This is not your school's summer reading list

Kelly Cunnane

kelly-cunnane 1. How did you come to the story, Deep in the Sahara?

My four children– 2 girls, 2 boys — were soon to be gone from the home, and I wondered what I wanted to do now that taking care of them and the home was no longer my chosen work, and I had heard about this school in West Africa, so I applied because I love to teach English, and too, I love Africa, and finally, I wanted to know for myself what a Muslim culture was like, not what I had heard it was like…

 2. What makes Lalla a strong girl?

What makes Lalla a strong girl is she is so ordinary.  She is like me, you.  She wants to be beautiful and mysterious, obedient even, perhaps, gossipy and in the know, belonging…she wants to be how she sees the older women; knowledgeable, accomplished, as if automatic.  We all esp., as women, want to be who we see is more accomplished, savvy, beautiful…  How Lalla honestly admits her curiosity, her longing, her confusion about who she is and who she wishes to be is an acceptable strength.  That she enters those questions and presents them to her sister, her mother, her circle of people is strength.  Growing up, having questions is real for all of us.  ALL of us.  Working out who we are yet who we want to be is a huge crossroad, expressed very differently, yet very clearly in much the same way by each culture!

 3. Please finish this sentence: Strong girls______.

Strong girls are open to learning, and govern their lives by being curious about themselves and others and all around them, as if it all is an experiment!  Strong girls are open.  They take in information and use their hearts to distill it to their own truth…

What are you working on right now?

Thank you so much for asking. So much of writing is working on material that does not go anywhere.  I am working on a children’s picture book about Metlakata, an Indian Reserve, where the people finally learn how to dance after many years of not…Mmm, but how to make the child the center not the adults…and I am revising my memoir NOTES FROM THE DESERT about my stay in Mauritania, where Deep in the Sahara evolved.

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