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Author Ciphers

Author Barbara Summers was interviewed about her thoughts and feelings when writing her book Open the Unusual Door.

She shared why she selected certain people to be featured in their book and what she wanted young people to take away from it. Afterwards, students had the chance to ask Barbara their own questions, as well as make a soundtrack about her book.

Open the Unusual Door interweaves the lives of 16 well-known African Americans whose choices changed their lives forever. Among them are Colin Powell's memories of the beginning of his military career and Russell Simmons's recollection of, at 16 years of age, shooting at and missing a fellow drug dealer. These individuals tell of the coaches or mentors who pushed them to excel or the thorny issues of sexuality they had to face. Others reveal how their enthusiasm—whether for art, science, sports, or the military-- enabled them to focus their lives and gave them direction. A variety of writing styles and topics reflect each author's life individual story and character. In this reading cipher students will have an opportunity to go deeper into the background of each subject and explore the path to their own unusual door. In this reading cipher students will have an opportunity to go deeper into the background of each subject and explore the path to their own unusual door.

Barbara Summers is a fine example of someone who opened the unusual door to challenge, adventure, and success. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with honors in her major, French literature, completed coursework for a doctoral degree in French at Yale, and spent time studying at the Sorbonne in France. She drew upon her experience a model at the prestigious Ford Agency for her groundbreaking book, Black and Beautiful: How Women of Color Changed the Fashion Industry. She also edited the bestselling, I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America and penned the short story collection, Nouvelle Soul. Summers is currently at work on a novel about the Harlem Renaissance.

This cipher was sponsored by Simon and Schuster. Author Aurelia Williams flew in from Texas one month prior to the publication of Broken China.

Students were given the first 100 pages of the book and asked to think about and create their own endings. In the cipher, they showed Lori a visual tapestry based on the themes of her novel--guilt, heartbreak, and dealing with some of life’s hard choices.

In Broken China, China Cup Cameron might miss school or fall asleep in class sometimes, but she's trying hard to be a good mother to Amina, her two-year-old daughter. When tragedy befalls the small family, China must quit school and work full-time to make ends meet. But the only place in town that's willing to hire a fourteen-year-old high-school dropout is Obsidian Queens, a strip club, and China is forced to make some difficult and potentially self-destructive decisions. China's harrowing, emotionally resonant story creates a window into the all-too-real world of a teen mother faced with unthinkable choices. Lori Aurelia Williams is the author of When Kambia Elaine Flew in from Neptune (nominated by TEENREADS as one of the top 10 books of 2000) and Shayla's Double Brown Baby Blues. She holds a master's degree in English from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was awarded both a James A. Michener Fellowship and a scholarship in creative writing. Born in Houston, Lori Aurelia Williams lives in Austin, Texas. For her fiction, which combines African-American storytelling with street slang, she was awarded a creative writing scholarship and a James A. Michener Fellowship.