To thank our incredible readers, we're giving away copies of our favourite books from 2018.
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6 December 2018 | Volume 1, Issue 11
  A note from our editor:
I am amazed by all the creative ideas young women have for Assembly. For example, a few months ago our editorial intern Omolara Uthman suggested interviewing Tomi Adeyemi, international best-selling author of the West African fantasy novel, “Children of Blood and Bone.” As a Nigerian-American studying writing at university, Omolara believed she was the perfect person to speak with Tomi, discuss the influence of Yoruba culture on her writing and pick her brain for advice for young writers. A few weeks ago, Omolara got her chance! I love every minute of her conversation with Tomi and can’t wait to share it with you too.

Don’t forget: if you have a great idea for Assembly, send it to us using our submission form!

Also in this issue, girls from India, Iran, Mongolia and Morocco tell us what music they’re listening to now. Teenagers Shree and Visali tell us about the caste system in India that is holding girls back. And 10-year-old Anya Sen shares how you can support causes you care about during the giving season.

Finally, in the spirit of giving, we want to say THANKS to you all for being the best readers, so we’re offering you the chance to win a box of our favourite books from 2018 — including Tomi’s. Keep reading to find out how to enter!


Win copies of our favourite books of the year!
To say thank you for being the best readers, we’re offering you the opportunity to win a box of our favourite books of the year! To enter, just tell us why you like reading Assembly using the form below. We’ll notify our three winners via email over the next few weeks.
A Conversation with Tomi Adeyemi
Tomi and Lara
  By Omolara Uthman
Move aside Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen, there’s a new young adult hero in town. Meet Zélie Adebola, the strong-willed protagonist of the best-selling West African fantasy novel, “Children of Blood and Bone.” The book follows Zélie on her quest to bring back magic to her people and to fight for her family. Debut author Tomi Adeyemi weaves Yoruba culture — an ethnic group is found in West Africa, particularly Nigeria — into an epic adventure that confronts issues of police brutality, racism and gender-based violence.

Since its release earlier this year, “Children of Blood and Bone” has been captivating readers around the world. At age 23, Tomi reportedly signed a seven-figure deal for the trilogy — which includes a movie deal with Fox 2000 to bring Zélie’s world of Orïsha to the big screen.

Getting the chance to speak with one of my literary heroes and a fellow Nigerian girl was an amazing experience. I asked Tomi about her inspirations, the importance of representation in literature and what young writers like me can do to succeed. I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did.

Omolara Uthman (OU): I know that you consulted your parents on Yoruba phrases for spells and named mountain ranges after family members. Why was it important to you to imbue Yoruba culture into this story and how does it make you feel to see your culture being celebrated by readers around the world?

Tomi Adeyemi (TA): When I first discovered the Orïsha, it was a part of my [Yoruba] culture and a part of my legacy so it was kind of like finding treasure in your own backyard. Once I found it, I decided to lean into it. Something I’ve seen that happens a lot is that people — often fantasy writers specifically — will find a piece of someone’s culture and put it into their writing. But you can’t just take one cool thing and throw it in there. That’s other people’s culture, that’s other people’s heritage, that’s other people’s religions. Once I found it, I was like, “OK, I want to do this right because this is a part of my culture.” 

OU: In your powerful post, “Why I Write: Telling a Story that Matters,” you discuss that you write so that readers can see characters that look like them in stories, and also so that readers can fall in love with characters that don’t look like them. What effect do you think that fiction has on shaping people’s outlooks and actions?

TA: Great question! It’s funny because when I graduated college and my first job was in the entertainment industry, something I heard a lot was: “We’re not saving lives here, this isn’t brain surgery.” It’s like we love it, but we understand what role we play. Sometimes I think we downplay our role as storytellers because we create worlds for people to see themselves in and discover other people and learn about life.

