Featuring: Anastasia Kanavaliuk

Helloooooo lovely humans!  Here is our third and final installment of our trio of posts surrounding the fantastic creative team behind Ezra’s BIG Shabbat Question!  We were able to catch up with Anastasia Kanavaliuk, the talented illustrator behind Aviva’s Book.  If you haven’t seen our interview with Aviva, you can find that here, and if you haven’t yet read our review of Ezra you can catch that one here!  We hope everyone is enjoying the day, and aren’t getting into too many shenanigans (but we should always be getting into a few 😉 ).

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The Tiny Activist: Introduce yourself/your organization!

Anastasia Kanavaliuk: My name is Anastasia. I am a freelance illustrator. I mainly work on illustrations for children’s books. Sometimes I create personal illustrations of families and couples that people order for their loved ones.

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TTA: What are you passionate about?

AK: My biggest hobby is illustration (of course). I draw not only for work, but also for myself. I also really like books, especially paper ones. Reading a paper book is a very pleasant pastime for me.

TTA: Tell us about a project you’re currently working on!

AK: I am currently working on a package of illustrations for sale. I plan to create illustration packages on various topics. This will be useful for designers and just people who want to get original posters for their apartment or arrange wedding invitations, for example. There are a lot of opportunities.Screen Shot 2019-08-30 at 4.52.19 PM

TTA: How can people support you on your journey?

AK: Every creator, whether an author, illustrator or musician, wants his work to be seen. I share my illustrations on my Instagram page, and I am very pleased to receive feedback on what I am doing, various questions and tips. This is the best support.

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TTA: What book was your favorite in 2019 so far?

AK: My favorite book that I worked on in 2019 is Aviva Brown’s book, Ezra’s BIG Shabbat Question. Together we put a lot of time and effort into it. And the result is amazing. And if we are talking about a booScreen Shot 2019-08-30 at 5.05.14 PMk I read, then it is Five Feet Apart. I’m just in love.

TTA: What are you looking forward to in the coming year?

AK: I can have a lot of plans, but everything changes so quickly that it makes no sense. I meet new interesting people, get cool projects and everything is going better than I expected. I just want to keep doing my job and getting better.


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Stay Connected with Anastasia!

You can find her on instagram: @ealince

and at her online portfolio!

A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks

Written by: Alice Faye Duncan

Illustrated by: Xia Gordon

For ages: 4 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Poetry, Black Culture & Identity, Women Poets, Own Voices, Trailblazer, Historical Figure, Historical Events.

Summary: This book is a fascinating rendition of poetry surrounding Gwendolyn Brooks, some of it is her own poetry and some is the author’s.  The author creates her own song to celebrate Brooks, and text winds around beautiful illustrations.  This book is very hard to describe, it’s more of an immersive experience than a traditional story!

Gwendolyn was born in Kansas but spent most of her life in Chicago.  Her parents were extremely supportive of her gift with words, and fought back against a teacher who accused Gwendolyn of plagiarizing.  Brooks wrote tons of poetry throughout her entire life, and sought inspiration from what she saw outside her window.  She was the first Black Pulitzer Prize winner, being awarded this high honor in 1950.  An author’s note with more concrete details about the life of Brooks is in the back, including a detailed timeline spanning two pages and suggested readings by Brooks herself!

Reflection Questions:

  • What do you know about poetry?
  • Do you think songs and poems are the same thing?
  • Have you ever been accused of something you didn’t do?
  • How did that make you feel?
  • How do you think Gwendolyn felt when her mother believed her, and defended her to the teacher that thought she was plagiarizing?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

M6beHbvg_400x400In the words of Alice Faye Duncan herself:

I am my mother’s only child and Memphis is my home. I went to library school at the University of Tennessee (Knoxville). While there, Professor Glenn Estes introduced me to picture books. At the University of Memphis, I took a Children’s Literature Class from Professor Ramona Mahood. She introduced me to author, Charles Turner, who inspired me to write WILLIE JEROME–my very first book. Macmillan published it in 1995. Picture books are my favorite to write! They allow me to “sing” without a music education or singing voice. YOU DON’T WANT ME TO SING. Really. 

