that’s what you think about, anyway. I think of A Long Fatal Love Chase. Here’s a confession:

I have never read Little Women.

I saw the Winona Ryder movie and enjoyed it. I had about 500 panic attacks when whatsherface threw Jo’s manuscript into the fire. But I’ve never enjoyed the book. I’ve started it, stopped it, started it, stopped it, and finally admitted to myself that I just didn’t want to read it.

Then I discovered A Long Fatal Love Chase, the book she wrote two years before Little Women was released. I love Gothic fiction, and this is Gothic suspense in all its glory. Alcott tried to get the book published, but it was rejected again and again for its sensationalism. It wasn’t published until 1995, more than 100  years after Alcott’s death.

When you move in a literary world, it’s tough to admit that you’ve never read a classic staple of American literature like Little Women. But if there’s something to be taken away from my adversity to Little Women and my love for A Long Fatal Love Chase, it’s this:

  • You don’t have to like a book just because a lot of people say you’re supposed to.
  • Writers have many faces. They can write a sisterly coming of age novel, and they can also write books that begin with:

“I shall do something desperate if this life is not changed soon … I often feel as if I’d gladly sell my soul to Satan for a year of freedom.” … The girl glanced despairingly about the dreary room like a caged creature on the point of breaking loose. Books lined the walls, loaded the tables and lay piled about the weird, withered old man who was her sole companion.

Happy birthday, Louisa May!