Superbosses at DTCC

We’re honored to thank two supporters who came together for an exclusive event on August 28. First, we’d like to thank Sydney Finkelstein, author of Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent, who donated his time and expertise on our behalf. He spent the morning detailing the common characteristics of the “superbosses” he meticulously researched over ten years. As someone with firsthand knowledge of the techniques that some of the greatest talent incubators have in common, he was eagerly sought for one of our exclusive corporate readings.

Second, we’d like to thank The Depository Trust & Clearing Corp (DTCC) a critical financial markets infrastructure provider who works to ensure the stability of global finance markets, and who was also our corporate sponsor for this reading. DTCC has supported our work and volunteered in the classroom for several years. For this event we worked with their START network, an employee resource group which supports early to mid-career employees with professional development and networking opportunities.

The DTCC START network has over 1,000 members globally, representing 20% of the corporation’s growing workforce with members in 11 global locations. Each of DTCC’s seven employee resource groups host a month of activities each year, and offer other events throughout the year.

An author as respected as Sydney Finkelstein has strong appeal outside START’s core membership, and his speaking engagement garnered approximately 200 attendees across DTCC’s offices in Jersey City, Boston, Tampa and Dallas.  The earliest registrants were provided with copies of Sydney’s book, courtesy of the START network, and questions from participants indicated that people did their reading in advance.

Sydney’s presentation was followed by a panel of DTCC professionals, all of whom were familiar with Superbosses and who were able to give concrete examples of the techniques being put to use in their workplace. One leader, for example, hired an oboe player for a finance job, to insert outside thinking into a group dynamic (key superboss technique). Other leaders spoke of being mentored by superbosses, who had encouraged them to move upward and onward when the time was right, but who also took them back when new positions became available. All of the panelists agreed that the community of past employees surrounding a superboss is a clear indicator of their success.

Those of us at Behind the Book and all our present and future employees are happy that we got to attend and learn as well!

Many thanks to Sydney for appearing on our behalf, and many thanks to the team at DTCC for organizing a flawless event.

September Reading at KGB

Welcome back to another season of readings – the thirteenth! – by celebrated and up-and-coming authors whose literary explorations remind us of the joy and human connection behind storytelling in any form. Behind the Book is proud to welcome returning authors Hannah Tinti and Victoria Redel, whose deeply humane and lyrical stories transport us into lives we might never want to leave.

 Hannah Tinti is a writer, editor, and teacher.  Her new novel, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley, has been optioned by director Matt Reeves, producer Michael Costigan, & Endemol Shine. Both a coming-of-age novel and a literary thriller, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley explores the relationship between father and daughter after the mysterious death of his wife/her mother, what it means to be a hero, and the cost we pay to protect the people we love most.  Her short story collection, Animal Crackers, has sold in sixteen countries and was a runner-up for the PEN/Hemingway award.  Her best-selling novel, The Good Thief, is a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, recipient of the American Library Association’s Alex Award, winner of the The Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize, and winner of the Quality Paperback Book Club’s New Voices Award.  In 2002, she co-founded the award-winning magazine One Story, where she is now Executive Editor. In 2009, she received the PEN/Nora Magid award for excellence in editing, and in 2014 One Story won the AWP Prize for Best Small Press. In 2011, she joined the Public Radio program, Selected Shorts, as their Literary Commentator, interviewing authors and actors about the importance of literature and reading. She co-founded the Sirenland Writers Conference in Italy with Dani ShapiroMichael Maren, and Antonio & Carla Sersale. She has taught writing at New York University’s Graduate Creative Writing Program, Columbia University’s MFA  program, CUNY, and at the Museum of Natural History in New York City.

“A master class in literary suspense.” The Washington Post

“This is a convincingly redemptive and celebratory novel: an affirmation of the way that heroism and human fallibility coexist, of how good parenting comes in unexpected packages, and of the way that we are marked by our encounters with each other and the luminous universe in which we dwell.” Publisher’s Weekly, starred review

 Victoria Redel is the author of three books of poetry and five books of fiction.  Her new novel, Before Everything, about longtime friends who come together to care for one of their own, is an unflinching and affecting look at how one woman’s final days change the lives of those around her.  Her novel The Border of Truth weaves the situation of refugees and a daughter’s awakening to the history and secrets of her father’s survival and loss.  It was a Barnes and Noble Great New Writers Discovery Selection.  Loverboy was awarded the 2001 S. Mariella Gable Novel Award and the 2002 Forward Silver Literary Fiction Prize and was chosen in 2001 as a Los Angeles Times Best Book.  Loverboy was adapted for a feature film directed by Kevin Bacon.  Swoon was a finalist for the James Laughlin Award.  Her work has been widely anthologized and translated.  Her fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in numerous magazines and journals including Granta.com., The New York Times, O the Oprah magazine, Elle, and Bomb, amongst others.  She is on the graduate and undergraduate faculty of Sarah Lawrence College, and has received fellowships from The Guggenheim Foundation, The National Endowment for The Arts, and the Fine Arts Work Center. 

