Award-winning novelist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (center) is surrounded by guests at the 2015 Girls Write Now Awards. Photo Credit: Janette Pellegrino/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Girls Write Now Honors Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; Pamela Paul; and Juju Chang
Girls Write Now, a nonprofit organization that mentors underserved young women to help them find their voices through the power of writing and community, recently honored award-winning novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; New York Times Book Review Editor Pamela Paul; and ABC News' Emmy Award-winning Nightline anchor, Juju Chang at its highly anticipated annual fundraising and recognition event, The Girls Write Now Awards.
Photo (left to right): Activist, writer, and founder of Chime for Change, Mariane Pearl; New York Times Book Review Editor, Pamela Paul; Maya Nussbaum, Founder, Girls Write Now; ABC News Journalist and Co-Anchor, Juju Chang; and award-winning novelist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Photo Credit: Luvon Roberson
These celebrated women writers are raising their voices and by doing so, are encouraging teen girls to do the same. The Girls Write Now Awards recognizes women "who inspire us as they write the world....who report fearlessly from the front lines around the globe, uncover stories that shed light on humanity, and prove that words have the power to effect change."
Writer-activist Mariane Pearl, founder of Chime for Change, co-hosted the awards show.
Girls Write Now used the occasion to release this year's award-winning anthology, The Girls Write Now 2015 Anthology: Voice to Voice.
Meet Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Photo Left to Right: Girls Write Now Founder, Maya Nussbaum; award-winning novelist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; and What's The 411 Book Editor, Luvon Roberson. Photo Credit: Girls Write Now
Adichie’s best-selling Americanah, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, and her award-winning Half of a Yellow Sun and spell-bounding Purple Hibiscus – where we see the world of 15-year-old Kambili --are among her many acclaimed works.
I was pleased, indeed, to find in the goody bag Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists, her eloquent essay, adapted from the TEDx talk she delivered in 2012 and sampled in Beyonce’s 2013 song “Flawless.”
Photo Credit: Luvon Roberson
Don’t worry about being likable. Tell your story.— Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Girls Write Now Awards Groundbreaker honoree
At the Awards ceremony, we were treated to Adichie’s truth-telling voice, when she urged girls and women to tell their authentic stories as writers rather than through the lens of likeability.
Watch Chimamanda Ngozo Adichie deliver her speech in this video:
“And, so what I want to say to the young girls is: Forget about likeability. If you start off thinking about being likeable, you’re not going to tell your story honestly, because you’re going to be so concerned with not offending. And, that’s going to ruin your story.”
New York Times Book Review Editor, Pamela Paul
Girls need to see themselves as storytellers whose stories deserve to be heard. --Pamela Paul, Girls Write Now Awards Gamechanger honoree
In 2013, Paul became the first woman to be named Editor of The New York Times Book Review.
Referring to her mother’s professional background as an advertising copywriter in New York City, Paul told the more than 200 people gathered “…so I grew up knowing that stories by girls and girls’ telling stories was important, and it was natural that we should tell them.”
Paul also gave a nod to her 10-year-old daughter’s self-narrating, story-telling friends, praising the young girls “…I was happy to hear it, because these girls, they’re storytellers and they see their voices as something that’s worth being heard.”
Watch Pamela Paul’s full remarks in this video:
ABC News Journalist and Co-Anchor, Juju Chang
We also tell stories that spark anger, that make you feel injustice. When we do those stories about the death of young black men in police custody. … we’re shedding light on a story, that’s not a happy story…but one that needs to be told.—Juju Chang, Girls Write Now Awards Trailblazer honoree
“This is an organization about teaching girls to tell their stories.” That’s how Chang said Kerry Smith, Girls Write Now Board member and Senior Vice President of ABC News, “hooked” her on Girls Write Now.
Chang, an Emmy Award-winning co-anchor of ABC News Nightline, has reported on news-breaking stories like Superstorm Sandy; the mass shootings in Newtown, CT; and the California wildfires. Of her two Gracie awards, one was for her ABC News 20/20 story on gender equality in the sciences.
View Juju Chang’s acceptance speech in this video:
Girls Write Now mentee Thasfia Chowdhury co-hosted the awards event and mentee Rachel Zhao and her mentor Nina Agrawal read from their works. Agrawal’s and Zhao’s stories are published in The Girls Write Now 2015 Anthology;
Sightings of Girl Write Now Mentors, Mentees, & Authors
Girls Write Now mentors are professional writers and digital media makers – from a broad array of industries and settings. Among the mentors and mentees I caught sight of at the Awards event: longtime mentor and College Prep volunteer Josleen Wilson and former mentee and 2015 Dickinson College graduate Brittany Barker; mentor Joann Smith and mentee Calayah Heron; mentor K. T. Billey; and mentee Bre-Ann Newsome; mentor Vivian Conan and mentee Rumer LeGendre; mentee Thasfia Satterie; and former mentee and Youth Board co-chair Natalia Vargas-Caba, who is now a college student. Former mentor, literary agent, and LaGuardia Community College professor Caron Knauer spoke fondly of her former 2004 - 2006 mentee Anna Witiuk, with whom she keeps in touch.
Former mentee and 2015 Dickinson College graduate, Brittany Barker; and College Prep volunteer Josleen Wilson. Photo Credit: Luvon Roberson
I was also able to chat briefly with Farai Chideya, cultural and political TV commentator, NYU professor, and author (Kiss the Sky, among other works ), and with authors Nana Brew-Hammond (Powder Necklace), Bridgett M. Davis (Into the Go-Slow), and Victoria Brown (Minding Ben/Grace in the City).
Farai Chideya, NYU professor, author, and cultural and political TV commentator (center) with friends at the Girls Write Now Awards. Photo Credit: Luvon Roberson
Want to Help Teen Girls Write the World?
Maya Nussbaum founded Girls Write Now 17 years ago, when she was only 21 years old and a senior, majoring in creative writing, at Columbia University. Girls Write Now is New York's first and only writing and mentoring organization for girls, and one of the nation's top after school programs as distinguished twice by the White House. It has served more than 5,000 high school teen girls, 94% are girls of color, and 100% of its seniors go on to college. To learn more about Girls Write Now, listen to Maya Nussbaum on the mentor-mentee relationship and college readiness:
To volunteer as a Girls Write Now mentor, visit: www.girlswritenow.org
To learn more about Chime for Change, visit: www.chimeforchange.org