[VIRTUAL] A Conversation with Jewell Parker Rhodes and Kelly McWilliams

This event was part of PEN America’s celebration of Banned Books Week.
Learn more about PEN America’s advocacy against book bans and championing the freedom to learn.

Award-winning novelist and educator Jewell Parker Rhodes and her daughter, young adult author Kelly McWilliams, came together in conversation to discuss book bans and young adult literature. As individuals, it is our duty to provide the next generation of writers, teachers, journalists, activists, and readers with an education that includes all facets of life, an education that is free from unreasonable censorious threats. This discussion addressed the vital role that children’s and young adult literature plays in the process of education, and how we can work to protect our youth from the threats to free expression.

This discussion was presented in partnership with the Miami Book FairMiami Book Fair Online logo


Jewell Parker Rhodes headshotJewell Parker Rhodes is the award-winning author of several books for youth, including the New York Times bestsellers Black Brother, Black Brother and Ghost Boys, which has garnered over 30 awards and honors including the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award and Walter Dean Myers Award. Rhodes is also the author of Paradise on Fire, Towers Falling, and the celebrated Louisiana Girls trilogy: Ninth Ward, Sugar, and Bayou Magic. Rhodes has visited hundreds of schools across the country and is a regular speaker at colleges and conferences. The driving force behind all of Rhodes’s work is to inspire social justice, equity, and environmental stewardship. Rhodes is the founding artistic director of the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing and narrative studies professor and Virginia G. Piper Endowed Chair at Arizona State University. She was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Carnegie Mellon University. Rhodes enjoys teaching, walking her toy Aussie sheepdogs, theater, dancing, and music. Born in Pittsburgh, she now lives in Seattle.

Kelly Mcwilliams headshotKelly McWilliams is a mixed-race writer who has always gravitated toward stories about crossing boundaries and forging new identities. For this and so many other reasons, young adult literature will always be close to her heart. She is a graduate of the Walnut Hill School for the Arts and Brown University. Her upcoming novel, Agnes at the End of the World, benefitted from We Need Diverse Books’ Mentorship Program. McWilliams has crafted stories all her life, and her very first novel, Doormat (2004), was published when she was just 15 years old. Doormat became a Junior Library Guild selection and led to a feature in Seventeen magazine. McWilliams has previously worked as a staff writer for Romper, covering issues important to women and families. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, cooking (with mixed results), or hiking. She lives in Colorado with her partner and young daughter.

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