The first day of my first ever ALSC Institute had such a grand beginning with Christina Soontornvat as the keynote opener. After a lovely dinner, and an even better dessert, Christina took the stage with one of the most engaging powerpoint presentations I’ve ever seen in my entire life. And I’ve seen no less than a million, probably.
When I heard Christina speak at ALA Annual’s Scholastic luncheon this summer about her upcoming graphic novel/memoir, The Tryout, I was absolutely enamored. I knew she was a vibrant author from her work on the page, but hearing her talk about her writing process, her journey with publishing, and her excitement in meeting her readers is intoxicating.
Christina walked through The Tryout—her process coming to the book, including a lovely impression of Neal Porter himself–as well as her publishing background. She talked about her joy in writing fantasy, and the struggles she felt internally writing about the racism she faced as a child, which did eventually make their way into The Tryout. Christina’s the kind of keynote speaker that DELIVERS with her audience–making them laugh, clap, stand still in silence and her rapture, and leaves them wanting to make a change in the world around them. Did I mention she included a glorious amount of photos from her childhood and illustrations from The Tryout? BONUS!
The ALSC Institute Theme for 2022 is “Light Up the Future” and Christina’s talk ended very seriously, but in a very uplifting tone, focusing on the empathy she sees the reades she talks to finding through her books, finding through reading diverse books, and putting themselves into the hearts and souls of the protagonists on the page. Children are the light, Christina pointed out, and young readers are especially the light of the future because they are given the chance to read diverse books, and when you read a book, you put yourself into someone else’s story, and when you are in their story and in their body you are being changed and shaped and come out of the pages a more empathetic, understanding person to the differences in others.
That’s why we have to stand up for diverse books and diverse authors so that children don’t go, like Christina said she did, all the way through college before reading a book written by someone who looks like them.
The opening dinner was capped off with a lovely book signing afterwards and a chance to see the handful of vendors in the exhibit hall and, best of all, talk to people I knew only from ALSC zooms and emails in real life! Everyone is so much taller on the other side of the screen.
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