Friends Select Middle School in Philadelphia adopted A Girl Called Problem as their core summer reader. I had the good fortune to chat with students over Skype this last week. We talked about the book, living in Tanzania, and my writing process. The students asked great questions.
Here we all are (who knew my face could get so big):
One student, Seb, asked about the death that happens in the book (I won’t mention who dies, in case you haven’t read the story yet). This is a question I get a lot. Here’s what I had to say:
I would say that most stories always have some sort of conflict or force of antagonism that the main character is up against. In my mind, Shida is resilient and she has a pretty clear goal: to move to Njia Panda, because of the opportunities that new home presents. If she just moved and all was well, there wouldn’t be much of a story, and it likely wouldn’t seem very realistic. So, in crafting A Girl Called Problem, I set up a few roadblocks: the missing cattle, the destroyed crops, and eventually the death. All these challenges tested Shida and her convictions, and I would argue that this death even changed Shida in a fairly permanent way.
Thanks so much to the Friends Select students and to their teacher Laurie Morrison, who helped coordinate our chat!