We were honored to have Joanna Ho join us at the American Library Association Annual Conference this past June. Read on to see what she shared about the importance of names and the inspiration behind her upcoming picture book, Say My Name.
Click here to read more about our Shake Up Your Storytime campaign featuring this title and others perfect for inclusive and fun library storytimes!
In SAY MY NAME I write of our names:
is a building block
in an architecture
constructed over oceans
and across generations.
They are pieces laid by those who looked into the heavens
and saw me in the stars,
who knew me
before they knew me
that I might be.
My name is
a window to my world
a door to my destiny
a key to unlock
the dreams of my ancestors,
the hopes of my family,
and the divine that lives
In a world where those of us living in the intersectionalities of systemic oppression and erasure are constantly fighting for people to say our names correctly, for the right to exist, to love, to live, to breathe, to choose, to be fully and unapologetically human. Where we are attacked with violence and banning and legal maneuvering that would deny us of these things, where even in the most well intentioned spaces, we are asked over and over and over again to explain why it is important to have books with people like us in them, why our stories matter, why our existence matters - we don’t often have an option but to fight and keep fighting.
Inclusion in books is not the end goal. A society in which we can stop fighting and begin to breathe safely with the ability to embrace and be embraced in our full humanity is the end goal. Books are a powerful starting place. And we see how much those who don’t want this kind of society are trying so hard to eradicate our books and our lives.
For those of you who work alongside, who are every day fighting for your people and professions, by who make sure your students, your teachers, your communities have the books and resources they need, who speak out, who listen and learn, who sacrifice…THANK YOU!
I know the work you do and I’m so incredibly grateful. I’ve worked in schools as a classroom teacher, as an administrator, and now as a very questionably qualified one day a week librarian at my school – I know the skills and artistry it requires, know the often-thankless nature of doing work that saves lives. And so, in the days that the systems become overwhelming, that the work feels hopeless, that change feels too far away and too slow to come, I ask you to remember that revolution can be as big as standing up at school board meetings and facing of bigotry and hate head on. It can be stocking a library full of books that will open minds and hearts. And it can also be as seemingly small and simple as saying someone’s name correctly.
Let’s build a world where we can breathe freely together. Through books. Through stories. Through seeing each other and speaking the names that invite us to be our fullest, truest possibilities.
About the Author
Joanna Ho is passionate about equity in books and education. She has been an English teacher, a dean, and a professional development mastermind. She is currently the vice principal of a high school in the San Francisco Bay Area. Homemade chocolate chip cookies, outdoor adventures, and dance parties with her kids make Joanna’s eyes crinkle into crescent moons. Her books for young readers include Eyes That Kiss in the Corners. Visit her at joannahowrites.com and @JoannaHoWrites.