Michelle Stimpson

Somalis Don’t Say a False Proverb

by Michelle Stimpson
Amy Mayhew is a twelve-year-old, American girl: short, white, Christian, and totally friendless. Until she meets Kadeer Mohamed, an African refugee: tall, black, and Muslim, with problems of his own. On the surface, they have nothing in common and probably would have never met if it weren’t for Ms. Rivera’s prophetic seating chart. Outside of the art classroom, nothing in their lives is going right. Amy is the middle child of a too-big family and is being bullied by a group of kids led by her former friend. Kadeer is still learning English and trying to stay caught up in school, while his brother keeps getting into trouble and dragging Kadeer along with him. Ms. Rivera’s room becomes a safe haven where Amy helps Kadeer learn to mix paint and Kadeer teaches Amy how to open herself up to new people. Most importantly, it is in the art room where they discover that the tints and shades of our skin color have little to do with who we are inside.

Somalis Don’t Say a False Proverb recently won first place for Young Adult Book in the “53rd Annual Original Writing Competition” hosted by the Utah Division of Arts and Museums.

Arielle: What a wonderful odd couple! And I love the art room as the setting for a safe haven. This pitch makes me want to read more, which is what every good pitch should do. It was also very smart to include your award. It’s human nature to be impressed! Like with many of the pitches here, this one would have benefited from a little more specificity. I know that Amy is short and white and Kadeer is tall and black. But who are they beyond their appearances and circumstances?

David: This is a fantastic odd couple/stranger in a strange land story. I think it’s a very important story at this particular time in history, when we need to understand how extremely diverse people can get along, and that we are all more similar than we might think. I also think because it has a Christian theme, it will have a built-in audience. In addition it hits on the hot button topic of bullying, which seems to be everywhere these days. It’s great to end your pitch with your award, agents and publishers, and readers too, are always looking for proof from someone besides yourself and your mother that you are a good writer. I get a good feeling for what their families are like, and what the conflict within their family is, but I agree with Arielle, I don’t quite know these main characters enough. What are their hopes and dreams? I would like to know a little bit more about what kind of art they are making, and how it’s affecting their lives.