It kind of reminds me of this quote by Stan Lee that’s been circulating: “I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic book writer while other people were building bridges and going onto medical careers. And then I began to realize that entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives. Without it they might go off the deep end. I feel like if you’re able to entertain people you’re doing a good thing.”

I feel like with a story like this, it goes even deeper than entertainment, because I wanted to help people see black people, recognize them and empathize with them and identify their pain and feel the need to put a stop to it and fight against it. Whether it’s making sure you vote in a way that doesn’t hurt other people or if that’s seeing a police encounter and stepping up and deciding not to go anywhere or whether it’s a protest, you know? Stories change lives. They touch us and connect us individually and allow us to connect to each other.

Read more.
Around the World 
  What music are you listening to now?

“I listen to many Bollywood songs, which make my feet move. In particular, I enjoy listening to Neha Kakkar.”
— Pratiksha, 17, India
“Lately I've been listening to the Japanese rock band Ling Tosite and their lead vocalist TK's signature songs.”
— Undrakh, 17, Mongolia
Sarah “'Because of You,' by Kelly Clarkson. It is one of my favorite songs because of its beautiful and tender melody. And because it shows a woman who wants to change her current situation and make a new life.”
— Sarah, 17, Iran
“Any type of music as much that the lyrics are meaningful (and not rock or hard metal).”
— Houda, 19, Morocco
Student Essay
Little actions to big outcomes
By Anya Sen
“Lemonade! One cup of lemonade for a dollar!” I yell. Suddenly, what seems like a million customers come rushing up to my stand. As I pour the refreshing drink into tiny cups, I steal a glance at the poster behind me. The words “Girls deserve to learn!” along with Malala Yousafzai’s picture stare back at me and an ear-to-ear smile spreads across my face. I’m so happy to be holding a lemonade stand to support girls’ education on Malala’s 21st birthday.

130 million girls around the world are out of school right now. That is a lot of girls. The reasons girls are denied an education include poverty, violence and the distance to school. My lemonade stand is just one of the ways I’ve started to take action in my community to help girls. Here are some of my ideas for how other students can also support girls’ education:

Raise awareness. One way we can support girls’ education is by educating others on the issue. I recently held an assembly at my school where I spoke to 150 of my schoolmates about girls’ education and the barriers girls face going to school. Along with a representative from Malala Fund, I told them some statistics about girls’ education, including the fact that if all the girls who are out of school lived in one country, it would be the tenth largest country in the world. People were shocked by this and certainly gave it some thought over the next few days. I also told them that girls’ education can help promote economic growth, create peace and even save lives.

Be creative. My school was excited to help promote this cause so I organized a competition where over 100 kids designed bookmarks about girls’ education. Students and teachers created posters, brainstormed with me and made recommendations on how to help. The winners got Malala’s autographed books and the bookmarks became permanent fixtures at school to keep reminding everybody about this cause. This was a small initiative that didn't take a lot of effort yet it had a huge impact on everyone.

Read more.
Shree and Vaishali
  “In school, we don’t talk about caste. But outside it is still relevant to us. We’re considered untouchable. We’re not supposed to interact with other castes.”
— Visali, 17-year-old Dalit student
  16-year-old Shree hopes to be a business woman and professional soccer player. 17-year-old Visali is deciding between becoming a doctor and a mechanical engineer. The friends have high hopes for their futures — but this wasn’t always the case.

Shree and Visali belong to India’s Dalit caste — a marginalised community deemed impure and untouchable by the Hindu system of social hierarchy. For generations, this system forced Dalit communities to work menial jobs and avoid any physical contact with people of higher ranking castes.

Today, the rules are less rigid. Shree and Visali’s parents are able to work as tea sellers, tailors and shopkeepers. But girls in their communities are still not free — or equipped — to choose careers for themselves.

Read more.
Get published in Assembly!
  Assembly publishes original work by girls, for girls. And we would love to include your voice! Send us your ideas and you could be featured in the next issue.
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