Photo of the Day, Tuesday, Jan. 24: Author Kekla Magoon speaks to students at lunch event


Ines Foscarini

Magloon speaks to students at lunch today.

By Ines Foscarini

The Media Center hosted a virtual visit with award-winning author Kekla Magoon during lunch today. Attending students learned about Magoon’s new book, discussed identity and talked with the author about the writing process.

Magoon is a non-fiction author best known for her young-adult novels “The Rock and the River,” “How It Went Down” and “The Season of Styx Malone.” Since publishing her first novel in 2009, Magoon earned the NAACP Image Award and won recognition as a finalist for the National Book Award in 2021. 

The author began the virtual visit by talking about her experience as a bi-racial American, and how she didn’t feel like she fully connected with either of her identities. She then opened up about her books and described how her upbringing as a Black woman in a predominantly white community inspired her writing.

“A lot of what I write and a lot of my experiences have been shaped by being black and bi-racial,” Magoon said. “When I’m writing, I’m writing about my own experience, but I’m also writing to learn and understand my relationship to blackness in the world.” 

Librarian Alexis Mazur, who coordinated the event, said that it was a valuable chance for students to discuss identity and learn how to use their voices through writing and activism. 

“I saw that a virtual school visit was available, and I read some of her work and knew how good it was,” Mazur said. “I really wanted to be able to give the students that opportunity.” 

Magoon then discussed her most recent novel “The Minus-One Club,” which tells the story of a young man who navigates grief and struggles to discover his identity from his home in a conservative community.

“I read ‘The Minus-One Club’ over the weekend and I thought it was amazing,” junior Eileen Federing said. “Because I lost someone recently, I think it’s a powerful book and very comforting to someone who has lost someone.” 

Many young adult novel fans share Federing’s appreciation of the novel, because Magoon’s writing transforms difficult and serious topics into moving contemporary novels for her adolescent audience, Federing said. Most of her inspiration for the book came from her own past experiences.

“I like to write about characters that are black and bi-racial and characters who are struggling with their identity or trying to find their place in the world,” Magoon said in the Zoom call. “When we talk about writing as a form of self expression, that’s what I do.”

At the end of the discussion, students asked Magoon questions before receiving a free copy of “The Minus-One Club” on their way out.

“I’ve been wanting to read more books, especially about mental health and grieving,” Federing said. “That’s what really plunged me into reading her work.”