Portland Teens Share Their Stories with Karuna Riazi

In April 2018, we brought Salaam Reads’ Karuna Riazi up to Portland to celebrate the culmination our multi-week project with two local middle schools and The Telling Room.

This extra-special project was funded by a Challenge America grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and was specifically designed for students from the the area’s dynamic refugee communities.

Using Riazi’s The Gauntlet as a jumping off point, students worked with teaching artists Tamara Ellis SmithElisabeth Aroneau Sampson, and Katy Kelleher to craft fantastical stories based on personal experiences. The young writers drew on their lives as middle schoolers in Maine as well as their memories from more than a dozen countries of origin.

At the final celebration, the students from the two schools met each other and Karuna for the first time. They asked terrific questions, noshed on pizza, showered one another’s stories with positive post-its, and bravely stood to read from their stories.

The young writers stole the show with their readings. We laughed (some excerpts were hilarious), we gasped (others were taut with suspense), and there may have been a few tears too (the whole thing was very moving).

We wish you could have been there. And you can still! Time travel with us for a moment through these gorgeous photos by Lauryn Hottinger…

Students from Memorial and Lyman Moore middle schools meet for the first time.

Preparing to share–with illustrations!

Loving up on one another’s stories.

More thoughtful feedback.

So much love!

Meeting and goofing around with a new favorite author, Karuna Riazi.

Sharing takes courage.

Thank you to our very special guest and new partners in Portland!

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