Whenever I Close My Eyes: Stories, Essays, and Poetry by I.S. 171 Students

News —— March 14, 2024

Throughout the fall of 2023, 826NYC Teaching Artist María Barrios Vélez worked with three middle school classes at I.S. 171 in Queens, leading each class through ten creative writing workshops in a mix of genres. Many students are English Language Learners and newcomers to the United States, and their stories often came together in Spanish first, infused with memories of friends, family, and homes far away but never forgotten.

In just ten weeks, the students, with their words, traveled around the world: to a haunted house where dolls come alive at night, to endless and magnificent vacations in the Dominican Republic, to the vibrant streets of Cypress Hills in the summer and the peace of Abuela’s home in the campo. 

These middle schoolers demonstrate that creativity has no limits. They were as curious about horror stories as they were about writing recipe poems or writing stories about what their dream home would be like. From IS 171 students, we learn that nostalgia and hope can be felt simultaneously, home is wherever the people we love are, and the beauty of building a new home with the help of friends.

Whenever I Close my Eyes is a love letter to the infinite power of storytelling. Discover writing that will transport you, inspire you to create more freely, and take you to all the different worlds I.S. 171 has uniquely created for you.

Get a sneak preview — read Edimarlyn’s beautiful prose poem, “My Life in My Neighborhood.”

Buy the ebook or paperback version of this book via the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co.