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Representation Matters: An Interview With Erin Entrada Kelly

Keith Kesler, Social Media Librarian, Public Relations Department,
Author Erin Kelly and her book Hello Universe

Erin Entrada Kelly, the author of the Newbery Award-winning book Hello Universe, spoke at the Central Library a few months ago as part of our Summer Author Series. Audience members wrote questions for Kelly on index cards. The most memorable card wasn't a question for the author but rather a simple statement of how much the novel meant to the young girl.

hand written note to Erin

A girl quietly slipped me this note in my signing line at the library. It’s amazing how much you can say with one pencil, an index card, and a single sentence. I will cherish it always. Representation matters, people. xoxo— Erin Entrada Kelly August 5, 2018

The sentiment expressed by the young girl clearly struck a nerve. Because of the positive response, we decided to catch up with Erin Entrada Kelly and ask a few questions about representation in literature and her lifelong love of libraries.

The photo of the notecard received over 1,000 retweets and clearly struck a nerve with people. Were you surprised by the attention this post received? Is this a common sentiment expressed to you by readers?

The love and support of the notecard illustrates the need for stories by and about marginalized groups. I wasn't surprised by the attention because I know how badly these stories are needed. Thankfully, the tide is changing, and more of these stories are available and will continue to be.

What books spoke to you as a child?

I read a lot of Judy Blume. I remember when I saw the cover of Just as Long as We're Together. It was the first time I saw an Asian character in a book.

What are the lessons you hope children take away from your books?

I want readers to know they aren't alone. I want to encourage them to embrace their unique selves. And I want them to know that they don't have to be perfect—they just have to be the best version of themselves.

What is the importance of an author visit?

When I visit schools and libraries, my goal is to inspire at least one person.

Do you have any fond memories of libraries growing up?

Absolutely. I loved everything about the library. The rows of books, the smell of the paper, the crinkle of the wraps. My elementary school had a library, which I frequented often. I am still an incredibly active library patron. I visit my local library at least once a week—sometimes more—and always have a slew of books on hold. When I walk through the doors of a library, I immediately feel at peace.

Book cover for You Go First
You Go First
Kelly, Erin Entrada,

Book cover for Hello, Universe
Hello, Universe
Kelly, Erin Entrada,

Book cover for The Land of Forgotten Girls
The Land of Forgotten Girls
Kelly, Erin Entrada

Book cover for Blackbird Fly
Blackbird Fly
Kelly, Erin Entrada,