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Book review: Salt in My Soul

Book review: Salt in My Soul

Mallory Smith inspired many people through her passionate advocacy for those living with cystic fibrosis. Salt in My Soul reveals another facet of her story: her own internal struggles with her illness. Mallory grew up in Los Angeles (but had connections to the Silicon Valley as an alumna of Stanford University, and through cousins who attended Castilleja) and was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the age of three. Salt in My Soul is a collection of over ten years of diary entries written by Mallory up until her untimely passing at age 25. She left instructions for her mother to publish her diaries after her death so that others could have an intimate view of her internal thoughts. Some themes that recur throughout her memoir are body image, access to healthcare, depression and anxiety, and pain medication management. What is perhaps most impactful about Mallory’s story, however, is that she never let her illness define her, despite knowing that it would lead to an early death. Her writing is eloquent and captivating, making her book personal and powerful to readers. Salt in My Soul was recently listed as a top book for millenials (in good company with memoirs by Joan Didion and Toni Morrison), and selected as a featured book for college students by Penguin Random House. Check it out at Casti Library.

-Lishan C. ’21

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Global Week 2020 Reading List

Global Week 2020 Reading List

Interested in learning more about this year’s Global Week theme, Seats at the Table: Women, Peace, and Security? ACE Center TA Riley ’20 helped us compile these book recommendations to help anyone from sixth graders to faculty explore the topic. All of the books listed below are available in the library!

Leading the Way: Women in Power by Senator Janet Howell and Theresa Howell

Imagining Ourselves: Global Voices from a New Generation of Women edited by Paula Goldman

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai

Girls Resist!: A Guide to Activism, Leadership, and Starting a Revolution by Kaelyn Rich

Revolutionary Women: A Book of Stencils by Queen of the Neighborhood Collective

Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger by Rebecca Traister

Women Who Don’t Wait in Line: Break the Mold, Lead the Way by Reshma Saujani

1000 PeaceWomen Across the Globe by 1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize

Women & Leadership: The State of Play and Strategies for Change edited by Barbara Kellerman and Deborah L. Rhode

Why Women Should Rule the World by Dee Dee Meyers


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Interview with Chrishaunda Lee Perez

Interview with Chrishaunda Lee Perez

We’ve been lucky to host a number of author visits already this year! Our TA Lishan ‘20 sat down with one visiting writer. Read the interview below!


In early September, I had the opportunity to interview Chrishaunda Perez, the author of We Come as Girls, We Leave as Women when she came to visit Castilleja. Chrishaunda told me she had always enjoyed writing, filling many journals with her thoughts, and noting that she “just evolved writing into a profession.” She attended an all-girls boarding school in Connecticut and she said that experience and the teachers there influenced and cultivated her writing. After graduating from college, she ended up becoming a public relations professional in the fashion industry, combining both writing and fashion. When Chrishaunda had her first daughter, she took to writing during the quiet and introspective moments that caring for her daughter provided. She said that she wrote “a lot of things that I hated, a lot of things that I would never share with anyone…but at least I was getting my ideas on the paper.” After gaining a little more confidence, she began writing essays and started a blog that often touched on taboo topics regarding women. Chrishaunda one day thought to herself, “I wanna write something that’s just longer.”

It took Chrishaunda seven years to write her book We Come as Girls, We Leave as Women. The book takes place at a boarding school and has many girls from around the world and of different backgrounds, including voices that she thinks we “don’t have enough of in literature.” She adds, “Often times [in literature], their lives are being seen through the eyes of their white friends.” She expressed to me that she did get a bit of push-back from people who believed some of the experiences she was writing about were not commercially viable, for example, people who told her to make the black girl in her story “rougher.” At this point, I mention a video that I watched for English last year called “The Power of a Single Story,” which emphasized the consequences of having only one narrative that is being used to draw conclusions about a group of people or a place. Chrishaunda has watched this too, and she says “It’s not even the power of a single story, it’s the danger of a single story.”

Chrishaunda’s book is authentic to what she knows from her high school experience. She said, “I’ll tell you what it’s not, because I didn’t experience these things. I don’t talk about drugs, I don’t talk about bullies, the book doesn’t talk a whole lot about obsession with boys, because that’s just not my experience.” Instead, We Come as Girls, We Leave as Women explores themes of being there for one another, body shifts, culture, sexuality, friend and parental tension, and more with complexity.

