During the spring 2023 semester, 826NYC teaching artist Jaydra Johnson worked with four classes at I.S. 171 Abraham Lincoln Middle School in Cypress Hills in the far reaches of Brooklyn. The young authors came to the table with stories of migration and transformation, delicious food, lazy Saturdays at home, and journeys into the unknown.
I.S. 171 is a school filled with wonder and care–and a whole lot of excellent writers. Classrooms buzzed with energy every day, and many students move freely between English and Spanish in their conversations — not to mention their writing, as you’ll see. In Ms. Duran’s class, students huddled in small groups, whispering in Spanish to construct stories alive with zombies, princesses, pirates, and superheroes of all stripes. Mrs. Estrella’s room seemed quiet on the surface, but it was full of focused energy. With pencil and paper, these writers wrote the details of their lives and all they hoped would come to pass with such vividness it felt like they were making home movies. Mr. Perchekly’s eighth graders dazzled and danced around, pausing to jot down their immigration stories. And in Ms. Peterson’s class, kids went wild in their notebooks, penning chapter after chapter of dramatic journey narratives.
Read Mango is My Middle Name if you dare to embark on the journey of a lifetime with the students of I.S. 171 as your guides. You will visit the unknown world of Monkeyman–a coconut-wielding superhero–where dangers lurk by the dozen in the dark of the jungle. You will be carried away to the Dominican Republic, land of palm trees, ocean breezes, bachata music, and all the mangú you can eat. You will follow intrepid young writers from the mountains of Ecuador to the hallways of a middle school in Brooklyn, where frayed nerves are transformed into brilliant smiles thanks to new friends. This volume includes a cacophony of poems, where students tell each other, and the world, who they are. You’ll also find a rich collection of journey narratives, some real and some imagined, but all full of the stuff good stories are made of: drama, comedy, action, and emotion. Crack this book and join us on an adventure you won’t ever forget.