The Writing Life
Nov 16

Write Your Family Story

It’s been two weeks since Shoham’s Bangle’s release and I’ve really loved all the feedback I’ve been receiving. My best is when people of Iraqi Jewish descent tell me they wish they had this book when they were growing up. That’s what a good children’s book is meant to do, mirror your world, or be a window into another person’s world.

My best, best is when I am sent pictures of children reading Shoham’s Bangle, magically mesmerized.

Now here’s the thing about these last two weeks, no one tells you how to be an author. No one tells you what to do on the days that follow your book’s release.

Luckily I had a couple of Jewish Book Council online events lined up, which I really loved doing. The truth is I was warned by an author friend that Zoom events don’t work with picture books. So I was really nervous, but thankfully these two events really worked.

The first was semi-virtual with Ann Arbor District Library for Ann Arbor’s Jewish Book Week, where I appeared on a screen. The library staff were extraordinary and went all out with a wonderful children’s activity of golden bangle making. This kept the children happy and engaged whilst I did my reading and slideshow presentation. It was also really lovely to virtually meet author Ruth Behar, whose beautiful picture book Tia Fortuna’s New Home contains very similar themes to Shoham’s Bangle.

The second was a Zoom meeting set up for the Jewish Book Festival by the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys. For a whole hour! This definitely was a test of creativity. Ideally I would have loved to make ka’akat with the children, Iraqi savory bracelets that my grandmother used to make. It would have been fun to make them big enough for the children to wear. However this was not possible on Zoom, so instead after my reading and fun slide show description of how Shoham lived in Iraq, we traveled the world map and explored where they come from, and where their grandparents come from. Afterwards we discussed the value of family heirlooms in terms of the stories they tell. The kids were adorable, dressing up in vintage fedoras and a pearl necklace from their great grandparents, and bringing fascinating treasures, like a blue evil eye amulet.

It was fun to share my Iraqi Jewish family story, but even more fun to hear new stories. No-one can tell you how to write your story. No-one can tell you how to be an author. But it is fun to just show up and do it. Here’s my invitation to you to take a precious heirloom and write your family story.