2013 Staff & Advisors

Project Director
Kirsten Cappy of Curious City is serving as the Project Director for I’m Your Neighbor, Portland.  Cappy’s company envisions the role a children’s book can play in communities and in education and then creates tools and programs to help that book’s mission.  She envisioned I’m Your Neighbor, Portland with many of the authors of the Featured Books as a way to create dialog around cultural commonalities and curiosity about cultural differences.  Cappy ran a week-long seminar on Portland’s experience with immigration for the University of Delaware from 2008-2011.   Contact Kirsten or call 207-420-1126.

“The project grew out of my pride in Portland not only being a refugee resettlement city, but a city that has remade itself into a model multiracial, multicultural center in a matter of a decade.  Many people in the city  – both new arrivals and long-term citizens, I think – share that pride, but do we have enough opportunities to really get to know each other as neighbors?  My mission on all projects is to share books to increase understanding, curiosity, and empathy.  With Maine leading the nation in authors writing novels for children and adults set in “new arrival” communities, why not use books to help us build our city-wide cultural understanding, curiosity, and empathy?” –Kirsten Cappy

Project Assistant
Delanie Honda is an English major at Wheaton College in Norton, MA. Her involvement with I’m Your Neighbor, Portland began last summer as intern with Kirsten and Curious City. She worked on content for the I’m Your Neighbor Books website and the early planning stages of I’m Your Neighbor, Portland. Contact Delanie.

“I’m very excited to be back in Portland and being involved with the city-wide reads events this summer. I’m Your Neighbor, Portland is a wonderful community project that addresses an especially relevant issue in today’s society.” –Delanie Honda

Project Scholar
Dr. Krista Maywalt Aronson PHD is an associate professor of Psychology at Bates College.  Professor Aronson is broadly interested in how people come to understand complex social constructs like race and how this understanding influences interpersonal interaction and psychological wellbeing. Her current work is focused in three areas:  effective interventions for enhancing intercultural relationships during childhood, adolescence and adulthood, the dynamic nature of acculturation and the ways in which Somali and Non-Somali Mainers experience immigration during childhood and adulthood.

“I have come to understand the transformative power of books and stories in effecting social attitudes. Although Southern Maine has become increasingly diverse over the past decade, negative social attitudes and discomfort with cross-group interaction persist…As is evidenced by my own research, books and literature may provide people with an opportunity to engage with and explore important topics like immigration and culture using a common story to frame the resulting conversation.” –Dr. Krista Maywalt Aronson PHD

Fiscal Sponsor & Event Host
The Portland Public Library is serving as both the fiscal sponsor, event host, and repository of community copies of the Featured Books in I’m Your Neighbor, Portland.  Contact Library Executive Director, Stephen Podgajny.

“The Library places a great emphasis on promoting a sense of community through reading and programs.” –The Portland Public Library Executive Director Steve Podgajny.  

“Every day we have interactions with a cross section of the City’s diverse population.  “I’m Your Neighbor, Portland” will help children and their families understand and appreciate similarities and differences in their neighbors.  Additionally, it celebrates the rich legacy of children’s literature in Maine.” –Mary Peverada, The Portland Public Library Coordinator of Youth Services

Author & Community Advisor
Anne Sibley O’Brien is a children’s book writer and illustrator and a co-founder of “I’m Your Neighbor Books.” Her focus on diverse characters and cultures was sparked by her experience of growing up in South Korea as the daughter of medical missionaries. Two of her titles are included in the I’m Your Neighbor, Portland booklist: A Path of Stars, which she wrote and illustrated under commission from the Maine Humanities Council and in collaboration with members of Maine’s Cambodian community; and Moon Watchers: Shirin’s Ramadan Miracle by Reza Jalali, which she illustrated. She lives on Peaks Island, and blogs on race, culture and children’s books at “Coloring Between the Lines.” Contact Anne.