I discovered the poets, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks, when I was a child searching the crowded shelves in my parents’ personal library.  While I loved each poet, my early writing was most similar to Paul Laurence Dunbar.  I wrote for the ear to hear and the voice to speak words like I heard them spoken in school, church and the sundry store. Langston, Gwen and I, have Dunbar in common.  It was Paul Laurence Dunbar who moved us early in life to make words our vocation. Words are my work and my pathway to words began with poetry.  

My picture books include biographies of Black artists and moments in American History seldom told. I also write lyrical stories that celebrate the sustaining power of love between a mother and child. My books are illustrated by award winning artists like Gregory Christie, Xia Gordon, Charnelle Pinkney Barlow (YES! of the Famous Pinkney Family) and Mary Uhles. MEMPHIS, MARTIN AND THE MOUNTAINTOP won a 2019 Coretta Scott Honor Medal for illustrations.

28539_profile_1382809390Xia Gordon is an Ignatz-nominated cartoonist and illustrator living in Brooklyn, NY. She grew up in Orlando, FL and graduated from the School of Visual Arts with a BFA in Cartooning & Illustration in 2016. She studied as a Teaching Assistant Intern at the Robert Black Burn Printmaking Worskshop in 2016 and was a Visiting Artist at the Center for Cartoon Studies in 2018.

Her comic Kindling was published by 2dcloud in early 2017 and was named one of The Comic Journal’s Best Comics of 2017 and 2018. She also Illustrated A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks written by Alice Faye Duncan (Sterling Children’s Books.)

Selected Clients: The New Yorker, The Atlantic, New York Times, Penguin Random House (Classics)VICE NewsBuzzfeed News, Lenny Letter, Narratively, The Baffler.

Some nice words from: Philippe LeBlanc at ComicsBeat, Ardo Omer at Book Riot, and Rob Clough of High-Low Comics.

Interview for FRESH at Communication Arts.

 

 

Ezra’s BIG Shabbat Question

Written by: Aviva L. Brown

Illustrated by: Anastasia Kanavaliuk

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English & Hebrew (glossary included)

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Judaism, Family, Love, Education, Culture & Traditions, Global Community, Jewish Culture & Identity. 

Summary: This book is so great!  The world of children’s literature desperately needs more diversity, and this book fills several gaps.  Having more main characters of color, especially a family that is Jewish is much needed.  Ezra’s family is interracial, and celebrate Shabbat weekly.

Ezra is a bright, curious character.  He loves being Jewish, and asking questions.  One of his favorite days is Shabbat, because no one does any work.  This gets Ezra thinking, what is considered work?  Can knots be tied?  Can Ezra even tie his shoes on Shabbat??  Wandering around the house, Ezra asks each of his siblings his BIG question but none of them can enlighten him.  Ezra’s mother says she will look it up, and then his dad arrives home just in time for Shabbat.  His BIG question will have to wait!  The reader is introduced to a few vocabulary words and concepts related to Shabbat, as well as the blessing that Ezra’s mom sings.  The next morning, shoes still untied, Ezra is able to track down Rabbi Andy to ask his BIG question.  Rabbi Andy explains that people follow Judaism all over the world, and everyone interprets the rules a little differently.  This makes sense to Ezra, but he’s still unsure on if HIS family is allowed to tie knots, even temporary ones, on Shabbat.  As Ezra goes into the sanctuary for the start of services, he bumps into his dad who tells Ezra to tie his shoes.

