Editor’s note: StrongHER TogetHER is a local organization in Durham, North Carolina that is helping girls rise above stereotypes that alienate them from one another and instead grow up to be women who understand the power of their collective strength in the fight for equity. When schools closed in March 2020 due to the pandemic, girls in their program felt isolated, anxious, and frustrated. One of their youth representatives wondered if a book club might be helpful — read on to find out what happened next.
By Stacey Donoghue, Co-Founder, StrongHER TogetHER
Sharon Flake is a great many things…Three-time Coretta Scott King Award Winner, NAACP Image Award Nominee, Top Ten Books Kirkus Review Author. But a name that pops up in my email inbox? Nope.
StrongHER TogetHER’s DURHAM GIRLS SUMMER BOOK CLUB is our program’s answer to COVID-19. What better way to thumb our noses at the isolation imposed by a pandemic than to unite girls in our community through the power of books! This summer we’ll be delivering as many copies as we can afford of three book selections to food distribution sites throughout Durham.
Sharon Flake wrote THE SKIN I’M IN in 1998 and since that time, the accolades haven’t stopped. And neither have her stories. Today, with nearly a dozen publications to her name, Sharon is a well-respected force in the world of middle grade novels. Plus she’s One. Busy. Lady. Which is why tagging her in a social media post about our August book selection wasn’t something we expected to matter in a billion gazillion years.
But it did.
When an email appeared in my inbox on a Friday night from Sharon Flake saying this is amazing and I’d like to help purchase books, there’s a fair chance some pants were wet. For the next two days, Sharon would email a dumbfounded me periodically with updates. Still shaking the bushes. Or I have $40 in cash from friends. Or I hope you get the last $500 this weekend.
By Sunday evening, Sharon and her friends had donated $1352 toward copies of THE SKIN I’M IN. Dozens and dozens of donations from $5 through $300 each. Enough to buy over 250 books for girls in Durham!
When Sharon and I traded messages again to celebrate the success of her flash fundraiser, the irony in the final words of this beautiful storyteller struck me. I never do these sort of things, she said. But with things being as they are, I guess somewhere inside I figured I wanted to be a part of doing a little good in the world.
Sharon, from myself, every StrongHER TogetHER girl and every girl in Durham who will read your book this summer…the good you have given the world is BIG. We are grateful for the inspiration of your words and the timeless message of Maleeka, we are gobsmacked by the spirit of your support, but mostly, we are humbled to know we are the conduit between someone as amazing as you and the countless amazing girls in our community.
Here’s to a summer of reading with friends. And friends…here’s to inbox surprises, too.
Click here to learn more about StrongHER TogetHER and their summer book club.