“As the population of Greater Portland grows more and more diverse, all of us who share this city are being given an extraordinary opportunity: to actually contribute to creating the kind of community we want to become. My dream is that this project will challenge us to stretch and grow as we explore our commonalities and differences; to discover ourselves in each other; and  to make room for all of us to live together as true neighbors.” –Anne Sibley O’Brien

Author & Community Advisor
Reza Jalali
, a Kurd from Iran, is one of the contributing writers to Child Labor: A Global View (Greenwood Press), the multimedia production Middle East Suitcase Project (Center for Cultural Exchange), and The World of Child Labor: An Historical and Regional Survey (M.E. Sharpe Inc.)   Jalali wrote the foreword to the I’m Your Neighbor, Portland Featured Book,  New Mainers (Tilbury House Publishers) a book on immigrant’s experiences in Maine. His first children book,  the I’m Your Neighbor, Portland Featured Book, Moon Watchers (Tilbury House Publishers), has received a Skipping Stones Honor Award for Multicultural Book. His play, “The Poets and the Assassin”, which is about women in Iran has been staged at Bates College, University of Southern Maine, Bowdoin College, and University of New England.  Jalali currently serves as the Coordinator of Multicultural Student Affairs at the University of Southern Maine.

“The project offers a unique opportunity to read multicultural literature while learning about your new neighbors. It humanizes New Mainers and helps us to understand who they are and why they are here.” –Reza Jalali

Author & Immigrant Literacy Advisor
Terry Farish is the author of The Good Braider, a novel set in South Sudan and Portland, Maine. It is the winner of this year’s Lupine Award for a young adult book and is an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. She leads book discussions for English language learners and worked with Nepali-speaking people from Bhutan to produce a bilingual Bhutanese folktale, The Story of a Pumpkin, published by the New Hampshire Humanities Council.

“Tom Haines, international reporter for the Boston Globe wrote about his work, “I have sought to document intimate moments of humanity…By writing about such scenes I hope readers might find not difference of land and lives, but a more personal understanding of our common experience.”  The  I’m Your Neighbor, Portland books also document intimate moments about the lives of newcomers to Maine. My hope is that a community reading these books will feel curiosity and begin to imagine each other’s lives with interest and feel safe with one another.” –Terry Farish 

Sponsor Liason & Community Advisor
Jon Hinck is an attorney in private practice concentrating on pro-consumer litigation. He recently served three terms in the Maine House of Representatives, representing residents of the City of Portland. In the legislature, Hinck sponsored and helped gain passage of important energy, environmental and civil liberties legislation. Prior to moving to Maine, Hinck was Acting Attorney General for the Republic of Palau and help enable the Pacific island state to gain its sovereignty in 1994. Hinck spent a decade working with the worldwide environmental organization Greenpeace and was a co-founder of Greenpeace USA. He has a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and a JD from the University of California Berkeley.  Contact Jon.

“I know from walking the neighborhoods of Portland that a community builds trust and understanding by sharing our stories and listening to the stories of our neighbors.”  —Jon Hinck

Public School Advisor
Catherine M. Anderson has been a public middle school language arts teacher in Portland for fourteen years, and is the Co-Chair of the Cross Cultural Committee at her sons elementary school, where she co-organized a very successful pilot of the I’m Your Neighbor program three times this year.  Both parenting and teaching children of color awakened her to her work as an anti racist ally and training facilitator for educators and professionals. She has presented at her workshop on talking about race in and out of the classroom at USM, the MEA Conference, and for the Portland Public Schools. She is also a published poet, essayist and blogger.

“I have already seen this in action at our pilot at Ocean Avenue School this year, and feel completely jazzed about what happens when kids can RETURN over and over to a book that allowed them to feel so seen, or to see another in such a new and positive way.” –Catherine M. Anderson

Project Evaluator
Elizabeth Miller is educator from Portland Adult Education and will serve as the  I’m Your Neighbor, Portland evaluator.


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