People of Charlotte, meet Mai-Lis Bahr.
Wait a minute … that’s her line not ours! After sharing hundreds of stories about local Charlotteans as the founder of People of Charlotte, Mai-Lis Bahr decided to share an important story of her own. She recently released her very first children’s book titled Mixed Nuts, a story about the ways diversity and inclusion help foster growth in the community.
Mai-Lis wanted to write a relatable story that could be used as a resource to teach children the importance of empathy and acceptance. She hopes it will help children and parents talk about diversity. Over on People of Charlotte, Mai-Lis is used to asking the questions. So, we decided to mix things up and ask her a few questions of our own about her new book:
What inspired you to write this book?[I was inspired by] a six-year-old boy who had an unexpected, profound impact on me. During our twice-a-week literacy tutoring sessions, we formed a special bond. Then one day, he wouldn’t speak or look at me. After gently asking several times what had upset him, he finally said, “You and I can’t be friends because you are white and I am black.”
I was not prepared—I never expected this conversation with a child his age. My heart ached for him and admittedly, I was hurt too. We both fell into a moment of silence as I tried to find the right words. I placed my arm next to his little arm and said, “I think your skin is beautiful and I hope you think mine is too.”
After exchanging many affirmations of love and friendship, our session ended that day and my quest began for a book that would help teach about diversity in a non-preachy, relatable way. I walked out of the library with books that only told half the story or didn’t really address what I was looking for: a relatable, educational story.
As a writer, there is a vulnerability in sharing your work—you cannot and will not please everyone. Any creative can relate. You just can’t let fear or doubt trump your passion and vision.
Did your idea change as you were writing the book? If so, how?
For sure. The discussion section was added to the end of the story at the suggestion of another literacy tutor. I am grateful for her feedback because that section of the book opens up an important dialogue between listeners and readers.
When a child reads this book, what do you hope they take away from the experience?
That they embrace their neighbor in a more loving, open way without fear. I hope children recognize that we all want to feel loved, included, respected and part of the collective while being free to be our own unique selves. This is my hope for the reader, too. Differences are different. But, differences are not bad. We all have the ability to contribute to the world in a positive way through our unique gifts. Without even being entirely conscious of it, we judge others too quickly based on appearances and hopefully this book will remind us to slow down.
What has been the most surprising reaction you’ve gotten from a reader thus far?
I am really humbled, flattered, and excited that teachers have found the book to be a useful teaching tool in their classrooms. I would love for the book to get into more CMS classrooms in anticipation of the upcoming boundary changes. Our children set the tone for our future.
What’s next? Does the writing bug still have you?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember—it’s where I find my flow. The title and plot for the next Mixed Nuts book is coming along.
About a month ago, I wrote an unrelated story about kindness and anti-bullying in less than a day. The rhyming story just downloaded into me. I’m now sketching to see if I will illustrate this story myself or if I will find an illustrator. I really love this story about a dog and her triumph and cannot wait to share. And slowly, I am writing a memoir about my family’s 62-day cross country RV trip last summer. It was way more than just a road trip. Any agents or publishers out there interested?
How odd is it now to be interviewed, rather than being the interviewee?
Ha! You got me. I still haven’t shared my own story on People of Charlotte. Did I answer the question?
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Do you think you have what it takes to write for the Biscuit?Well, let us know!!
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