Nomad, Switchboard, Poet: Naomi Shihab Nye's Multicultural Literature for Young Readers: An Interview

By Castro, Joy | MELUS, Summer 2002 | Go to article overview

Nomad, Switchboard, Poet: Naomi Shihab Nye's Multicultural Literature for Young Readers: An Interview


Castro, Joy, MELUS


Naomi Shihab Nye is best known for her six volumes of what William Stafford has called "a poetry of encouragement and heart." These, together with her widely anthologized short stories and luminous nonfiction, have earned her four Pushcart Prizes, the I.B. Lavan Award from the Academy of American Poets, two Voertman Awards from the Texas Institute of Letters, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress.

For the past decade, she has also been winning recognition for a sizable oeuvre of multicultural literature for young readers, all of which is infused with a direct, determined commitment to peace and cross-cultural understanding. As a Palestinian American who spent part of her childhood in Jerusalem and as a long-time resident of San Antonio, Nye focuses on both Arab American and Latino issues in her books for young readers. Her edited collections, which emphasize visual as well as literary art, include This Same Sky: A Collection of Poems from Around the World (1992), which the American Library Association named a Notable Book, The Tree Is Older Than You Are: A Bilingual Gathering of Poems & Stories from Mexico with Paintings by Mexican Artists (1995), and The Space Between Our Footsteps: Poems and Paintings from the Middle East (1998). Her original works for children include two picture books for young readers: Sitti's Secrets (1994), which won the Jane Addams Children's Book Award from the Women International League for Peace and Freedom, and the lyrical Benito's Dream Bottle (1995). Her 1997 novel for young adults, Habibi, was named an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, an ALA Notable Book, a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age, and a Texas Institute of Letters Best Book for Young Readers. Called by one critic "the work of a poet, not a polemicist," it received both the Judy Lopez Memorial Award for Children's Literature and the Jane Addams Book Award.

Joy Castro: The direct, courageous expression of simple truths about family, friendship, and compassion seems to work well for your characters. In Habibi, for example, Liyana yells down the Israeli guards in order to visit her imprisoned father, a Palestinian American doctor: "Her throat felt shaky. But she didn't turn.... "Of course it's possible!" she said loudly. "He is my father! I need to see him! NOW! PLEASE! It's necessary! I must go in this minute!" (228). Liyana succeeds; the guards let her in. In your bio note at the end of the paperback edition of Sitti's Secrets, which is about young Mona's visit to her Sitti, her grandmother, in a Palestinian village, you write, "If grandmas ran the world, I don't think we'd have any wars." Can you talk further about your vision of the way in which personal connections function in the struggle for political peace?

Naomi Shihab Nye: Well, most of us aren't politicians, so personal connections are all we have. I guess I've always wished that people could speak up with their honest, true, insightful feelings and needs when they have them--but of course, it's not always so easy in real life: inhibitions confound us, expectations hinder us. We have all lost many opportunities to speak out about crucial issues we believe in. I have probably been guiltier than most since I have so many generous occasions on which I am invited to express my opinions. This is a luxury writers can never take for granted.

In books, I hope that my characters are brave and strong. I want them to use their voices. I want young people to be reminded, always, that voices are the best tools we have. In whatever seemingly personal venues we may find ourselves, voices matter. A voice may stir up little waves that reverberate out and out much farther than we could ever imagine. I hope this is true. It has seemed to be so in my experience.

Castro: I remember during your reading here at Wabash last fall, you described your "Nye dinner," in which you invited all the Nyes in the San Antonio phonebook, sight unseen, to your house for a meal. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Nomad, Switchboard, Poet: Naomi Shihab Nye's Multicultural Literature for Young Readers: An Interview
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.