“Redel has crafted a lyrical ode to female friendship, proving that bonds can somehow be made of iron and elastic, sometimes strong and sometimes frail. – Booklist (starred review)

Redel’s new novel brings to mind Virginia Woolf’s The Waves.”  – BBC Culture’s Ten Books to read in June

Summer School! My Chinatown with Kam Mak

In Kam Mak’s book My Chinatown: One Year in Poems, Kam tells the story of his first year in New York after immigrating from Hong Kong as a child. He was struck by – and unhappy with – the differences at first, but with time was he was able to embrace those differences and realize the similarities the two cities have.

This summer, two classes of second and third grade students at PS 375 in Harlem were struck by the differences and similarities between Chinatown and their own neighborhoods and cultures. At first, things like dim sum and Chinese dragons seemed odd and foreign to them. However, after reading Kam’s book, writing their own poems about the similarities and differences they saw and researched, and visiting Chinatown, the students were able to appreciate the differences and understand the similarities to their own lives and experiences, as Kam once did.

The students’ introduction to Chinatown came through reading Kam’s book and discussing it with him. The book takes the reader through a year through Kam’s eyes when he first moved to Chinatown as a young boy. After learning about Kam’s experiences, the students were able to see Chinatown for themselves on a field trip led by Kam, visiting specific places he mentions in his book.

On the way downtown, the students chattered excitedly about what they knew of Chinatown. No one seemed to know much about it, though one boy proudly spoke of going to a park in Chinatown once with his family. Then one girl tried to one-up him by saying she had seen Chinatown many times out the window of the D train as she passed overhead (she later pointed excitedly at the train when we passed it). The strongest opinions that the students expressed were about the prospect of eating dim sum (although none of them had ever tried it), some claiming it would be delicious, others scared by the idea of trying something new.

Throughout the field trip, the students drew pictures of the places they visited and wrote descriptions of what they saw, heard, smelt, touched, and tasted. At first, Chinatown seemed very strange to them. Tanks of fish they had seen in the illustrations in Kam’s book seemed scary up close, kumquats a strange item to carry in a candy store, and dim sum far too unfamiliar. As the day went on and Kam encouraged them to be open to trying new things, they were excited by the new experiences. They especially enjoyed the dim sum. One boy even informed me that “it tastes like nothing I’ve ever eaten. It tastes like heaven!”

Equipped with first hand knowledge of Chinatown, the students spent the next workshop researching more about a specific facet of Chinese culture, with topics including food, games/sports, school, Chinese New Year, festivals, animals, symbols, language, family, art and music, and cities and landmarks. Using what they saw in Chinatown and information they found through their research, they created venn diagrams of the similarities and differences between their topic in the United States and in China. For example, one student’s diagram laid out dim sum and kumquats as Chinese food, mac and cheese and steak as American food, and tea and noodles as foods we have in common.

In the following workshop, the students created two headed spiraling dragons with a Behind the Book Teaching Artist, representing the two cultures in terms of their chosen topics on the dragon’s heads. In the final workshop, they worked on bringing the ideas they researched through their venn diagrams and represented through their dragons to create a final poem about what they learned and thought about the different cultures. In writing these poems, they focused specifically on using onomatopoeia, simile, and descriptive language, as Kam Mak does in his book. The resulting poems and art showed the candid views of students on how they viewed a different culture and how they viewed their own.


This guest blog post was written by our summer intern Emeline Bookspan, who not only worked in our office but volunteered in the classroom to help the kids with their research and writing, and chaperoned their field trip!

Meet our new Director of Programs: a Q&A with Alana

 

Behind the Book would like to welcome our newest staff member, Alana Benoit, into her new role as Director of Programs! Alana will be managing the Program Coordinators, showing administrative support to them, and also thinking more broadly about how to develop programs and how to build the organization. Our summer intern, Klea Kalia, sat down with her to see what she’s all about:

Tell me a little about yourself.

I was raised in Harlem and currently still live in Harlem. I’ve been in arts education and programming/youth development for a little over a decade since graduating college.