This book does a great job of explaining the nuances of the religion, and presenting a simple question that adults may not consider but is very important to young people.  Another small side plot of this story we found particularly funny is that in the beginning Ezra wonders if the cat thinks in English, but in several places throughout the story we see thought bubbles above their two cats and they’re in fact NOT thinking in English!  This book does a fantastic job introducing a young audience to Judaism without knocking the reader over the head.  The story is believable, the illustrations are adorable, and the reader is left wanting to know what other BIG questions Ezra has.  We can’t wait to see what this author publishes next!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

web+bio+picAviva Brown and her children converted to Judaism in 2017, but during the preceeding years of Jewish study, she noticed a lack of diversity among Jewish children’s literature.  In late 2018, Aviva read a quote by author Beverly Cleary: If you don’t see the book you want on the shelf, write it.  So, she did.

In 2019, Aviva founded SpringLight Publishing to publish her books, with the goal of eventually publishing diverse picture books by other independent authors.

Aviva currently lives in North Carolina with her husband, two cats, and four wild animals who sometimes pretend they’re well-mannered children.  When she’s not writing, editing, or reading diverse kidlit, she can be found hiding from housework (well, you can try, but she’s super good at hiding), eating popcorn, or singing show tunes.

Screen Shot 2019-08-23 at 11.03.42 AMAnastasia Kanavaliuk is hard to find on the internet!  Her Instagram handle is here, and we think she’s so incredibly talented! 

Sound Off Saturday Featuring: Aviva Brown!

Happy Saturday!  We are SO EXCITED to be able to feature this powerhouse, Aviva Brown!  Aviva is one of the first people we “met” on Instagram when we started our account, and we’ve been keeping in regular contact ever since.  Aviva is knowledgable, funny, and definitely not afraid to laugh at herself as she shares funny life situations on her entertaining Instagram stories.  We are thrilled that she was able to publish her first book at the end of July, and see a shining bright future for her!  We hope you enjoy reading this interview, but make sure that after you’re done you go outside and enjoy some of this end of summer warm weather.

This is actually the first of 3 posts around Aviva and her new book!  Our next book review post on Tuesday is Ezra’s BIG Shabbat Question, and for our next Sound Off Saturday post, we were able to interview Aviva’s talented illustrator Anastasia!  Whew, we have to go lie in a hammock for a bit, it’s getting too exciting around here 😉  Tiny Activists, out!

The Tiny Activist: Introduce yourself/your organization!

IMG_3930Aviva Brown: Hey, peeps!  I’m Aviva Brown and I self-publish children’s picture books about Jewish kids of Color.  I’ve been married to my incredible spouse for 12 years and we have four amazing children that get on our nerves, cover us in kisses, and make our lives…unpredictable.  My oldest child is 11 and my youngest turns 1 in September. My children and I converted to Judaism in 2017, and my husband just finished his conversion in August 2019.

TTA: What are you passionate about?

AB: I’m passionate about so many things that I burned out on activism because I tried to do every. single. thing.  These days I’ve limited my focus to two areas–finding, reading, reviewing, and creating books about diverse populations, and working on immigration issues.  

I’m currently the chair of my synagogue’s Immigration Sub-Committee.  We’ve held an ID drive for undocumented immigrants, which many businesses and the police department in our small city will recognize as legitimate identification.  We partnered with a mostly Latinx Christian congregation for a program called Stranger 2 Neighbor, where we met several times in Fall 2018 to exchange information about our different cultures.  It went so well, we’ve kept in touch and are planning a community service project this fall.

imagesWe also maintain an Immigration Relief Fund, which congregants donate to, and partner with a local organization, Faith Action International House, to provide monetary relief to families who have had family members detained by ICE.  We’re also currently planning a trip this winter to Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, GA.

TTA: Tell us about a project you’re currently working on!

81WeUn5RNjLAB: My first picture book, Ezra’s BIG Shabbat Question, was just released July 30th, so I’m currently working on getting it on peoples’ radar and selling it.  I’ve also started work on my second book, Ora: Summer Camp Stowaway, already.  My goal is to release it in spring 2020.  I’m really excited to bring stories about Jews of Color to the children’s market.  Kids need to see themselves in books so that they know they matter. That’s my mission.

TTA: How can people support you on your journey?

