Thursday, 1 June 2017

June 1st - Reflections on not letting the nettles grow and Tender Earth

Writing is a lot about thinking, walking, not reacting, thinking again, imagining, dreaming, making discoveries, picking up threads of characters and story lines and finally, many days (or years!) of walks, dreams and word weaving later... a book emerges. 
Tender Earth published June 1st is edited by Venetia Gosling

Tender Earth is Julia Eccleshare's One of picks of the month

'A sharply observed and warm-hearted story about change and transition in adolescence, Tender Earth also carries a powerful message to all young readers about tolerance, integration and the need to stand up for what you believe in.' Julia Eccleshare/ Good Reads

'Tender Earth is a book of our time.Sita Brahmachari’s words offer comfort and hope and a tangible way to heal our bruised and tender earth.' Gill Lewis - Author

I am lucky enough to live near a park where there is a beautiful statue of Oliver Tambo for many years Leader of The African National Congress who lived in exile in Haringey. The memorial was erected following the death of Mr Terry OBE who was the executive secretary of the British Anti-Apharteid Movement from 1975 - 1994 and also a teacher in my community at Alexandra Park School.

I love this statue and the words written there by children of Rhodes Avenue Primary School and Alexandra Park School.

Occasionally, on a dog walk  I'll go out with a pair of shears and cut the nettles down so that you can read the words that young people have written.

'There is no black or white
Instead we fight for the deed of equality 
Which shall be written
Upon books, upon land, upon the mind
For all human kind are equal'

Excerpt from a poem by Sitara Amin-Tilly - Alexandra Park School 

Sitting in the sunshine reading these words on the publication day of Tender Earth I reflected, as I have done in writing Tender Earth on what a long walk to freedom it truly is, how hard fought for these freedoms were and are today and how proud it makes me feel to write for young people who are willing to walk that walk. 

On the 'Refugees Welcome' march
For these reasons I am honoured by Amnesty's endorsement of Tender Earth 

Tender Earth is endorsed by Amnesty International UK 'because it illuminates the importance of equality, friendship and solidarity, and upholds our right  protest against injustice.'

Yesterday I was so moved to be invited to be an Amnesty Ambassador, a platform I will use to speak up for the freedoms of young people. There are many people in my life who have inspired me to do this in my stories, the spirit of these people inspire Laila Levenson and I hope that they inspire readers too. 

Rosie Harrison my bohemian artist mother in law who inspired Nana Joise in Artichoke Hearts  (her Anti Apharteid membership card) and our family friend Simon Gould  the inspiration behind  'Protest Simon 'who Laila meets in  Tender Eatrh 

Tender Earth is a book that I offer with all the layers of my heart to young people growing up today.
There are plenty of reasons why this generation may look at the world and feel disempowered, but there are also plenty of examples of where people have stood up to injustice. In Tender Earth  twelve year old Laila Levenson hears the chime of an older generation of protesters calling to her across time. With their guidance she explores what it means to stand up for what you believe in.... not only on the noisy march but also through small acts of kindness, friendship and quiet vigils where we all have the power to tend the earth and stop the stinging nettles from taking over.

I don't take for granted even for a moment what the right to speak of a young girl's freedom, the right to be educated, to dance and sing in safety and protest against injustice means to so many young people living in the world today.

At Children's Book Shop Muswell Hill on Publication Day admiring the beautiful banner display by Grace Emily Manning.


"Inclusive Minds are delighted to welcome the arrival of Tender Earth on the children’s book landscape. We embrace a book like this that has been so throughly researched and demonstrates such authentic inclusion.” 
Alexander Strick (Inclusive Minds) 

Julia Eccleshare's One of Picks of the Month for June 2017
A sharply observed and warm-hearted story about change and transition in adolescence, Tender Earth also carries a powerful message to all young readers about tolerance, integration and the need to stand up for what you believe in. Moving to secondary school coincides with big changes at home and Laila finds herself struggling with all the differences she now faces. Her best friend is striking out on her own; her new friend has secrets which Laila doesn’t know how to unlock. When Laila discovers her grandmother’s ‘Protest Book’, a listing of all the protests she attended, Laila decides it is time for her to get her own voice heard. Leila’s coming of age experiences intelligently reflect today’s society while her gradual realisation of her own opportunities will inspire others. Julia Eccleshare - Good Reads

Tender Earth - How young people will be the ones to defeat hatred through empathy & protest. Gill Ward Senior Librarian at Fortismere School.

"Each layer in this beautifully written book peels back to reveal another, challenging assumptions about ethnic origins, family ties and the stories from the past which affect the present day. Running through the book like a golden thread are Kez’s preparations for her bat mitzvah. The ceremony in the Reform synagogue, so well-drawn and integrated into the story by Brahmachari, is possibly the first time a bat mitzvah has appeared in such detail in a UK children’s book.  Kez has also been on an important journey and bringing together all the parts of her life for the ceremony allows Kez and Laila to renew their friendship on more mature terms. A book about friendship and the power of protest, this book will have a wide appeal across age groups in our bewildering times. Thoroughly recommended. "

Miriam Halahmy YA Author,  June 2017.

"I love this big, beautiful and important book with wonderful and diverse characters at its heart.  Sita explores the complexities and joy of friendship, growing up and realising how you can find your own voice in a world that is sometimes be cruel and difficult.  One of the main characters, Pari, is a refugee.  For young refugees to be able to see themselves in a book is so important, and encouraging empathy and understanding by others for children like Pari is crucial.  Being an asylum seeker or refugee in the UK can be very hard.  Many have escaped war and terrible human rights abuses.  They have often had terrible journeys.  Once here, there are immense practical and emotional issues to overcome.  Friendship and acceptance from those in your community can really help.  All young people should have the chance to get to know Pari! " 

Jo Cobley Director of Young Roots Refugee Organisaton, Croyden, London.  

June Events Diary:

Last week I was invited to be on a panel by the Children's Book Circle with fellow Waterstones winner Catherine Rundell at Waterstones Kensington about the place of politics in children's fiction.

June 1st ( Publication Day) I am off to the Children's Book Shop Muswell Hill to sign some copies and see the human rights window that my friend and artist Grace Emily Manning has created banners for.

I'll be taking part in an election month blog tour talking about my character's exploration of racism, women's marches,  child poverty, refugee experience and empathy in Tender Earth organised by Publicist Nina Douglas.

On June 13th I will raise awareness around the much needed world's first Empathy Day on 13th June in support of Empathy Lab

20th June is World Refugee Day and I'll be at Fortismere School in the morning and The Archer Academy in the evening for a  celebration of  young people's contribution to the research for Tender Earth.

22nd Jun , as part of Refugee Week I will take part in a panel focusing on sanctuary and refugee experience in my stories as part of a week long programme of events.

Blog Posts:

How reading can change your world

On Racism and religious intolerance in Tender Earth

On the Women's Marches in Tender Earth

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