What was your most recent job prior to this one?

I was a high school teacher at an all-girls Catholic school, grades 9 and 10, and I taught english and writing. It was definitely an eye-opening and rewarding experience for me. Working with a lot of young women and being a part of their growth and empowerment as they came into their own identities was something that transformed me, too, as a person.

How do your past work experiences fit with your position at Behind the Book?

I think it brings together all the pieces. My job now requires me to do a lot of thinking around program structure and development of programs but also thinking about how to be in a classroom with students and developing and teaching programs there, so it all comes together in the end with my background.

Were you involved with Behind the Book previously? How did you find us?

It happened to be by chance. I was looking for a director’s position because I was ready to jump back into the programming world from teaching, and I was looking for an interesting and small organization with a big heart, and this one spoke to me the most.

What is your favorite thing about your new job so far?

I love how passionate everyone is about the work that we do. It requires a lot of time and commitment, and I’ve found that everyone here is really dedicated to making things happen, so that’s something that I’m very inspired by, and I’m inspired by the youth and their engagement and their interest in learning and reading and writing.

Fun facts about Alana:
She has two cats and a box turtle!
The last book she read was Hunger by Roxane Gay and would definitely recommend.
She has been a pescetarian for 17 years!
She loves TV–big GOT fan–and couldn’t live without music.
Her personal philosophy is to be you no matter where you are.

We are so excited to welcome Alana into her new role and look forward to working with her here at Behind the Book! We’re also super grateful to our summer intern Klea Kalia who wrote this and two other guest blogs!

Capstones II: Our Student Anthologies

Our second installment in our series on volunteer book designers has arrived! Read more about these great people who volunteer their time and skills to bring a big smile to so many faces.

Meg O’Connell
Exploration of New York City Architecture

After “much soul searching and a string of interesting but ultimately unfulfilling jobs,” Meg O’Connell found graphic design and loves that she gets to create every day. She said, “There’s a quote I like from William Morris that goes: “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” One thing I like about design is that I get to make things more beautiful, and hopefully more useful, too.”

For the student anthology, Meghan aimed to focus on the students’ artwork and tie together the design elements with the student work. She chose a bright and fun color palette for a younger class and used all the students’ drawings to create a cityscape on the cover. Every student was represented either on the front or back of the book. Meghan was able to attend the class celebration for the book she designed and said of the experience: “It was rewarding to see the kids excited and proud about the books and to even have some parents in attendance for the party. It’s easy to question the effect of work I’m doing when I’m doing it in isolation. Seeing the reaction of the students and hearing their thoughts and the thoughts of their teacher on the program reinforced to me the positive reach of my design within Behind the Book’s program.”

 

Laura Duffy
Who Are We?

Laura Duffy found book design by accident after a job interview at Simon and Schuster. She eventually became a part of Random House’s art department working on books in all kinds of genres. She found the students’ art incredibly inspiring and felt that the hardest part of designing the student anthology was the cover because ‘there were so many great pieces to choose from.” Her goal was to create something fun, strong, and contemporary that the students would be proud to show to everyone they knew. Most importantly, the design centered the students’ work. This was her first time working with Behind the Book, and she was so happy to help bring the students’ work to life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Annabel (Belle) Brandon
Let’s Travel to the Roots of Life’s Necessities

Belle studied Design and Art Direction at Manchester Metropolitan University in England, then worked in magazine editorial design until she decided to switch industries. She next worked as a designer at Macmillan Education where she got to sketch covers with a pen and paper (something she never got to do in magazines!) Her process in working on any project involves reading through the content, scribbling down key notes, and then working out measurements. This makes it easier for her to present pieces in a way that the graphic elements complement the content and look polished. She happened upon Behind the Book while looking for relevant work and we consider ourselves lucky. We hope to continue working with her in the future!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

David Garner
Spice It Up

David Garner was an artist from an early age—as a teenager, he painted a giant sun on the garage door of his family’s house and even painted a commuter bus in his home town. He studied graphic design at Cooper Union in NYC and Rhode Island School of Design – a career he loves  because “it is a creative way to communicate an idea or a message.” In compiling Spice It Up, he decided to use a square format because of the round shape of the dishes the students drew on. His experience working on the book proved to be slightly daunting; the book was 56 pages, and the artwork made the book a very large format. Yet despite the difficulties, David looks forward to working with Behind the Book again on another (maybe not quite so labor intensive) project.

