Last fall I wrote approximately two dozen short stories and non-fiction texts for Swedish publisher Natur och Kultur’s Wings 9 middle school reader. This was the culmination of three years of  work on the new three-book 2015-edition of the classic Wings series.

Working with the series has given me a fabulous opportunity to reach young readers through a wide variety of subject matter, formats, and genres.  One of my goals with the project was to write texts that students would remember and grow from, and I strove for authentic psychological content in every piece, for instance portraying young people forced to make difficult decisions.

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Uhuru Park, Nairobi, Kenya

Starting with Wings 8, I also replaced the old editions’ fake interviews with new, authentic ones.  For Wings 8, I interviewed young people in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Oakland, California, in the States; in Wings 9 I interviewed young people in Nairobi, Kenya, (a Kenyan named Arthur and a Swede named Carolina), and two Syrian students who had come to Sweden as refugees.   My interviewees made complex observations about the world and their place in it –– commenting on topics such as identity, religion, war, racism, family, and life and death.

When the books went to press, I asked for review copies for each of my interviewees.  And while in Kenya a couple weeks ago, I was thrilled to be able to personally deliver copies of Wings 9 to my interviewees in Nairobi.  I appreciated getting the chance to work with these young people, and I expect that for years to come, everyone who reads their Nairobi-interview will benefits from their intelligent insights about the world.

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