AViD continues next Tuesday, May 11, as Ibi Zoboi graces our computer screens and digital devices on Zoom. Zoboi is a young adult (YA) author and a National Book Award finalist. We asked two of our librarians to discuss what they love about Ibi Zoboi. Jenny Goulden is a North Side Library librarian and will be moderating Tuesday's AViD program with Zoboi. Brooklynn Jacobs-Lewis is a Central Library library assistant and moderator of the Virtual YA for Adults Book Club. They answered a few questions below and chatted about why they're excited for Tuesday.
Why are you excited about Ibi Zoboi's Avid program?
Jenny: Does AViD usually have a YA author? Let’s talk about how exciting it is to have a YA author speaking! I remember meeting my first author as a kid and being blown away by the fact that there were people behind the books that I could talk to… or honestly, stare at in a silent awe. I love that we’re bringing that experience to Des Moines’ youth, and I feel so lucky to be a part of it.
Not that you have to be a teen to enjoy YA literature, as your book club knows well, Brooklynn!
Brooklynn: I am SO excited to have a YA author at AVID. Teens are such an important population of our libraries, and it's so good for them to see someone who writes just for them!
I think that we forget that teens are so passionate about what they read, and this gives them an opportunity to put a face and personality to a person who writes just for them. We see that a lot of adults never grow out of YA and still read it no matter how old they get. I think YA adult readers share a fondness for teens, and for us to see a YA writer at AVID is to see another adult who shares that same viewpoint.
I saw another YA Author speak at the Des Moines Book Festival a few years back, and these brave teens were asking really difficult questions about writing as a craft. I hope to see teens take that opportunity with this AVID author as well. What I find is that no one takes teen writers more seriously than YA authors, and I think that's another reason why it's great to see YA represented in this year's AVID lineup.
What is your favorite Ibi Zoboi book?
Brooklynn: American Street is a comfort book for me. It's heartbreaking from the very first pages, but is ultimately told through the point of view of one of the most resilient characters I've ever read. Fabiola is a character who makes readers think "Fabiola got through this, and so can I".
I think the book also acknowledges the hard decisions that teens have to make. Sometimes teens have to act like adults before they’re ready. I think this book is love letter to those teens from Zoboi that she sees them.
I also love how seamlessly culture and voodoo is woven throughout the story in a way that displays but doesn't overly explain to readers. I think it feels like great homage to those of us who share some of the same cultural aspects and shows what that looks and feels like to readers who don't.
Jenny: I did SO MUCH GOOGLING to understand it all, but like... you don't have to. She does a great job of making it accessible to outsiders even though it's way more meaningful and deep if you have the context (I'm assuming).
I have to be honest, I started Pride with a lot less cultural context, but that’s the beauty of all storytelling. It exposes you to things outside yourself by reflecting the familiar parts of human experience. I didn’t have the context for drumming ceremonies, but I understood the feeling of clarity that Zuri feels, the way that community and tradition can make you feel connected and certain.
And as a woman who has never cared much about romance, I really loved seeing Zuri as a character who chose college instead of just ending up with a boy.
Brooklynn: I love romance. I want romance in everything I read, but at the same time it’s so important for teens to see that they can have problems as big as college and relationships at the same time, and they don't have to be defined by one or the other.
Jenny: Zuri is a character whose dreams of college and career aren't dismissed in favor of chasing a boy.
Brooklynn: Because Zoboi is an author who acknowledges that these big things can happen to teens while they’re also navigating romantic relationships, and those romantic relationships sometimes have nothing to do with this other internalized journey they are going through.
Is there a particular character you enjoy from her books?
Jenny: I also have to share my love for Ebony-Grace in My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich. As a kid who hid my Star Wars Expanded Universe books inside homemade book covers so the other kids wouldn't realize what a nerd I was, I definitely have a special spot in my heart for her. Her outsider status really spoke to me.
Brooklynn: I really love complicated messy characters, so I am obsessed with the Three Bees (from American Street). I think on surface levels they're these really messy girls who make "bad decisions," but if you look closer at them, they are tight-knit sisters who are having to make really hard decisions to support their families. What is special about them is that they take full ownership of their choices and work with what they have.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, I love Zuri from Pride. She has such a fresh, explorative feel to her. We get to see her in a space that every young person experiences where she's looking at the rest of her life in front of her. I'm really fond of experiencing that in this novel, and I hope teens realize they will feel that over and over again, even as adults.
What's one thing you would ask her if you were at a dinner party with her?
Brooklynn: I have a lot of things I'd love to ask her if I wasn't too star struck, but I would love to hear about why she writes for teens! YA can hold a lot of stigma in the writing world so someone with her talent could choose to write for adults to avoid that. But she chooses to share her beautiful writing with teens, and I think that's wonderful.
Jenny: I definitely heard her mention in a "cool facts about Ibi Zoboi" video that she got hit by a bus once. And I very much want to know the context for that story. But I am aware that yelling "hey, how did you get hit by a bus" would be both A) socially awkward and B) revealed how much I've read and watched about her... which is embarrassing.
Last Modified July 29, 2021