Bread Song Event 7/24/13

Bread SongEarly one morning, children’s book author Fred Lipp asked Alison Pray, the owner of Standard Bakery to share a secret about her shop. Without hesitation, she told him about the “bread song,” when newly baked loaves snap and crackle as they are taken out of the oven.

When Standard Bakery was located on Wharf Street, there was a Thai restaurant across the street.  In the twenty-five steps between those two businesses, Lipp imagined that a Thai “new arrival” or immigrant with limited English might find walking into an English-speaking bakery a challenge.  But after hearing the bread “sing”, Lipp wondered how the experience would impact such a new neighbor.  How would Alison’s secret loosen the tongue of a child and make him feel more at home in this new country?  These explorations would become foundations for the children’s picture book, Bread Song.

Bread Song will be celebrated at the Portland Public Library in Monument Square on Wednesday, July 24, 2013 at 11:30 AM as part of a city-wide read entitled “I’m Your Neighbor, Portland.” Author Fred Lipp will read aloud from his book. The event will include a book signing, book giveaway,  and the sharing of bread from many cultures. The event is free of charge. For more information, contact Curious City at 207-420-1126.

Set in Portland’s Old Port District, Bread Song tells the story of a community helping a Thai boy who has recently immigrated to America feel welcome. Young Chamnan is new to this strange land. Across the street from his family’s Thai restaurant is Alison’s Bakery, which sells bread and where everyone speaks English. Chamnam feels shy about speaking to others in the difficult language that his grandfather is teaching him, until the day that Alison the baker invites him to witness something simply magical.

Fred Lipp is the award-winning author of several multicultural children’s picture books set around the world. In addition to writing children’s books, he is the founder of the Cambodian Arts and Scholarship Foundation, which helps educate girls in Cambodia from 6th grade through university. His organization provides the opportunity for girls from rural villages to pursue higher education and employment. He and his wife have visited Cambodia many times and built long lasting relationships with the students and their villages. Lipp is also a former minister of First Parish in Portland.

Celebrating The Good Braider

Copies of The Good Braider provided by our generous donors

Copies of The Good Braider provided by our generous donors

On July 11th, I’m Your Neighbor, Portland celebrated its first featured book in the collection, The Good Braider. Author Terry Farish was joined by local performers O.D. Bonny and Bianca Abdalla in an evening of exploration and celebration of both the title and the Sudanese American community in Portland.

Bianca Abdalla reads "Be Free" from The Good Braider

Bianca Abdalla reads “Be Free” from The Good Braider

Kristen Cappy, project director, opened the evening with wishing South Sudan a “Happy Birthday,” as July 9th marked its second year of independence. Student and performance artist Bianca Abdalla reading from the chapter “Be Free,” which takes place early in the novel while the character Viola and her family lives in Juba, South Sudan. Bianca beautifully expressed Farish’s writing and the character Viola’s voice.

Farish then led the audience through a discussion of the mother-daughter relationship a central theme throughout The Good Braider, based on what Farish observed in the Sudanese-American community in Portland. One audience member noted Viola’s preference to confide in her grandmother over her mother and wondered if that was a common occurrence in Sudanese culture. Bianca responded that like Viola, she often talked more to her grandmother about certain things that she would never talk to her mother about. She shared that her mother commanded more authority and might try to lecture, whereas her grandmother, as an elder of the family, would listen.

Sudanese rapper OD Bonny performs from his album "Kwo I Lobo Tek"

Sudanese rapper OD Bonny performs from his album “Kwo I Lobo Tek”

Sudanese rap artist OD Bonny came on stage next to perform two songs from his album “Kwo I Lobo Tek” sung in Acholi, OD’s native language and one of the languages spoken in Sudan. He concluded his set with “A Girl from Juba,” which was inspired by the book. He also shared a special preview of The Good Braider book trailer that he is currently in the process of filming.

Many wonderful connections were made during the book discussion, from OD relating his own personal experiences coming to Portland from Uganda to Viola’s story, to a Portland librarian connecting the book’s theme of identity to her family’s history of being Russian Jewish immigrants in the early 1900s. O.D.’s friend Chris, who plays Andrew in the trailer, said that he enjoys friendships with people of all different backgrounds and that as a child, he felt a connection with the kids who were bullied because of their skin color since he too was often picked on.

Bianca performed a second reading, “Flea Market,” which takes place in Portland and describes an afternoon with her American friend Andrew and a moment when Viola first experiences a step towards a new identity in the U.S. The discussion concluded with a conversation on the ability of fiction to connect readers with people of a different culture and life experience. “I moved to Portland a few years ago,” one participant said, ” and I’m aware of the immigrants in the city, but I don’t know any of them, I don’t know their stories. This book series opens your eyes… It offers a chance to hear their stories.”

Terry Farish (right) with OD (center), Chris (left) and Kirsten Cappy (back)

Terry Farish (right) with OD (center), Chris (left) and Kirsten Cappy (back)

Afterwards, the audience was free to talk with the performers or have Farish sign a copy of her book, as they tasted  Sudanese Cinnamon Sweet Tea, and vegetable sambusas and himbasha bread from Asmara Restaurant. They were also able to pick up an I’m Your Neighbor Portland discussion guide to the novel to continue the conversations.

35 readers of varying ages and cultures joined in this wide-ranging discussion made more powerful by the performances of Sudanese Americans, OD and Bianca. Thanks to all who joined us and to the staff of the Portland Public Library who support and partner with I’m Your Neighbor Portland.

 

Good Braider Event 7/11/13

BraiderhiresWhen author Terry Farish was working at the Portland Public Library, she befriended a young man from the Sudan who told her “there is no word” when asked about his favorite family meal.  “My mother will cook it for you,” he said.  Terry Farish joined his family for a meal and from that day, began a journey of listening.  Her new friends in Portland’s Sudanese community told of their tumultuous  path from South Sudan to Portland, Maine.

The cultural exploration that started as “there is no word” became a braiding of stories, experiences, and words which culminated in the award-winning novel, The Good Braider.

The Good Braider will be celebrated at the Portland Public Library in Monument Square on Thursday, July 11, 2013 at 6:00 PM as part of city-wide read entitled “I’m Your Neighbor, Portland.” Bianca Abdalla, a local performer, will read aloud from The Good Braider, the author Terry Farish will talk about the development of the novel, and South Sudanese rapper OD Bonny will perform songs from his new CD, “Kwo I Lobo Tek.” The event will include a book signing and the sharing of East African refreshments from Asmara Restaurant. The event is free of charge.  For more information, contact Curious City at 207-420-1126.

The free verse novel for teens and adults is told in the character’s Viola’s strikingly original first person voice.  The narrative follows Viola’s dreams of South Sudan and her navigation of the strange world of America – a world where a girl can wear a short skirt, get a tattoo or even date a boy; a world that puts her into sharp conflict with her traditional mother who, like Viola, is struggling to braid together the strands of a displaced life.

“As I built relationships with new friends in Portland from Sudan,” Terry Farish said, “I explained to elders that I wanted to write a book about the teens as they made their homes in Maine. The elders very much wanted this story to be told and shared their experience and struggles with me.  I approached the work as documentarian, spending a lot of time with families and learning how they spent their days, about their art, the work of their hands, the music they love, the stories they  tell. However, I used this research method to create a novel. The Good Braider is fiction and based on research and dozens of stories I recorded.”

OD-Bonny-albumSudanese American rapper and performer OD Bonny was given a copy of the book prepublication and recognized Viola’s journey in The Good Braider as he and brothers also fled South Sudan as young men.  In response to his reading, OD Bonny wrote and recorded the song “Girl from Juba” and is currently producing a music video for the song and book with local filmmaker Fred Ben.  OD Bonny performs in a mixture of English and his native Acholi.  His new CD “Kwo I Lobo Tek” translates as “Life is Hard in This World.”  “The song is about the struggle that we are facing in this world,” says OD Bonny, “and what we can do to solve some of those issues.”

 

Exploring Portland’s Multicultural Markets

The I’m Your Neighbor, Portland launch featured not only great books and discussion but also a wide spread of snacks from Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East from local ethnic markets in Portland. Thanks to Anne Sibley O’Brien and her summer intern Hiroko for curating a delicious array of treats! For the adventurous chef or those looking to add new (and addicting) snacks to the pantry, here’s where they went:

La Bodega Latina (Hispanic)
863 Congress St
Portland, ME 04102

Mittapheap International Market (Various)
61 Washington Avenue
Portland, ME 04101

Safari Restaurant and Grocery (African)
30 Washington Avenue
Portland, ME 04101

Sindibad Market (Middle Eastern)
710 Washington Avenue
Portland, ME 04013

Sun Oriental Market (Asian)
626 Congress St
Portland, ME 04101

Tandoor Bread And Restaurant (Middle Eastern)
845 Forest Avenue
Portland, ME 04103

I’m Your Neighbor, Portland Launched

Students, community members and authors joined on Saturday at the Portland Public Library for the I’m Your Neighbor, Portland Launch

I’m Your Neighbor, Portland officially kicked off with the Launch Party this past Saturday at the Portland Public Library. During the event, members of the community were introduced to the featured books and planned events that will be taking place throughout the year. It also gave an opportunity to recognize the many organizers and facilitators whose contributions and hard work are making these programs possible this year.

