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Dear Readers: On the Closing of Anansesem





Earlier this year, before people across the world were asked to shelter in place in their homes, Anansesem announced that we were switching to a new publicaton model. For 10 years, we put out submission calls and published issues based on responses to those calls. Starting in 2020, we'd decided to stop open-call submissions and instead rely on a team of correspondents from various Caribbean countries to produce content for the magazine. We also announced that Emily Aguiló-Pérez had joined us as the new editorial head, replacing Summer Edward. With a small but growing team of correspondents volunteering their time and talent, we'd hoped to usher Anansesem into a new era. These decisions were all made in the waning months of 2019, before any of us could know what lay ahead.

Since then, like almost everyone, we've been forced to reconsider our professional and personal priorities. Under normal circumstances, it's challenging running a small literary magazine when we receive such little funding and are unable to pay contributors and team members. In these drastically changing times, when jobs are on the line and the financial future is uncertain, it's become clear that running a magazine using volunteer staff, as we've done since our inception, is no longer feasible. There is also the simple fact that these are incredibly stressful times. Everyone is facing their own unique set of challenges. We'd planned to roll out new content by early May, and that has not happened. Our team members have simply had too much on their plates.

So it's with sadness and perhaps a bit of stoicism that we announce that Anansesem is joining the increasing number of publications either closing or going on hiatus indefinitely since the pandemic started. Right now, the magazine's future is uncertain, but everyone at Anansesem remains committed to championing good Caribbean books for young readers. Anansesem has been a safe, inclusive space for discussion and celebration of the Caribbean's youth literature and it's a space we hope to revisit in happier, stabler times. We hope those times will come soon enough.

Our website will remain online and our online bookstore will remain open. You can still purchase back copies here; issues published before 2017 remain freely accessible.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to everyone who submitted to us over the years and to everyone who has supported our work. We're grateful to past magazine staff for their part in creating a vital, versatile platform and for hosting important literary and cultural conversations over the past 10 years. It has been a remarkable run.

We send our deepest wishes for the health and safety of our community.

Love,

The Anansesem team


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Exclusive Cover Reveal: A Girl Named Rosita. The Story of Rita Moreno: Actress, Singer, Dancer, Trailblazer!






We are delighted to bring you the exclusive cover reveal for Anansesem contributor Anika Aldamuy Denise's upcoming picture book biography, A Girl Named Rosita. The Story of Rita Moreno: Actress, Singer, Dancer, Trailblazer!. The book, from HarperCollins, will be out on November 3, 2020, just ahead of the film release of Steven Spielberg’s re-imagined West Side Story and the new American Masters PBS documentary about Rita produced by Norman Lear and Lin Manuel Miranda.

Watch the cover reveal video below, then keep reading to learn more about the book.



Anika Aldamuy Denise on A Girl Named Rosita:
I was a musical-theater nerd as a kid. My favorite play was West Side Story because it was the only show I knew of about people who looked like me. When my summer theater camp did the show, I knew I didn’t have the voice for Maria (or Anita), but that didn’t stop me from singing "America" into my hairbrush and watching the film on repeat in preparation for auditions. Rita Moreno was the most beautiful and talented actress and dancer I’d ever seen. And she was Puerto Rican, like me. Watching her in West Side Story—and on The Muppet Show and The Electric Company—made me feel seen. I never forgot the feeling.

Years later, I met Rita at my aunt and uncle’s house. As friends of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in upstate New York, they hosted Rita and her husband for dinner. I was too star-struck to speak! Afterwards, I regretted being so shy. I wished I had thanked her for her talent, perseverance, and activism.

So, this book is my thank you. I’ve heard people say Rita Moreno is "back in the spotlight," with all the recent attention she’s received for her television work, prestigious awards, and the Oscar dress(!), but the truth is, Rita Moreno never left. She has always been here, entertaining and inspiring us. I hope her story encourages young readers to work hard, dream big, and not let others define them. That’s what Rita did for me.



Synopsis from the publisher:

Pura Belpré Honor winner Anika Aldamuy Denise (Planting Stories) and New York Times bestselling illustrator Leo Espinosa (Islandborn) tell the story of Rita Moreno, the Puerto Rican superstar best known for her Oscar-winning performance in the original West Side Story film, in this gorgeous picture book biography.

When young Rosita moved from Puerto Rico to the mainland United States, she didn’t know what to expect—but she knew she loved to sing and dance. Working to overcome the language barrier and bullying she experienced in a strange new country, Rita eventually made her way to Hollywood with a dream to be a star. There, she fought to be seen and heard and eventually reached the pinnacle of success, landing her iconic role in West Side Story and, finally, winning her groundbreaking Oscar.

Brought to life by Leo Espinosa’s bold and vibrant illustrations and Anika Aldamuy Denise’s lyrical text, this gorgeous tribute to the life and career of the first Latinx person to have earned an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony award will inspire little dreamers everywhere.

Informative author’s note and timeline also included. A Spanish-language edition is also available.


About the Author

Anika Aladmuy Denise is a Puerto Rican children's author based in Rhode Island, USA. She is the author of 9 picture books, including Starring Carmen!, Monster Trucks, Baking Day at Grandma’s, Bella and Stella Come Home, and Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré, which received a 2020 Pura Belpré Author Honor and an NCTE 2020 Orbis Pictus Honor for Outstanding Children’s Nonfiction. Her books have been featured in The New York Times, "Kids’ Indie Next List," Junior Library Guild, A Mighty Girl, Book Riot, the Children’s Book Council’s "Around the World" showcase, and on the Latinx in Kidlit website. Visit her on the Web at www.anikadenise.com.

