By Leslie Lindsay
An absolutely fascinating and thought-provoking collection of inspiring individuals, past and present, HUMANITARIANS, VISIONARIES, HEROES, & YOU is exactly perfect for the middle grade reader, and their parents/guardians/teachers.
We read this slim volume aloud to our children (ages 11.6 and almost-10) en route to Thanksgiving in our hometown nearly 300 miles away. It was the quintessential read for this time of year. Thanksgiving, an American holiday epitomizing family, moral good, working for the betterment of a nation when times are tough (Thanksgiving, having been made a national holiday when morale was low during the Civil War).
We asked the girls if they were familiar with the people in the book–many of whom are well-known–Martin Luther King, Jr., The Dali Lama, Mother Theresa, Gandhi–but others who are less-known. They nodded to some, but weren’t sure about others. We read anyway, introducing them to the good deeds, the selflessness of these humanitarians working to build a more holistic, kind, and peaceful planet.
We learned about Craig Kielburger who, as a 12-year old, was moved by the child labor occurring in some countries. He wanted to bring awareness and stop the practice. He’s currently working to do so. And then there’s Terry Fox, a young man diagnosed with bone cancer, who decided to run a across Canada (after a leg amputation) to raise money for cancer research. He efforts were cut short and he was forced to stop; the cancer had spread to his lungs.
Others, too and their contribution to the world were presented, generating a good deal of discussion, which will stay with us and our children for some time, perhaps always.
Join me as I welcome Mary Feliciani to the blog couch to chat about this truly inspiring read.
Leslie Lindsay: Mary, thanks for coming. I so enjoyed reading about these individuals, some I was familiar with, others less so. I’m curious what your inspiration was for writing this book?
Mary Feliciani: I feel privileged to be here, Leslie. Thank you. Years ago, I saw Mattie Stepanak on Larry King Live, and of course, I was totally impressed with his insights. At the same time, it took me back to my own youth and my emotional attachment to Martin Luther King Jr. Once I got into this mood, I started thinking of all the humanitarians that inspired me, and suddenly I developed an overview of how their belief systems all fit together. I thought that their combined voices would be very powerful.
L.L.: Before each individual you present in the book, you give a lovely introduction—perhaps why you chose to include that person, or maybe even your own personal connection, even a conflict. There are so many amazingly inspiring individuals in the world, how did you ever narrow it down as to who to include in HUMANITARIANS, VISIONARIES, HEROES, & YOU?
Mary Feliciani: I think that when we are young we are the most idealistic. My connection to the older individuals, such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., occurred as I was growing up and as I learned about them. In terms of my younger choices, like Mattie Stepanek and Craig Kielburger, I was an adult when I became aware of them. I came to be a fan of theirs because they embodied the qualities of those humanitarians that lived before them. Also, they found their voice at such a young age – proving that young people can make a difference.
I know that there are other youths that have the same potential as my choices for the book. And that is why I have the word “You” in the title. I am reaching out to future humanitarians.
L.L.: I personally enjoyed reading the quotes some of these change-makers are responsible for. “Be the change you want to see,” is accredited to Gandhi, for example. There were others, too. What was your research like, and do you have a favorite quote?
Mary Feliciani: I wrote all my reflections before I actually did my research. I knew about and had a feel for the individuals because of that earlier connection to them. And you are correct, my reflections also serve as an introduction to the personalities in the book. When I went to do the research, there were many details about their lives that I didn’t know. The most important ones and those that fit well with my reflections made it into the book. There were other interesting facts that didn’t make it into the book. It is my hope that young readers are intrigued enough to want to know more about them and subsequently do their own research.
I have three favourite quotes. One of my favourites is the one you just mentioned, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” It is the most practical one. We can not control the behaviour of others. We can only control ourselves. But, through our actions and words we can influence people. That is what Mattie did. That is what Craig Kielburger along with his brother, Marc Kielburger, are doing.
The beginning of the “I Have a Dream” speech always, to this day, arouses strong emotions in me. I heard it so many times paired with the news of his death, that I became conditioned to feel connected to him. When I hear or even think the words, a strong feeling of humanity is evoked in me.
The third quote is from Gandhi:
“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love always won. There have been tyrants and murders and for a time they seemed invincible, but in the end they always fall – think of it, always.” This statement gives us hope no matter how bad situations are.
L.L.: HUMANITARIANS, VISIONARIES, HEROES, AND YOU is a perfect companion to grade school research papers and projects, elementary (and middle school) classrooms, social studies, and the like. I’m guessing this was your intended audience. What might you like to see young people do with the information they glean?
Mary Feliciani: You are right about the intended audience and that I would like to see today’s youth do more research on my choices of humanitarians, but also seek some of their own.
Here is a message that I scribe in the book at book signings, when I know that it is going to be given to a young person:
“Look to a good role model today, and tomorrow someone will be looking up at you.”
L.L.: What’s captured your interest lately? What’s got your attention? It doesn’t have to be literary or humanitarian-related, but if so, please share.
Mary Feliciani: The topic that interests me today is bullying. The type that happens in the school environment. BIG AND SMALL IN THE MIRROR is the first of what will be a trilogy on bullying. The eBook was published in 2015. I am currently writing the second book. It is entitled THE INVISIBLE BOY and is about a boy who feels invisible at school.
There are two passions in my life, one is writing and the other is traveling. I have been vacationing on cruises for the last few years. You will probably notice that the picture you posted with this interview was taken on a cruise ship.
L.L.: What question should I have asked but may have forgotten?
Mary Feliciani: None. Your questions have captured the essence of the book, HUMANITARIANS, VISIONARIES, HEROES, & YOU.
I hope that you and your followers will be just as interested in my next book, The Invisible Boy.
L.L.: Mary, it was truly lovely reading HUMANITARIANS, VISIONARIES, HEROES & YOU. Thank you for sharing it with us. And may you have a warm holiday season.
Mary Feliciani: Leslie, I wish you and all your followers a wonder holiday season as well. Thank you so much for your interest in my writing.