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Great Stories Club

Planning Grant Advisors and Pilot Libraries

In December 2015, the ALA Public Programs Office received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to support development of three new Great Stories Club series. Below are advisory team members and the working themes they’re developing together.

Each new series will be piloted in three libraries, from June – November 2017. Pilot libraries and their community partner organizations are listed below.

Growing up Brave on the Margins: Courage and Coming of Age


Susana M. Morris

Susana M. Morris is an Associate Professor of Literature, Media, and Communication at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta and co-founder of the popular feminist blog, The Crunk Feminist Collective. Morris is the author of Close Kin and Distant Relatives: The Paradox of Respectability in Black Women’s Literature (UVA Press 2014) and co-editor, with Brittney C. Cooper and Robin M. Boylorn, of the anthology, The Crunk Feminist Collection (Feminist Press 2017). Morris is also series editor, along with Kinitra D. Brooks, of the book series New Suns: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Speculative, published at The Ohio State University Press. Currently, she is a Digital Integrative Liberal Arts Center Fellow at Georgia Tech working on her latest book project, Electric Ladies: Black Women, Afrofuturism, and Feminism.

Anna Cvitkovic is a Teen Librarian with the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL). She runs the library at Log Cabin Ranch, a detention facility for teenage boys within the Juvenile Probation Department, where youth have discovered an unlikely passion for knitting. She also leads library outreach programming for youth experiencing parenting, homelessness and other challenges, and has developed the first SFPL program specifically for transitional-aged youth (TAY). In her spare time, Anna loves roller-skating, nail art and reading in the sun, and is a terrible but enthusiastic gardener.



Andrew Aydin

Andrew Aydin is creator and co-author of the #1 New York Times best-selling graphic memoir series, MARCH, which chronicles the life of Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis. Co-authored with Rep. Lewis and illustrated by Nate Powell, MARCH is the first comics work to ever win the National Book Award, and is a recipient of the Will Eisner Comics Industry Award for "Best Reality-Based Work", the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award Special Recognition, and the Coretta Scott King Book Award Author Honor. The Washington Post heralded the completion of the MARCH trilogy, saying, "The closest American peer to Maus has arrived."

An Atlanta native, Andrew was raised by a single mother, and grew up reading and collecting comic books. After college, he took a job with Congressman Lewis where Andrew learned that the civil rights legend had been inspired as a young man by a classic 1950s comic book, Martin Luther King & The Montgomery Story. They discussed the impact that comic books can have on young readers and decided to write a graphic novel together about the civil rights era. Collaborating with artist Nate Powell, the MARCH trilogy was born in 2013.

Today, Andrew serves as Digital Director & Policy Advisor to Congressman Lewis in Washington, D.C. A graduate of Trinity College in Hartford and Georgetown University in Washington, Andrew wrote his master’s thesis on the history and impact of Martin Luther King & The Montgomery Story. His best-selling graphic novels March: Book One, March: Book Two, and March: Book Three are taught in middle schools, high schools, and colleges across the country. Andrew lectures at schools and universities, participates in reading programs with incarcerated youth, serves as a national project advisor to the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for “The Great Stories Club (GSC): Reading and Discussion for At-Risk Youth”, has taught classes on script writing at the Smithsonian, and has appeared as a guest on the Rachel Maddow Show, Morning Joe, CBS This Morning, NPR, CNN, the BBC and many other outlets.

Andrew's other works include the 2016 X-Files Annual (IDW), the 2016 CBLDF Annual Liberty (Image), and an upcoming issue of Bitch Planet (Image), as well as articles for the Atlanta alt-weekly Creative Loafing and the Southern Poverty Law Center's Teaching Tolerance Magazine.

Empathy: The Cost of Switching Sides


Anna Mae Duane

Anna Mae Duane is Associate Professor of English at the University of Connecticut. She is the author of Suffering Childhood in Early America: Violence, Race and the Making of the Child Victim (UGeorgia, 2010); the editor of The Children’s Table: Childhood Studies and the Humanities (UGeorgia, 2013); Child Slavery Before and After Emancipation: An Argument for Child-Centered Slavery Studies (Cambridge 2016), and the co-editor of Who Writes for Black Children?: African American Children’s Literature Before 1900 (University of Minnesota Press, 2016). She is also the co-editor Common-place: The Journal of Early American Life. Her essays have appeared in American Literature, the Cambridge History of the American Novel, Studies in American Fiction, and African American Review. Her work has been supported by a Fulbright award, as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Yale’s Gilder Lerhman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition.

Allyson Dowds

Allyson Dowds is the Youth Technology Librarian for Teen Central at the Boston Public Library. In this role, Allyson coordinates efforts to bridge the technology gap among urban youth by working with and for youth to identify community partners as well as design and implement a STEAM-based curriculum within and beyond the walls of the library. Prior to this work, Allyson served as a Library Manager in the Massachusetts Department of Corrections, working with both incarcerated men and woman since 2009. During her tenure, she established several humanities programs for inmates, including the first Art Group, a family literacy program in conjunction with a local public library, as well as a Poetry Group that was co-convened with a Pushcart Prize winning local poet. Also, she facilitated a regular reading and discussion program called ABLE MINDS (Altering Behaviors through Literary Exploration and Moderated Inquiry-based Discussion Sessions). Ally holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Loyola University of Chicago, and an MLIS from Simmons College.

