Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich describes herself as someone who was often the new kid at school in more than one country.
Her first novel, 8th Grade Superzero (Scholastic, 2010) received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly, was named an Amazon Best Book of the Month, a Notable Book for a Global Society by the International Reading Association (IRA), and a Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People by the National Council for the Social Studies and CBC, and to the Kansas National Education Association (KNEA) Reading Circle Catalog.
She contributed to OPEN MIC: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices edited by Mitali Perkins (Candlewick, 2013), and BREAK THESE RULES: 35 YA Authors on Speaking Up, Standing Out, and Being Yourself edited by Luke Reynolds (Chicago Review Press, 2013).
Olugbemisola has worked for more that ten years in literacy education and youth development. During this time, she was twice awarded a public service fellowship from the Echoing Green Foundation for work with girls and young women. Olugbemisola holds a B.S. from Cornell University, an M.A. in Educational Technology and English Education from the Steinhardt School of Education at New York University, and a certificate in the teaching of writing from the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University.
Olugbemisola is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), PEN, and the Advisory Board of Epic Change. She’s a member of The Brown Bookshelf, a Web site dedicated to highlighting Black and Brown voices in children’s literature, and Smack Dab in the Middle, a community of middle-grade authors.
Olugbemisola currently lives with her family in Brooklyn, NY, where she loves walking and working on crafts in many forms.
Gbemi set aside her current reading of I Am Malala for this interview. She said that Malala’s story “is a shining example of true courage, of facing something when you know just how dangerous, scary, treacherous it is — and moving forward to face it anyway.”
Gbemi, You’ve actually been writing for several years and I know you’ve been doing a lot of reading. Who are some of the characters you’ve read about that are noteworthy for their courage? What elements of their character (or of the author’s writing) speak to that courage?
“a woman who speaks in a voice
She was outspoken and opinionated, but her work was not about vanity and talking to hear the sound of her own voice. She also had the courage to be in the background, do the small things, the taking care of people things, that “leaders” didn’t always do. She was the one asking marchers and Riders if they needed a meal or a place to stay. She was the one making sure that the NAACP paid attention to the “regular people”, not just the “elites.” She was focused on the needs of her people and the desire to get things done. When so much of the time, people in her position can fall prey to the cult of personality, she took the courageous position of making her work about justice for all, not glory for a few.
How do you build courage in the characters you create?
Hmmmm…I’m not sure…I think that telling a story of courage, big and splashy or small and quiet, should somehow also tell the story of the struggles inside and out that accompany it. My characters are always making choices, and they don’t always make the courageous choice. But a lot of the time, they know it, and they learn from that, and draw strength from that to have courage the next time.