The Dream Keepers
Our guest today is Linda Keen from Sacramento, CA. She is the author of The Dream Keepers, a young adult novel honoring diversity, friendship, and self-knowledge. We have conducted an interview with her.
Why did you choose to write your Young Adult (YA) novel honoring the themes of diversity, friendship and self-knowledge?
When I was a school counselor for foster youth in the first years of the new millennium, I had an enormous urge to write a fictional story inspired by my students. As I had had other books published, I began thinking about what things I might want to tell. At this same time, I had a young teenager come visit me at my office. She was a tall, good-natured young African American named Star. At the end of that day, as I stood at my car getting ready to leave, I had a vision of writing about a foster student named Star. I would write about her life and challenges, and, in my mind, she looked like my own student, and that is when one of the most important characters in my book was “born.”
About a year later, I got a job working at a school for kids with behavior problems. I ran a small group of African American young teenaged girls, and this became one of the most culturally eye-opening experiences of my life. I knew from the start I was a fish out of water, not being African American myself—nor to say the least, someone with an undisclosed stressful existence, a life I could know nothing about. At the same time, I could sense how these girls were curious about me and who I was. I was convinced they had never hung out so closely with anyone like me. I was deeply honored when they opened up intermittently, moving in and out of a sort of aloof friendliness. The group was intended to be temporary, yet fortunately, I took away so much from this experience. The tragedy I describe in the very beginning of my book is a true story. When I began in earnest to write my book, I vowed I would tell it in spite of its shocking authenticity.
At the start of this same school year, I had bought a large poster, already pinned to my office wall, of a striking young African American man dubbed “Poet Laureate of Harlem, 1902 – 1967.” His name was Langston Hughes. A few days later, I went to the public library and checked out a book of his poetry called “The Dream Keeper.”
Bring me all of your dreams,
Bring me all of your Heart melodies
That I may wrap them
In a blue cloud-cloth
Away from the too-rough fingers
Of the world.
Upon reading this particular poem for which the collection was named, I knew I was going to write a story inspired by its name-sake. I wanted to write a story that could perhaps serve as a “blue cloud cloth” wrapping around my students to help protect, guide, and inspire them regardless of their race, gender, or social standing.
What is the most striking realization in the course of your work about human beings?
This would be the glaring realization of how easy it is for young people to get along, understand, and appreciate each other. They say that “love comes naturally – hate is learned,” and I agree completely. As a school counselor, it is so touching to see the natural outpouring of caring and sensitivity that can exist and continue to grow among young people, even very young ones, when supported and nurtured.
What are your views about the gift of imagination in relation to self-healing?
I believe that the gift of imagination is the key to all self-healing. If we can imagine it, we can use the inspiration and energy of it to see ourselves in a better and happier light. As we continue to do this, we can literally make enormous changes in ourselves for the better. Fortunately, if our own imagination feels limited to us, we can go read wonderful books which also have the potential of taking us to this same place of exciting energy and enthusiasm. In this way, we are taught ways of taking possession of our self-empowerment. If we continue to envision positive and inspiring things for ourselves and for the world (in spite of all our problems and fears), we summon the gift of heightened self-esteem and the chance to heal ourselves on many different levels.
Which school did you co-found? How do you feel about this experience and your book writing journey?
I co-founded a school called “People & Intuition” in Amersfoort, the Netherlands. Their training courses are visited by people from many different social, cultural and professional backgrounds. The school’s goal is to provide inspiration and support on numerous levels of personal development. In their courses, people learn to be more aware of their inner promptings – their intuition - and ways to rely on it. In this manner, they are better able to experience their “personal power in the here and now” in daily life and to learn how to choose more confidently in relation to the rest of the world’s inclinations and involvements. From one’s own inner strength, people are much better able to help themselves and others along life’s pathways.
The experience of writing this school’s three-year-long program with another co-founder and teaching its curriculum for more than six years gave me an enormous platform and eventual inspiration for my later work as a school counselor, foster youth counselor, and author of my fictional story, The Dream Keepers.
What is your mission?
To help encourage hope, inspiration, strength, joy, and gratitude in as many human beings of any age as possible.
Which quotation is the most relevant to you?
Next to Langston Hughes’ poem “The Dream Keeper” mentioned above, the following poem of his, “I Dream a World” is amazingly relevant to our world’s problems today:
I dream a world where man
No other man will scorn,
Where love will bless the earth
And peace its paths adorn
I dream a world where all
Will know sweet freedom's way,
Where greed no longer saps the soul
Nor avarice blights our day.
A world I dream where black or white,
Whatever race you be,
Will share the bounties of the earth
And every man is free,
Where wretchedness will hang its head
And joy, like a pearl,
Attends the needs of all mankind-
Of such I dream, my world!
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