One of the most impactful things Chrishaunda told me was the deeper purpose behind her work. She said, “I thoroughly enjoy communicating and spreading information to people that will help uplift them through comedy, through drama, and you really just talk about topics that are otherwise difficult to discuss, because it’s all about healing.”

As Thanksgiving break approaches, I encourage you to borrow Chrishaunda’s book We Come as Girls, We Leave as Women from the library!


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The Asian American Writers’ Workshop

The Asian American Writers’ Workshop

Picture shows poet Emily Jungmin Yoon, a young Korean woman wearing a white sweater, standing at a podium. She is speaking into a microphone, and behind her is a projected image of her book "A Cruelty Special to Our Species."

Emily Jungmin Yoon at speaking at Castilleja Library

This past Tuesday, the Class of 2019 was fortunate to hear poet and PhD candidate Emily Jungmin Yoon read some of her recent work. Yoon’s first full-length collection of poems, A Cruelty Special to Our Species, tells the complex stories of Korean “comfort women” during World War II. She is an inspiring writer who is open about the challenges she has faced as a young Korean Canadian poet trying to find her voice.

Yoon is part of Asian American Writers’ Workshop, a national nonprofit organization with the goal of helping Asian American stories be told. They “believe Asian American literature is vital to interpret our post-multicultural but not post-racial age,” and act on this belief with devotion “to the creating, publishing, developing and disseminating of creative writing by Asian Americans.” They want to start conversations about immigration, cultural pluralism, assimilation, and complex identities. As “one of the top five Asian American groups nationally,” they have the influence to empower and assist writers like Emily Jungmin Yoon.

The Asian American Writers’ Workshop began in 1991 when a group of Asian American friends and writers decided they wanted to be hearing more representations of their stories than just The Woman Warrior or The Joy Luck Club. They began the organization together, and within eight years their membership had quickly grown to a group of 600 operating out of a basement under a Gap store in New York City. They run their own bookstore, hold workshops for high school students interested in writing, and offer grants to writers in need. Most significantly, the organization helps writers publish their works.

These publications take the form of two literary magazines, The Margins and Open City. The Margins, their first magazine, is “dedicated to inventing the Asian American creative culture of tomorrow” and bringing Asian Americans out of the sidekick role and into the spotlight. Their literature includes essays, fiction, poetry, interviews, and more. Open City “takes the real-time pulse of metropolitan Asian America as it’s being lived on the streets of New York right now,” telling the stories “of the Asian and immigrant neighborhoods that comprise one million New Yorkers and 13 percent of the city, but that rarely find their way to mainstream media.” Both of these magazines are published on their website and are open for writing submissions. You can find The Margins here, and Open City here.

As America’s “melting pot” culture develops further, it becomes even more important to hear a variety of diverse voices represented. The Asian American Writers’ Workshop is working to make this true for Asian Americans pursuing literature. Although Asian American can mean a number of various identities, there’s a certain power in bringing them together in a community that has something in common: writing. Andrea Louie, a Chinese-American writer who is a part of the organization, is quoted in the New York Times: “I’ve enjoyed the diasporic experience of different groups. Even though it’s different, we’re very much the same.”


-Lia S. ’18

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What is a zine, anyway?

Zines (rhymes with “beans”) are small circulation, self-published works created by a person (or small group) with a passion for a particular subject.  Zines can be educational, creative, wry, beautiful, political, whimsical, silly, sarcastic, dark, and even disturbing depending on the aim of the author.  APUSH fans may be interested to know that Thomas Paine’s self-published 1775 pamphlet, Common Sense, is considered by some to have been an early zine.  In the 20th century, the popular comic book hero, Superman, was based on a short story from the 1933 zine, Science Fiction: The Advance Guard of Future Civilization.

a photograph of several zines on a dark brown table

There are no limits on the variety and breadth of topics addressed in zines.  Are you aware of the characteristics of face blindness and its causes?  Did you ever wonder how morphine and heroin are chemically related?  Are you fascinated by the experience of young, second-generation Asian immigrants living in the Bay Area?  Are you just curious about many different things? The Castilleja Library has a large selection of zines – there is something for everyone. Please come ask your library team about what is available now!

-Emi S. ’19

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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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