AB: The easiest way to support my journey would be to purchase copies of my book. Ha!  However, I know that’s not possible for everyone. If you know someone who might be interested, though, tell them.  Follow my social media accounts and help me build an audience of like-minded parents, grandparents, and educators who understand how important diversity is in kids books.

TTA: What book was your favorite in 2019 so far?

91GKSSOobOLAB: My favorite children’s book this year is Lubna and Pebble.  It’s about a little girl who lives in a refugee tent city where her pebble is her only friend.  She eventually makes a human friend, and when it is time for her family to leave, she leaves Pebble with him.  Such a sweet story.

TTA: What are you looking forward to in The coming year?

AB: If I can pull it off, I hope to release two books in 2020, and mentor other self-publishing authors.  There were so many things I had to spend hours researching or learn on the fly.  If I can save another writer that research time, hopefully more people will add their voices and stories to the kidlit world.  We need them!

Keep Connected with Aviva!

Website

Instagram

Facebook

Wilma’s Way Home, The Life of Wilma Mankiller

Written by: Doreen Rappaport

Illustrated by: Linda Kukuk

For ages: 5 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Indigenous Voices, Cherokee Nation, Trailblazer, Feminism, Activism, Politics, Historical Figure, Historic Events, Family, Women in Government, Women in Leadership, Community.

Summary: This is a story about the amazing life of Wilma Mankiller, Cherokee woman and first chief of their tribal nation.  This book is unique in that on each page there are quotes by Mankiller that reinforce the information written on the page by the author.  These quotes are bold and bright green, making it easy to see and hear Wilma’s voice within the story. Wilma was born in Oklahoma and lived there for her childhood until the government mandated that indigenous people be relocated, and her family was sent to San Francisco.  She married at 18, had two daughters, and continued to invest her time and energy into bettering life for her Cherokee community.  She struggled to reconnect to her Cherokee heritage, and began visiting the Oakland Indian Center regularly.  Becoming a champion for Native activists (including her own siblings!) Wilma raised money and awareness when Indigenous activists held Alcatraz island for 19 months before being forcibly removed.  The book also details her long recovery from a car accident, and how the community rallied together to support her during those trying months of recuperation.

This book covers a huge amount of information, but it is not presented in an overwhelming way.  The life of Wilma Mankiller is fascinating, and the reader is left wanting more!  It addresses the modern atrocities that our government has continually enacted upon the Indigenous populations that live in the United States in a developmentally appropriate way but at the same time does not shy away or try to sugarcoat the emotional impact that the Cherokee community is still reeling from today.

Reflection Questions:

  • Why do you think children made fun of Wilma’s last name?
  • How do you think Wilma felt when she had to justify her own interests in her Cherokee heritage?
  • What is a question you wish you could ask Wilma?
  • What do you know about holding an election or running for office?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

doreenphotosmallDoreen Rappaport is an award-winning author of 69 nonfiction books that celebrate multiculturalism, history, the lives of world leaders and the stories of those she calls ‘not-yet-celebrated.’

Her books have received critical acclaim and awards for her unique ability to combine historical facts with intimate storytelling, and for finding ‘new  ways to present the lives of well-known heroes‚’ like Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt, Helen Keller and the Statue of Liberty. –  A dynamic writer-teacher-storyteller in the classroom, she is a frequent speaker at state and national educational conferences, universities, libraries, historical societies, book fairs, and community centers.  She has been a featured author at the National Portrait Gallery, National Book Festival, the Smithsonian Museum of American History and the White House.

22711_2790141w750Linda Kukuk, a life-time resident of the Oklahoma City area, is a self-taught artist.  Since the early 1960’s she has participated in numerous art shows, specializing in scratch board art.  She and her husband have traveled extensively throughout Africa, Europe, Russia, and the South Pacific, which has given her a myriad of interesting subjects to paint and draw.