The nine Featured Books were available for purchase from the University Southern Maine bookstore in addition to copies to borrow from the Portland Public Library

The community was joined by authors Terry Farish, Frederick Lipp, Maria Padian, and Anne Sibley O’Brien, as well as Aruna Kenyi, who wrote a story in I Remember Warm Rain. The authors were recognized along with their books and were available for book signings.

Authors Maria Padian (left) and Frederick Lipp (right) with Kirsten Cappy

The event started off with Kirsten Cappy, Program Director, introducing the inspiration, mission and vision for I’m Your Neighbor, Portland. She was followed by Dr. Krista Maywalt Anderson, professor of psychology at Bates College and Project Scholar, who explained the importance of reading about cultures other than ones own and her research on the issue.

Dr. Krista Aronson, Professor of Psychology at Bates College and Project Scholar spoke to the importance of reading about other cultures

The highlight of the event was the presentation of the Featured Books. Each book was presented by one of Portland’s NAACP Martin Luther King, Jr. Fellows. The students gave a brief summary and read an excerpt of their choice, including one student who related The Good Braider to his own experiences in coming from Iraq to Portland.

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King Fellows presenters with copies of Out of Nowhere

Kirsten Cappy with King Fellows presenters

Following the presentations, attendees were given the chance to donate to the Free Book Distribution, which helps fund and provide this collection of books for the community. The audience then broke up into small discussion groups and Anne Sibley O’Brien led them in introducing themselves by giving the history of their names. The discussion invited attendees to express how they envisioned using these books in the community.

A sampling of snacks and candies from various ethnic markets around Portland, including Sun Oriental Market, Safari Grocery, Mittapheap International Market, Sindibad Market, La Bodega Latina and Tandoor Bakery were available for refreshments. Guests could try Turkish Delight or Korean sesame candies or the tremendously popular freshly made hummus and bread from Tandoor Bakery.

Hummus and bread from Tandoor Bakery

Throughout the event, attendees were encouraged to write “I’m Your Neighbor” in any language that they knew on a banner. The banner will be present at each event for people to add to the growing list of languages. Already the banner has “I’m Your Neighbor” written in Japanese, Arabic, Italian, French and Somalian.

Guests were invited to write “I’m Your Neighbor” in any language on the I’m Your Neighbor banner that will be displayed at all future events

“I’m Your Neighbor” in Arabic

We hope you will join us in reading and celebrating these books throughout the year. Please visit our Events page to see upcoming programs.

Attend the Launch

IYNP Featured Books

I’m Your Neighbor, Portland and the Portland Public Library invite you to the Launch Event of a year-long community-wide read of books set in Maine’s “new arrival” communities.

Date: Saturday, May 25th, 2013
Time: 3:00-6:00 PM
Location: Rines Auditorium, Portland Public Library
5 Monument Square, Portland, Maine
Info: Curious City, 207-420-1126, kirsten@curiouscity.net

The Featured Books by Maine authors and illustrators tell the stories of people that have come to Portland and to Maine from all over the world in the last several decades and in doing so transformed the city into a vibrantly multiracial and multicultural community.

The May 25th event will introduce the books (for both families and adult readers) with readings, music, and refreshments from local independent groceries.

Attendees will have an opportunity to say “I’m Your Neighbor” in any language they know, share the story of their name with their neighbors, and envision how these books can be used in the community.

The Portland Public Library’s I’m Your Neighbor, Portland book collection will open for circulation the day of the event. Books will be for sale by the USM Bookstore and many of the authors will be available for signing.

The project is generously funded by the Maine Humanities Council and hosted by the Portland Public Library. A special thanks to the NAACP’s King Fellows for introducing the books.

“Listening to each other’s stories is the best way to initiate the building of strong communities. Everyone in Portland shares a story of both living together in this city and remembering where we came from. I look forward to those stories coming out when we read ‘I’m Your Neighbor, Portland’ books together.”
-Pious Ali, founder of Maine Interfaith Youth Alliance

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