The Amazing Young Women behind A GALAXY OF SEA STARS
I wanted to share some background on the writing of A GALAXY OF SEA STARS with you.
The original inspiration for the story began through my volunteer work at IRIS-Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services in New Haven, Connecticut. Through IRIS I’ve had the privilege to know some amazing young men and women.
When I began looking for middle grade books with refugee characters. I quickly found there were not many. So, with the help of IRIS, we formed a group of young women from the countries of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, who wanted to share their experiences coming to the United States as refugees to help create such a book.
We began by simply getting together at the IRIS office where I listened as these amazing ladies talked about what it was like for them to come to the United States as refugees. Then, over the course of a year, these young women read three versions of A GALAXY OF SEA STARS—each time, offering their critical insight and advice. In our meetings, I listened as they recounted stories of discrimination, as well as their wishes, dreams and fears. Their stories spun together to shape the character of Sitara Haidary.
The goal of this project was always an opportunity for these ladies to reach out to world to say: This is what I want you to know about me, This is how it has been for us, and This is how we’d like it to be.
As we met, an odd thing happened along the way. The ladies told me that Sitara’s strength inspired them. But the reality is that each one of these ladies IS Sitara. What they saw on the pages of GALAXY was a mirror image of their own strength and bravery.
Discovering the courage you already possess has been and will always be the heart of A GALAXY OF SEA STARS. As Izzy’s grandmother Starenka says, “Let your courage be bigger than your fear.” This is what I learned from these brave young women.
I hope you enjoy Izzy’s and Sitara’s story and I hope you feel braver for knowing them.