2017 Eugene & Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Award - Book Review from the President (Pt. 1 - National Author Winner Kekla Magoon)
Roberta Knickerbocker Jaggers is the President of The Indianapolis Public Library Foundation. A graduate of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Roberta holds a Master of Arts degree in Philanthropic Studies and a Master of Public Affairs degree with a concentration in nonprofit management. In her role as President, Roberta solicits and stewards gifts from a wide range of individual, foundation and corporate donors and works closely with the Foundation's Board of Directors. She has been with the Library Foundation in various capacities since 2002. Roberta has been poring over the works of this year's winners and finalists, and has lots to share! First up, her thoughts on one of National Author Winner Kekla Magoon's books for tweens and teens:
"Shadows of Sherwood," the first installment in National Author Winner Kekla Magoon's Robyn Hoodlum series, re-imagines the classic legend of Robin Hood with a 12-year-old Black, female protagonist. As part of Governor Crown's plot to take over Nott City, he orders Sheriff Marissa Mallet and the Nott City Military Police to abduct all members of parliament, including Robyn's father, and their families. Of the 39 individuals on Crown's list, only Robyn avoids capture. Thus begins her life on the run…and her quest for justice and self-discovery.
Magoon's engaging story is not only entertaining, but offers valuable insight into the complex process of identity formation. In order to understand who she is and how she is meant to help her community, Robyn must piece together a tapestry as intricate as the six-strand braid that adorns her head. She gathers information from multiple sources - her parents (they left behind several puzzling clues), other people she befriends on her journey, her community's suppressed religious and cultural beliefs and even a book from the public library. After much confusion and frustration, Robyn figures out how to bring all the strands together - with the help of an ancient hair-styling tradition.
In a time when many question the future of public libraries, Magoon affirms their importance. They are not only welcoming, safe places, but offer materials that can help individuals learn about their culture and community. In October 2017, a new resource will open at Central Library: The Center for Black Literature & Culture. Funded by a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. through The Indianapolis Public Library Foundation, this space will offer people of all ages and backgrounds a rich collection of circulating materials by Black writers about the Black experience. Because of the power of learning through personal interaction, as Magoon portrays in Robyn's experience, there will be robust programming in the form of author talks, community conversations, exhibits and more. Through outlets such as a literary magazine and poetry slam contest, individuals will have opportunities to synthesize their knowledge and beliefs into cohesive narratives that they can share with others.
When families and communities come together to offer resources for self-discovery, young people develop strong foundations for pursuing their futures. Just as the book ends with Robyn making plans to rescue her parents, I am confident the Center will help prepare young visitors for their next big adventure.