Welcome to my strand of the worldwide web! Don't worry--it's not sticky. You can make your way around it easily to learn something about me and what I write for young people.
My story THE OLIVE TREE, which started out as a short story in the '90s and won two national awards and several reprintings, came out as a picture book late in 2014. It's beautifully illustrated by an Indiana artist, Claire Ewart, and published by Wisdom Tales Press--who brought out THE COMPASSIONATE WARRIOR in 2013. You'd think that these two books, one a picture book and the other a YA historical biography, couldn't possibly be more different, but actually they have something important in common. Both are about interfaith bridge-building and finding ways to overcome differences . . . and I guess that's true of much of my writing.
THE OLIVE TREE takes place in a Lebanese village following a long war that tore neighbors apart. THE COMPASSIONATE WARRIOR is about the Emir Abd el-Kader, the Muslim hero who led resistance to the French conquest of Algeria in the 19th century, and later saved the lives of thousands of Christians at a time of violence. (An amazing man in many ways, he has been seriously considered as the subject of a major motion picture.)
What's up for 2015? With author Nancy Flood, I chaired a panel at the Texas Libraries Association conference in April. Other panel members were Cynthia Leitich Smith, Loreine Roy, and Janice Kowemy, and we talked about literature about Native Americans, Arabs, and Arab-Americans. At upcoming conferences--USBBY in New York City and NCSS in New Orleans--Nancy Flood, Terry Farish (two wonderful authors--look them up), and I will give a program about children and war. My part will deal with books about military action aimed at forcing civilian populations to leave their homes--in short, ethnic cleansing--in the Middle East.
In 2014, I was on the program at the IBBY Congress (International Board of Books for Young People) in Mexico City in September, my first time South of the Border, a wonderful experience. Other events were a panel at the Texas Libraries Association, and a workshop on multicultural literature at Georgetown University in Washington. Promoting good literature about the Arab world--the modern, real-life world, not the Arabian Nights!-- continues to be a major part of my life's work.
Although I grew up in Massachusetts and live in Indiana, much of my writing is about the Middle East and North Africa, where I've lived and traveled for many years. If you're a student, I hope you'll find my books a good way to "get there"--and if you're a teacher, you'll find that they help bring the Middle East into the classroom. To get the talk flowing, I've included some "let's talk about" questions for each book, on this site. Many adults, too, find my books an effective and unusual introduction to the Exotic East, ancient and modern.
Ahlan wa sahlan--Welcome! And read on!