The sounds of snapping fingers echoed throughout the Cokie Boggs Roberts '60 Theater last week as author Paula Chase shared her experiences as an African-American growing up in predominantly White suburban communities. Ms. Chase recounted times as a youth when she defied people’s expectations and was teased for not acting “Black” enough and the long-term effect of stereotyping. “You can govern yourself so that you are a part of the change of the world around you,” she said, prefacing how she combined who she was naturally with her talents to affect change.
“When someone [stereotypes others], it’s very reductive, taking the whole of you down to this tiny one thing,” she said. Ms. Chase reiterated that stereotyping can happen to anyone and that people will use any “low-hanging fruit version” to define others, whether by gender, class, race, or even interests.
Later as a mother, Ms. Chase recognized the impact of stereotyping on People of Color and sought to complete the story of young African-American children to reflect a more multidimensional experience in her writing. “The only way that someone can see all of me, and all of my daughters, is that I am reflected as much as possible,” she said. Ms. Chase talked through how she infuses her writing with “sneaky advocacy” by representing voices that aren’t normally heard and the birth of her project, The Brown Bookshelf, an award-winning blog that creates awareness of Black voices in writing for young readers.
Most importantly, Ms. Chase wants young readers who pick up her books to have fun. She hopes her books engage children to connect with characters and the story to gain empathy for one another and grace for themselves. “Hopefully, when you walk away, you know a bit more about yourself, from what the character’s experienced, or about someone else,” she said.
DEI Club members were able to ask Ms. Chase questions to wrap up the program. They asked the author: What kind of books did you read as a child? What would you say to young aspiring authors seeking to write about meaningful topics? And, what is one thing you could tell your younger self before going on this journey as a celebrated author?
Members of the DEI Club reflecting on her visit described Ms. Chase as relatable and the best speaker to visit Stone Ridge. Students appreciated the opportunity to participate in the author’s talk by snapping their fingers when Ms. Chase said something students could relate to. ”You can tell she cared about it,” one club member stated. They appreciated Ms. Chase’s authenticity when she shared how she managed difficult experiences like microaggressions. Caitlyn, the DEI Club student leader, had the honor to introduce Ms. Chase to her Middle School peers “my heart was beating so fast,” she said. Overwhelmed by nerves at the moment, as Caitlyn listened to Ms. Chase’s talk, she “felt really proud” and saw Ms. Chase as a role model. “It was an inspiration for me to introduce her,” she reflected.
Author Info: Paula Chase visited the Middle School (Grades 5–8) on February 9. Ms. Chase has authored several middle-grade and young adult novels. Her most recent work, Keepin’ it Real, explores friendships, family, and what it means to fit in. Ms. Chase founded The Brown Bookshelf, which seeks to raise awareness of Black authors of young adult literature.
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion