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Author Visit: Nina LaCour

Author Visit: Nina LaCour

Picture of author Nina LaCour: a brunette white woman wearing a yellow velvet shirt, looking at the camera.

Coming to the Castilleja Library in late September is Nina LaCour, author of five young adult novels! LaCour seems to charm every reader with her stories of love, grief, and friendship. Her novels are a true and candid study of her characters’ identities and emotional journey to find themselves in the world around them. Her novel We Are Okay received the Michael L. Printz Award for Best Young Adult Novel of 2017, and all of her novels have been recognized by Publishers Weekly.


What is most striking about LaCour’s novels to young adult readers is her beautiful writing and narrative that truly allows readers to connect with her characters. She tells stories about all forms of love, and as a member of the LGBTQ+ community herself, LaCour’s novels are a testament to all young adults and their experiences with love and friendship by centralizing their character development and emotions rather than their queer identities. LaCour’s literature stands out for this as well as her outstanding quality of writing, earning LaCour her critically-acclaimed status.

a collage of Nina LaCour's books

Nina LaCour will visit our library and campus from September 24th-26th. She will speak at an Upper School assembly on the 24th, and will visit all the tenth grade English classes. She will also have lunch with student writers, hold office hours in the library, and host a writer’s workshop in the Ace Center during late start on Wednesday.

–Meher S., ’20


Ms. LaCour’s Schedule:

Monday, September 24th:
Assembly for grades 8 – 12, Chapel Theater: 2:35pm – 3:15pm
Book signing and informal Q & A, Library: 3:20pm – 4:00pm

Tuesday, September 25th:
Lunch with upper school student writers, ACE Project Room: 12:10pm – 12:55pm

Wednesday, September 26th:
Writing workshop during late start, Library: 8:00am – 9:00am
Office hours, Library: 9:00am – 11:00am
Lunch with middle school student writers, Room 9: 11:15am – 11:50am

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The Second Annual Celebration of Casti Authors

The Second Annual Celebration of Casti Authors

We had such a great time last year that we’re doing it again! Join us in the library on Monday, May 1st from 3:30-5:30 for a celebration of Castilleja’s writers.


  • Student author readings
  • Live music
  • Coffee, tea, and treats

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Author Stephanie Kuehn Visited For Banned Books Week

Author Stephanie Kuehn Visited For Banned Books Week

Stephanie Kuehn, author of Charm and Strange, Complicit and other books beloved by Casti students, visited last week during Banned Books Week. Elle G. and Supriya L. wrote a recap of her visit.

Stephanie Kuehn is a young adult author who visited Castilleja on September 26, 2016 for Banned Books Week. Some of her books have been challenged, and she talked to the eighth graders about her views on censorship. Ms. Kuehn believes that many young adult authors’ intentions are misunderstood, often being blamed by adults and parents as being “too dark” when these authors are just being honest. She thinks that YA authors should be able to express their ideas about dark subjects without feeling the need to sugarcoat, and therefore shield shield the message from readers.

She talked about the ways that YA authors give stories the positive overlay that some adults feel that they need. One of the main ways that they do this is by incorporating hope. She said that stories with hope either have a character finding their voice or their identity, the character’s life has meaning, or it shows that the characters can be themselves (or learn to be themselves). However, the main point that she stresses about these themes is, is it true? Do we really live in this idealistic world? Of course not! So why should we tell our YA readers that we do? After all, aren’t most of them going to be looking after themselves in the real world soon enough? Now this begs the question, why should we hide this from them? Well, Ms. Kuehn said that it sometimes has to do with control. She said that if you’re a parent and are used to regulating what your children read, it may be hard to let them read about dark ideas, such as suicide, and violence, unless there is a way “back up” from the dark place. Nonetheless, readers should be able to understand their own development, and choose books which correspond to this development.

In conclusion, Ms. Kuehn’s visit enlightened us about Banned Books Week, and told us a lot about herself as well. She grew up in the Bay Area, and went to boarding school in the East Coast, which partly inspired the setting of her first book, Charm and Strange. In addition, she started writing at a young age, particularly being influenced by her father, who was a writer, journalist, as well as editor. We are so glad that Ms. Kuehn came here to talk about censorship during Banned Books Week, and be sure to check out all of her books, especially her new book, The Smaller Evil, in celebration of Banned Books Week!

Written by Elle G. ‘21, and Supriya L. ’21


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Poet Tracy K. Smith Visits Castilleja Next Week!

Poet Tracy K. Smith Visits Castilleja Next Week!

Poet Tracy K. Smith, in addition to being one of the most awarded poets of her generation, is a poet who explores race, family, faith, and the strange idiosyncrasies of our existence through a deeply personal lens. Her hypnotic, surprising, even absurd, work offers elegant socio political commentary in vivid verse. She has explored her challenging ideas and poignant stories in three collections of poetry and her memoir. Her work has met much critical acclaim, with Publisher’s Weekly’s starred review noting her “lyric brilliance and political impulses.” She is currently the director of Princeton University’s Creative Writing program.

She obtained her BA from Harvard University, an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University, and held the Wallace Stegner fellowship at Stanford University from 1997 to 1999. Her first collection of poetry, The Body’s Question (2003), explores the intersection of race and family, and addresses the difficulties of confronting loss. It won the Cave Canem prize for the best debut work by an African American writer. Her second, Duende (2007), explores the history of often ignored cultures, as well as sharing stories of personal survival and political change. In 2006, it won the American Academy of Poets’ James Laughlin award. Her most recent collection, Life on Mars (2011), is a powerful elegy for her father, a scientist who worked on the Hubble Space Telescope, that won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 2012. It explores both the boundaries of space and civilization, as well as the beautiful reality of the mundane. Just as Life on Mars paid homage to her father, her memoir, Ordinary Light (2015), is for her mother. Detailing her experiences from childhood, to her coming of age, till the present day, Ms. Smith dissects the same critical issues addressed in her earlier poetry through a deeply personal lense. Ordinary Light was a finalist for the National Book Award. For her compelling body of work, she received the 2014 Academy of American Poets Fellowship, as well as numerous other awards, fellowships, and grants including a Rona Jaffe Award and a Whiting Award.

As this year’s Arrillaga speaker, she will be speaking at an all school assembly on October 6, after which there will be a reception for faculty and parents. On October 7, students are invited to attend a roundtable discussion with her. Ms. Smith will also be visiting English classes over these two days. Look forward to hearing from this evocative poet and author, and come to the Library to read her mesmerizing work!

–Arushi G. ’18


Header picture: tksmith5_cMarlene Lillian: Poet Tracy K. Smith by Tulane Public Relations/Marlene Lillian licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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Illustrator Christian Robinson Visits Castilleja!

Illustrator Christian Robinson Visits Castilleja!

DSC_6991Christian Robinson, illustrator of the Newbery Award winning Last Stop on Market Street, visited Castilleja today. He worked with Upper School Drawing and Painting, visited with sixth graders, and helped the entire eighth grade design collage illustrations of characters from their lit circle books.


Your intrepid librarians were on the spot, distributing paper and taking many, many pictures of the designing fun.

If you had a good time or if you want to check out more of DSC_6992Mr. Robinson’s art, we have a collection of his books in the library, and you can check out his website at The Art of Fun.

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Gene Yang Visits Castilleja!

Gene Yang Visits Castilleja!

Gene Yang










Last Wednesday, Gene Yang, the author of American Born Chinese, visited the seventh grade to talk about his new book. Linnea L. ’21 wrote a recap for us.

Gene Yang is a graphic novel writer and a coder, and though he loves both of those things he had never before been able to connect them in an organic way. He has finally been able to, by writing a book called Secret Coders. This book is a story about three kids who learn to code, and as you follow along their journey, it teaches YOU the basics of coding, too! Gene Yang introduced us to binary, the base method of coding that all programs are created from, and also showed us a programming language called Logo.

We didn’t just learn about coding, though—we also got a chance to ask him about American Born Chinese, which we had just finished reading in English class. Our class had a lot of questions about the themes in the book, because he does a wonderful job of including symbolism in the story. It makes the reader question what is real and what is a representation of something else deeper. We got to delve deeper into the meaning of the book, and make up some of our own stories, too, to wrap everything up.

I’ve read a few other of this author’s books, and they all addressed one of the many issues that lots of people struggle with in our daily lives. My personal favorite, Level Up, made me think about what happiness really is, and about how much parents should control about their children’s’ lives. It was a wonderful experience to have Gene Yang at our school, and I hope he comes again!

By Linnea L. ’21

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