Hello there readers! This month we are featuring author Lynn Joseph and her YA novel, The Color of My Words (ages 8 and up). The novel and its protagonist reflect the life and experiences of the author herself.
Born in Petit Valley, Trinidad, Joseph began her journey into creative writing with poetry at the age of eight. At nine her family moved to the United States, but Joseph would return to Trinidad each summer where she continued to write. She often refers to having felt as though she lived in two different worlds.
As a young adult, her poems and stories won contests and were published in literary magazines and newspapers, and she was editor of her high school and college newspapers. Joseph graduated from the University of Colorado and was hired to work at a prestigious publishing house. She went on to receive an advanced degree in law and eventually practiced at a top law firm.
In the about me section of her website, she writes that “Eventually, I took a hiatus from law and traveled back and forth between New York and the Dominican Republic researching and writing The Color of My Words for two years. That country dazzled me. I loved the music, the people, and the culture–it all reminded me of Trinidad….I felt as if the Dominican Republic was calling me. So, I went by myself and traveled around exploring and meeting people. The Color of My Words was the result of those encounters.”
After writing the Color of My Words, Joseph returned to work as a trial lawyer in New York. Her experience during the 9/11 attacks affected her so deeply that she stopped writing. “I left New York and relocated with my sons to a tiny island in the Caribbean: Water Island, far from the troubles of the world… It was years before I started writing again. Sometimes in life you just have nothing to say.”
Later, Joseph moved back to New York with her family, where she currently resides and works as a part-time lawyer and full-time writer. She published a second YA novel after Color of My Words and is working on yet another that tackles the theme of cyber-bullying from the perspective of a mixed-raced protagonist. Anecdotally, she credits her return to writing to an Eminem’s song ‘Not Afraid’ which, she says, “woke me up-his incredible intensity got me writing seriously again.”
Joseph’s newest novel, Flowers in the Sky, is a striking story about a girl who must leave her home in the Dominican Republic for an uncertain future in New York City. Among her other books for young adults are Jump Up Time and An Island Christmas, as well as the paired A Wave in Her Pocket and The Mermaid’s Twin Sister. She has also written a number of children’s books, including Fly, Bessie, Fly; Coconut Kind of Day, and Jasmine’s Parlour Day.
Writing for the blog Allison’s Book Bag, Joseph offered her thoughts about diversity in young adult literature in a post titled “Writing Across Racial/Cultural Barriers for Authentic Multicultural Storytelling.”
For those interested in using The Color of My Words in the classroom, we pulled together a few materials from around the web:
- Teachers Guide including discussion questions and activity on the role of nature from Lynn Joseph’s website.
- Hampton-Brown lesson plan and journal activity.
- The Américas Book Award teaching guide.
- Lesson plan created by Katherine Bomer.
And finally, if you would like to learn more about the author, check out this interview with her by The Brown Bookshelf.
We recommend Joseph’s novels to our educators and hope you can add her work to your list of great multicultural YA literature!
Image: Lynn Joseph. Reprinted from Lynn Josephs Website.