This guest post was written by Klea Kalia, a rising junior at Barnard, who is sad but excited to return to school after a wonderful summer interning at Behind the Book! 🙂

Happy Summer Reading! – A note from Jo

Dear Friends,

We are still recovering from our busiest and most rewarding year yet. I know that I say that every year but it’s true. I still get excited when I explain the depth of our programs to new principals and when I watch a child eat chicken feet with gusto on a field trip to Chinatown.

We completed the 2016-17 school year with 68 programs consisting of 408 workshops in 16 schools in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan. We made 1,509 students Behind the Book kids and gave out more than 10,000 books to those kids and their school and classroom libraries. (Our thanks to our new partner – KPMG Families for Literacy – for enabling us to more than double our book distribution this year!) We also created 20 student anthologies making over 700 students published authors.

We added three new schools this year; PS 4 in Washington Heights, Community Life Center Mt. Morris Head Start and Tiano Towers Head Start. We piloted two programs last summer with Head Start and they went so well that we expanded to include a second site during the school year. We’re looking forward to a long partnership with these schools.

We worked with quite a few new-to-us authors this year including Tad Hills, Danette Vigilante, and Daniel Jose Older. And many author who have worked with us before returned including Paul Griffin, Tony Media, Doreen Rappaport and Lesa Cline-Ransome. There is one author who has worked with us every year since our founding and that is Rita Williams-Garcia. She is a delight in the classroom and its been a pleasure to watch her books receive the acclaim they deserve.

We went on field trips to the United Nations, Kings County Supreme Court, Central Park Zoo, Statue of Liberty, the African American Burial Ground, and countless neighborhood walks.

The interaction between students and volunteers has become a vital part of our services. They enhanced our research and writing workshops as well as supervised field trips. The teachers appreciate the one-on-one attention given to their students and have continuously credited their help to writing improvement.

This year volunteers donated more than 1,250 hours to Behind the Book.

As we complete our seven summer school programs, we’re looking ahead to September with excitement as we pore over new, delicious books and partnerships.

We work every day to light a spark and sprinkle fairy dust over young people. But we would never be where we are today without your support. Thank you!

Happy Summer Reading!

Jo

Deloitte Delights!

This summer, we’re sprucing up our office space. Not to spoil the surprise, but we’re looking forward to some fall public events. We’ve gotten some help as we get our space in shape, including from a group of our friends at Deloitte making a difference:

The group from Deloitte starts their day in matching shirts that are free of paint splatters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teamwork gets our walls repainted!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We love our new chalkboard wall!

 

 

 

Some donated furniture gets new life.

 

We look forward to sharing the final product of our office upgrade with you all!

Capstones: Our Student Anthologies

We hope you’ve had a chance to take a look at our latest student publications! We’re so lucky to have the help of a number of professional designers who volunteer their skills to help us get our signature student anthologies produced. Here’s some of their stories:

Iris Shih
Dragons Love International Food
Timeless Lessons

When English lit didn’t pan out (after Iris realized you have to not only read but write about what you read), Iris decided to study graphic design. She likes working with other people who have a problem to be solved or a message to convey instead of having to invent content herself. This makes design a good fit. As an avid, lifelong reader, books have always been her favorite thing to design because she gets to “curate the reader’s experience” and likens book design to “giving someone a tour as opposed to handing them a map.” In creating the student anthologies, she was careful not to let the design overshadow the content.

For Dragons Love International Food, the student work is about what makes each student and/or their culture special, so she tried to make each spread feel unique. For Timeless Lessons, she designed the cover like a composition notebook, framed each image, and gave it a plaque with the student’s name and story title to mimic an art gallery. This visual trick highlights the students’ artwork.

She attended the launch party for Dragons Love International Food, saying of the experience, “It was such a pleasure to review the whole process of meeting the author and finding inspiration, as well as handing each person a finished book. I loved that some of their family members came too—a number of parents seemed equally proud and excited to have the student work presented in such a professional way. Having been an avid reader since childhood, and because books have been a huge part of shaping my identity as a person, I love that there is a program that both gets kids excited about reading and inspires them to be creators themselves.”

A.K. Espada
I Made the Wrong Turn

Kate Espada’s primary work is in videography and video editing, but this incorporates design and illustration at times. In volunteering for Behind the Book, she was most excited about reading the stories and seeing the artwork (she said, that part of the process did not disappoint!) With I Made a Wrong Turn, she wanted the design to be fun but also wanted to let the students know their work was being taken seriously. This was her first (but not last) year as a Behind the Book designer and found that “giving kids the support and motivation to develop their voices while creating something from their imaginations is an incredibly powerful way to inspire them early in life, in a way that will stick with them forever.”

