The day after Liyana experiences her first kiss, her father announces that he is moving the family from St. Louis, to his birthplace, Jerusalem. Liyana leaves everything she knows behind, and everything that won't fit in a few boxes and embarks on an adventure to experience a different kind of life.
In Jerusalem there are no white picket fences, or green lawns. Her father works as a doctor in a hospital, her mother stays home and Liyana and her brother are sent to different schools. Liyana carefully dips her toes in the sights, sounds, smells and tastes around her, soaking up the new culture and her new family (as long lost cousins come out of the woodwork).
Liyana feels pulled in two directions, back home to the states but also to her family's history in Jerusalem. An interesting contrast on the thoughts of what makes something a home. Nye has a way of describing places that is almost roundabout. Instead of describing the layout of a building or courtyard she explains the light filtering through trees, or the smell of the food vendors. She really brings you to the place and makes the reader experience it viscerally.
Naomi Shihab Nye is our featured author for the twelfth issue of elementia. If you are inspired by Nye's work and want to write about place as deeply as she does, we accept submissions from teens through December 5, 2014. Nye will visit the Johnson County Library for the author reception on Tuesday, March 3, 2015. Mark your calendars now!