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Heading Down the Homestretch






It's a joy to be featured in the latest issue of Interviewing the Caribbean, a wonderful journal published by The University of the West Indies Press. The two latest issues (Winter 2019 and Spring 2020) of the journal are dedicated to the theme 'Caribbean Childhood: Traumas and Triumphs.' Editors Opal Palmer Adisa and Juleus Ghunta have done an incredible job curating a rich gathering of voices bearing witness to a sacred part of our lives that⁠—as Floella Benjamin always says⁠—lasts forever: our childhoods.



A collective stock-taking of Caribbean childhoods like this is timely and overdue. In many places in the Caribbean, we don't talk about our childhoods nearly enough, yet we carry our childhoods within us always. At a moment in history when an unprecedented threat to humankind has plunged a lot of us into the interior life, repressed childhood traumas may be resurfacing for many. I'm not a psychologist (my bachelor's degree in psychology wasn't enough to convince me I could handle the pieties of the field) but as I share in my featured essay in Interviewing the Caribbean, "The Nature of Belonging: Making a Home for Children’s Literature in the Caribbean’s Literary Landscape," I know from personal experience that there's tremendous healing adults can access just from reading children's books. If you aren't the type of adult who reads children's books, now is a good time to change that.

In my essay I open up about the psychological homelessness (a term coined by social scientists to describe feelings of not belonging in one's home country) I experienced as a child/teen growing up in Trinidad and during my early years as a young immigrant in America. I reflect on how I discovered a healing sense of identity and belonging in (what at the time seemed like) unlikely places—nature and children's books. I also write about returning to Trinidad with a newfound understanding of what 'home' means and using this insight, through work with children's books, to help young people establish a sense of home in the world. The issue also includes an open "Letter to a Child Leaving Trinidad" that I wrote giving them the kind of advice I wish I'd been given when I was younger and about to take that big step.

Some of my most difficult life experiences are what motivate me to advocate for Caribbean children and youth and their need to see themselves reflected in all kinds of stories, whether it's books or movies or even songs. I think it's important though, that young people in the Caribbean know that they can't wait for 'those people/adults out there' to acknowledge them to start feeling seen; feeling seen and heard is something they can cultivate for and within themselves by telling their own stories and helping others do the same.

This is my last post on the Anansesem website for the foreseeable future. Later this month, on Anansesem's tenth anniversary (May 24), I'll be stepping down as editor-in-chief (as previously announced), but the privilege of helping Caribbean children and youth find their way home will always be a prime concern for me. When we think of our priorities as adults, nothing is more important than making sure the young people who look to us for guidance grow up with an expanded sense of possibility when it comes to their identities, dreams and thinking. No child should have to grow up feeling unseen, stifled, unworthy or like they don't belong. As adults we have to do the work to heal these traumas in ourselves so we can help the current generation of Caribbean children and youth do and feel better.



About the Author

Summer Edward is Anansesem's founder and editor-in-chief emeritus. Her writing and art have been published in various literary magazines and anthologies. Her first children's book will be published by HarperCollins UK in 2020. Her home on the web is www.summeredward.com.




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9 Picture Book Biographies About Caribbean Women






With all that's happened in our global community in the past few days, we've had to hit pause on our Great Ladies of Caribbean Children's Literature essay series that we started publishing in celebration of Women's History Month; understandably, most people's minds, including those of our Great Ladies, are occupied with other things at the moment. We'll publish the rest of the essays in April. 

In the midst of our recent collective shock, Women's History Month still matters. I think about how my grandmothers (one of whom is still very much alive at age 103) lived through the Spanish flu pandemic that started in 1918 and two World Wars as well. I think of my maternal great-grandmother, the illegitimate daughter of a Venezuelan dictator, who fled to Trinidad in search of freedom and had to build a new life from nothing. I think of all of my great-great-grandmothers who survived the horrors of slavery. As we process the current difficult moment, their lives and stories call to me across time as reminders of the strength and wisdom we can draw from those who came before us.

In troubled times, I'm always drawn to, and always draw on, the lessons and triumphs of women's history, which are also, in part, the lessons and triumphs of feminine wisdom. In a pandemic I think we're already beginning to relearn feminine wisdom: the value of mothering and domesticity, and of the feminine traits of gentleness, empathy, humility, receptivity, and sensitivity, attributes that all of us, both female and male, may have lost sight of or neglected to cultivate.

Before the 'storm' hit, I wrote an annotated bibliography for EBSCOhost Novelist in observance of Women's History Month titled '9 Picture Book Biographies About Caribbean Women' (at the end, I mention 2 picture books that will be published later this year as well as 2 picture books that are fictional tributes to notable Caribbean women, as opposed to biographies, bringing the list to 13); you can access that bibliography here if you (or your institution) have a subscription: https://tinyurl.com/vjf4a78, or alternatively search for it in the NoveList Plus or NoveList K-8 Plus databases by entering UI 449635 in the search bar.




About the Author

Summer Edward is the Editor-in-Chief here at Anansesem. Her writing and art have been published in various literary magazines and anthologies. Her home on the web is www.summeredward.com.




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