- Zaheen Chowdhury and Yasmeen Mannan
The City of Brass Author S.A. Chakraborty Visits 9th Grade
On Thursday, April 18, author S.A. Chakraborty visited Mrs. Angela Alomari’s ninth grade English class for a personal meet-and-greet about her debut novel, The City of Brass, which the class had been reading for a few weeks. With the epic storyline and thrilling events, the freshmen almost immediately fell in love with Chakraborty’s book. “The City of Brass was an exceptional novel with quite a dramatic storyline and I would highly recommend it to others,” said Ibrahim Malik. “Not only is it a great fantasy novel, but it also deals with real-life issues like solving racial barriers in society.” The book is the first in the critically acclaimed and internationally best-selling series, The Daevabad Trilogy. Chakraborty’s work has been translated into over a dozen languages and nominated for the Hugo, Locus, World Fantasy, Crawford, and Astounding awards.
Alomari, who teaches ninth grade English, said that one of her favorite things to do before the pandemic was to travel around the country and meet the authors that she admires. She said that while she loves meeting her own favorite authors, she also enjoys meeting those she knows her students love and hearing their thoughts on their writing process and the worlds they create. “Before we began reading City of Brass, I reached out to Mrs. Chakraborty to let her know we would be studying her book as part of our fantasy unit and asked if she would be interested in joining us for a discussion once we finished,” said Alomari. “Authors are so busy with their writing schedules and the publication process that I wasn’t sure if she would have time to spare for us, but Mrs. Chakraborty was thrilled to hear about our adventures in fantasy and to join us for a day.”
After weeks of reading The City of Brass, the ninth graders had many questions about Chakraborty’s novel, writing journey, and life story. So, Alomari divided the class into groups and the freshmen compiled a lengthy list of questions to ask the author.
As this was the first personal author visit the ninth graders would experience, they wanted to make the event as organized and professional as possible for Chakraborty. The students were assigned specific roles that they would carry out on the big day to make Chakraborty feel welcomed and special.
Finally, after almost two weeks of planning and rehearsing, the big day arrived.
As the freshmen awaited Chakraborty’s arrival in the Zoom call, there was nervous energy and anticipation in the air. “I was really anxious and excited before she came,” said Aribah Morshed. “I kept reciting my lines over and over again. I really hoped the program would go smoothly.”
The event began with a welcome and introduction led by Ibrahim Malik and Ibrahim Boudaoud followed by an opening duaa and prayer by Jenna Abutineh and Dana Shala. Afterwards, Zaheen Chowdhury and Jovana Valadez explained how the rest of the event would take place.
The remaining students of the class were divided into groups based on the categories of the questions that they came up with: Writing Process, Religion, The City of Brass specific questions, and miscellaneous questions. The groups selected various creative approaches to ask questions to Chakraborty. For example, one group organized theirs into a jeopardy game, while others asked them in a typical interview-style manner. “It’s extremely rare for students to be able to actually talk to the author of the texts that they’re studying in class and I feel that it brings an entire new layer of the text to our attention,” said Alomari. “I think this will be an experience that we all remember for quite some time.”
The visit ended off with a closing statement and thank-you by Aribah Morshed. The ninth graders were happy and proud of what they had pulled together and how well everyone had done. “Meeting Mrs. Chakraborty was great as it helped bring light to the inspiration behind the novel and the rationale behind the novel along with the historical elements incorporated into the novel,” Malik said.
But no one was prouder than Alomari, who said she was incredibly impressed with the successful event the ninth graders had pulled together. “I took a back seat in this endeavor because I really wanted the time to be about the students and Mrs. Chakraborty and everyone getting the most out of the time together,” she remarked. “While we had to meet her virtually, the ninth graders put together an entire program that would rival an in-person event. Every single student had a role so that each of them got to speak to her directly and the entire event went flawlessly. I may or may not have cried over how proud I was of each of them and how grateful I was that they got to have this experience.”