Tree Abraham
Stories From the Hood

Tree is a book designer from Canada who studied and worked in design in the United Kingdom before moving to New York a year ago. Book design, for her, is one of the best mediums for “sharing human narratives.” For Stories From the Hood, Tree played off “the dark content of the stories, the gritty concrete backgrounds, and spontaneous lines of the chalk paint” by using analogue processes. This means that she created patterns and type on the computer, printed them out, distressed the paper, and then layered and scanned them back into the computer. This process created a geometric effect reflective of ‘80s and ‘90s style.

Tree attended one of the classes for the book she worked on, and it reminded her of how important the arts and creative writing are in school, saying, “I think art can be very cathartic, and having a final book published helps honor and validate their experiences and hard work. With continuing cuts to art programs, organizations like Behind the Book are essential to help fill the gap.”

Ginnefine Jalloh
Don’t Cry Be Happy

Ginnefine is a graphic artist originally from the Bronx who is currently based in Northern Virginia. She studied graphic design at Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia, and is now pursuing a Masters in Publishing at The George Washington University. To complete the Behind the Book student anthology, she reviewed the students’ work and chose to focus on the fact that the book motivates readers to be happy; the layout was designed to reflect happiness. She came up with a color palette that blended with the student work and made it brighter and larger, so that the work is vividly highlighted and featured. For the cover, she wanted to create a scene with various “happy” elements from the students’ artwork rather than repeat images as seen in the book. We’re happy when we look at it, so it must be working!

This guest post was written by Klea Kalia, a rising junior at Barnard, who is spending her summer Behind the Book instead of on the beach!

The (Successful!) Plot to Keep Learning

We love watching students connect with books – and nothing is better than a whole class full of students coming together around an amazing book with a challenging topic.

Ms. Mapp’s 9th-grade class at the Collegiate Institute of Math & Science began their study of Patricia McCormick’s book The Plot To Kill Hitler: Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Spy, Unlikely Hero like many other 9th-graders: a little wary of biography, but excited for an opportunity to meet the author nonetheless.

Lucky for them Patty McCormick is particularly adept at choosing interesting perspectives from which to explore history. The story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a religious person and a pacifist who eventually decided that ridding the world of Hitler was the greater good, fueled discussion around the concept of whether (and when) violence is justified. After Patty’s visits, the students were captivated by the story and immersed in their Behind the Book program. Though they were already scheduled for two field trips – to the Bronx DA’s office and to the United Nations – they went one step further and asked to stage mock trials in their school library.

Over the course of three days, students took turns playing the roles of defense and prosecution attorneys. Patty visited the class once more for the trials, to watch as the students debated, defended, or denounced Bonhoeffer’s choices. Many argued their perspectives eloquently and passionately.

 

 

The trip to the UN was also a huge hit with the students. The Chair and Vice Chair of our Board of Directors, both attorneys, took the opportunity to chaperone. After the tour of the chambers one 9th-grader, Salsabeel, said “I was surprised at the diversity. Everyone is equal there.” While that may not be her personal, current experience of the world, the visual representation of equality that the UN puts forth is a strong motivator for students to continue to believe in its power and achievability.

Our Program Coordinator, Chris Fleming, was certain that the program was a success in her final class, when one student raised his hand to say, “This is the first time I knew a book by heart, cover to cover. And I know I’ll remember it – until at least the 11th grade.”

Photo credit for mock trial photos – Kelsey Dickey

Meet the Authors: From the Book to the Classroom

At Behind the Book, the key to our programs is bringing authors and their books into classrooms. The author workshops – those visits in which the author interacts with with the students – are opportunities for students to engage with the book on a deeper level. Authors bring their book to life in part through writing exercises and discussion of their own personal writing process. To give you a front-row-seat, we’ve compiled two videos spotlighting four separate author visits to kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high school classrooms.

Meet the Authors: Levis and Maldonado

In this video, author of Stuck with the Blooz, Caron Levis, leads a kindergarten class on how to help a friend in need. This is juxtaposed with Torrey Maldonado, author of Secret Saturdays, leading a class of seventh-graders in a writing project about perception (and self-perception.)

Meet the Authors: Budhos and Ortiz

In this next video, author Raquel M. Ortiz, author of Sofi and the Magical, Musical Mural leads first-graders in a musical exercise with a handheld drum and author of Watched, Marina Budhos, leads a discussion with high school seniors about the book’s theme of identity and growing up in an age of surveillance.

And a special thank you to Brian Bonilla for filming and editing!