On Thursday, June 2, we celebrated the release of Beyond Stolen Flames, Forbidden Fruit, and Telephone Booths, the publication that came of out of our ninth annual Young Authors’ Book Project. This year, we worked with Mr. Olive Mitra’s juniors and seniors from June Jordan School for Equity to produce the anthology with stories about the power of myth. After working on the project since January, the fifty-three student authors held their book in their hands for the first time on Thursday night and celebrated becoming published authors with their families, friends, teachers, and 826 Valencia tutors.
The party took place at the beautiful Brava Theater in the Mission. After a reception in the lobby, with dinner provided by generous local businesses Beretta, Tartine, and Miette, over 200 admirers and guests of the authors filed into the theater to hear more about the book.
Khaled Hosseini, bestselling author and foreword writer to Beyond, congratulated students on completing the project and for their insightful and inspired writing. He let them know that his first published piece appeared in a stapled magazine made in someone’s garage with a circulation of fifty copies. “If this is your first publication,” he said, holding up the foil-stamped cover of Beyond, “you’re doing all right.”
Then Hosseini read from his foreword, sharing stories from his childhood and setting up the students’ work perfectly as he articulated the role of myth and how the stories we learn from our families and histories still matter in a technologically advanced world.
Students applauded their partner author wildly, and then the student editorial board came to the stage, calling Hosseini “a modern-day hero who followed his dreams and showed us that we can do the same.” Student editors Amber Andrade, Alex Banks, and Jasmine Price-Tillery read from their introduction to the book, explaining the process they and their classmates took from January through March to work one-on-one with tutors and complete the book.
Beyond authors Saul Juarez, Dina Lemus, and Ayoluwa Hightower read from their pieces next—Saul described a myth passed down through his family that impacted him greatly, Dina shared a Native American story that gave her fictional character strength, and Ayoluwa wowed the audience with a piece about her mother, a superhero you couldn’t find in a comic book.
The crowd got one last treat when BAYCAT, the Bayview Hunters Point Center for Arts and Technology, unveiled a teaser for their collaboration with 826 Valencia that stemmed from the YABP. One student from Beyond, Julio Espinoza, had his piece selected to be adapted for film (by 826 Valencia alumna and celebrated writer Chinaka Hodge) for a Community Cinema production by BAYCAT. The film won’t be out until late July, but students were thrilled to see the teaser and one of their classmates’ stories come to life on the screen.
We were so happy with how the project unfolded, and we have Mr. Olive Mitra, the collaborating teacher from June Jordan, to thank for motivating the students, helping to keep them on task during the grueling process, and inspiring and motivating them to be not only creative communicators but kind, thoughtful leaders in their school community and beyond.
When we first met Olive in the fall of 2010, we knew we were in for a terrific project, and he has been a model educator ever since. We have learned so much from him, and we have loved working with him. For all these reasons, we honored Olive at the book release party with our May Teacher of the Month award and a prize of $1,500. We couldn’t think of a more deserving partner teacher. Thank you Mr. Mitra for all you do, and congratulations to the students and tutors of this year’s book project for a job very well done.