Nate Powell

Nate Powell is a New York Times best-selling graphic novelist born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1978. He began self-publishing at age 14, and graduated from School of Visual Arts in 2000. His work includes March, the graphic novel autobiography of Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis; You Don't Say, Any Empire, Swallow Me Whole, The Silence Of Our Friends, The Year Of The Beasts, and Rick Riordan’s The Lost Hero. Powell is the first and only cartoonist ever to win the National Book Award.

His work has also received a Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, two Eisner Awards, two Ignatz Awards, two Harvey Awards, a Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award, four YALSA Great Graphic Novels For Teens selections, a Best American Comics selection, and has been a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

Powell has discussed his work at the United Nations, as well as on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show and CNN. His books have been placed on school curriculum in over 40 states, and his animated illustrations in the Southern Poverty Law Center's Selma: The Bridge To The Ballot documentary will reach roughly one million students in 50,000 schools across the nation. He currently speaks about comics as a part of the American Library Association's Great Stories Club.

From 1999 to 2009, Powell worked full-time providing support for adults with developmental disabilities alongside his cartooning efforts. He managed underground record label Harlan Records for 16 years, and performed in punk bands Soophie Nun Squad and Universe. He lives in Bloomington, Indiana. Powell is currently writing and drawing his next book, Come Again (Top Shelf, 2018), and drawing Two Dead with writer Van Jensen for Gallery 13.

What Makes a Hero?: Self, Society, and Rising to the Occasion


Maria Sachiko Cecire

Maria Sachiko Cecire is Director of Experimental Humanities and Assistant Professor of Literature at Bard College in New York. Her areas of specialization include children's literature, medieval literature and its reception, media studies, and cultural studies. Prior to joining Bard’s faculty in 2010, she taught at Oxford University. Maria holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Chicago, as well as a Master of Studies and a Doctor of Philosophy from Oxford University. Her publications include essays in Anglo-Saxon Culture and the Modern Imagination, Arthurian Literature XXVIII, The Journal of Children's Literature Studies, and Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism. She received a Rhodes Scholarship in 2006.

Jennifer Mann

Jennifer Mann is the teen librarian for the Ypsilanti District Library. She has been a librarian for the past 15 years. She has been committed to youth advocacy and social justice issues for the past 25 years, including the role as a teacher, Director of Education and researcher. Jennifer conducted archival research for the 2013 documentary, American revolutionary, the Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs. She has also volunteered as a book reviewer for the School Library Journal for 2 years and worked on the Michigan Family History Search Project as a database indexer.

As a youth librarian, Jennifer has presented at the Michigan Library Association’s annual conference, and spearheaded The Library’s Network (TLN) book drive for the Grace Lee Boggs’ School in Detroit. She has implemented numerous youth and teen programs funded through many grants, including starting a Teen Science Café, a social issues Book Club at an alternative high school, and secured a YALSA grant for technology training for teen interns. http://teensciencecafe.org/cool-cafes/origami-sonobe-unit-world-record-attempt/

MK Asante

MK Asante is a best-selling author, award-winning filmmaker, rapper, and professor who CNN calls “a master storyteller and major creative force.”

Asante is the author of four books, including Buck: A Memoir, which was praised by Maya Angelou as “A story of surviving and thriving with passion, compassion, wit, and style.” Buck made the Washington Post best-seller list in 2014 and 2015 and is a NAACP Image Award finalist. Asante is a prize-winning filmmaker and a Sundance™ Screenwriting Fellow for the movie adaptation of Buck.

Asante studied at the University of London, earned a B.A. from Lafayette College, and an M.F.A. from the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television. Asante has given distinguished lectures at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, as well as hundreds of other universities. He has toured in over 40 countries and was awarded the Key to the City of Dallas, Texas. Called “the voice of a new generation” by Essence, he has been featured on the CBS Early Show, VH1, NPR, The Breakfast Club, and MTV. He was selected as “100 History Makers in the Making” by MSNBC The Grio and his inspirational story “The Blank Page” is featured in the #1 New York Times best-seller, Chicken Soup for the Soul: 20th Anniversary Edition. Asante’s essays have been published in USA Today, Huffington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, and the New York Times.

Described by Vibe magazine as “brilliantly complex,” Asante is a Hip Hop artist who has performed globally and collaborated with King Mez, 9th Wonder, Talib Kweli, and others.

Asante is a Distinguished Professor-in-Residence at the MICA School of Ideas in India and a tenured professor of creative writing and film at Morgan State University.

Pilot Libraries

Juneau Public Library, Juneau, AK, partnering with Johnson Youth Center
Commerce Public Library, Commerce, CA, partnering with Vail High School
San Francisco Public Library, San Francisco, CA, partnering with Log Cabin Ranch Detention Facility
Denver Public Library, Denver, CO, partnering with Mount View Youth Services Center
Boston Public Library, Boston, MA
Ypsilanti Public Library, Ypsilanti, MI, partnering with WSC Academy Ypsilanti Campus
Glen Carbon Centennial Library District, Glen Carbon, IL, partnering with Madison Co. Juvenile Detention Center
Hastings Ninth Grade Center, Houston, TX
King William High School, King William, VA

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