Her retirement as Chief of the Commander’s Protocol Office at Tinker AFB in March 2002, has given her more time to pursue her artistic endeavors.   Since then, she has been painting mainly in watercolor and has discovered this just may be her favorite medium. She still continues with scratchwork, but is using clayboard, which allows her to add watercolor to this traditionally “black and white” medium.   Linda enjoys painting a very wide variety of subjects and considers anything to be fair game for her paper and clayboard.

Being a native Oklahoman of rich Choctaw ancestry, and having grown up in rural Oklahoma, she especially enjoys painting Native American themes.   Her Great Grandfather, Henry Pleasant Ward, was a member of the Choctaw Nation Legislature and also became Judge of Atoka County. The Ward family consisted of a number of prosperous, well respected, leaders just previous and following Oklahoma Statehood.  They are well represented in the historical book by H.F. O’Beirne, “Leaders & Leading Men of the Indian Territory, published in 1891.

She is a Signature member of ISSA (International Society of Scratchboard Artists) Two of her scratchworks were selected for the ISSA International Show in Vancouver BC, Canada in 2013. One of her scratchworks was selected for the ISSA International Show in Tucson in 2016 and two were selected for the Show in Adelaide, Australia in 2017  She has won numerous awards and purchase awards for her paintings and scratchworks throughout her career.  Linda’s work has been in the Festival of Arts in Oklahoma City, as well as the OCCC Arts Festival Oklahoma, Downtown Edmond Art Festivals, Red Earth Art Shows, Cherokee Art Market in Tulsa and Oklahoma Art Guild National Shows – all juried shows.   She participates, annually, in the OWA-Chito Festival of the Forest Art Show, which is a regional show including Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas and Missouri.

Linda is sought after, by various art associations and clubs throughout the country, to demonstrate her scratchboard techniques and watercolor on clayboard.  She loves the opportunity to show other artists what she has learned through the years.

She is represented by The Howell Gallery in Nichols Hills, Red Earth Gallery in Oklahoma City, and Tatiana Art Studio in Moscow, Russia. Many of her scratchworks and paintings are on display in public facilities, such as the Metropolitan Library, Red Earth Gallery permanent collection, Dean A. McGee Eye Institute and Choctaw Nation Clinic, Clinic Administrative Offices, Headquarters Buildings in Durant, Oklahoma  and Behavioral Health Clinic in Talihina, Oklahoma.

Linda is presently doing work for Disney Publishing, illustrating a children’s book on Chief Wilma Mankiller’s life, which is scheduled to be released in February 2019.

 “International Artist” magazine selected one of Linda’s paintings to be featured in one of their books.  The title of the book is “How Did You Paint That? 100 Ways to Paint Still Life’s and Florals Vol. II.” “International Artist Magazine” featured Linda and one of her scratchworks in their October/November 2014 issue.  She was also featured in “International Artist Magazine” Master Painters of the World, USA in the June-July 2017 issue.

In addition to art, Linda enjoys photography, travel, gardening, cooking, and holds an Extra Class Amateur Radio Operator’s license.  Believing God has given her a wonderful gift, she also enjoys sharing her artistic talent to support numerous charitable events each year.

Not Quite Snow White

Written by: Ashley Franklin

Illustrated by: Ebony Glenn

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Self-Acceptance, Racism, Self-Esteem, Social-Emotional Development, Family, Love, Friendship, Perseverance, Theatre, Own Voices.

Summary:  Tameika was born to perform.  She sings, dances, and taps everywhere she goes.  With a fantastic imagination, she breathes life into a myriad of characters such as a space cowgirl and even a pickle! Tameika has never been a princess, but luckily one day at school she spots the audition poster for Snow White-finally this is her chance!  After the audition, Tameika hears her classmates talking about her.  She can’t be a princess, she’s too tall.  She’s too chubby. Tameika is too brown.  Her heart sinks.  Is she all of those things?  Tameika slouches and sucks in her tummy, but the brownness remains.  Tameika slumps home and doesn’t sing through dinner like usual.  Before bed, her parents are finally able to get what’s wrong out of her.  Tameika’s father assures her that Snow White isn’t real, but Tameika is his real-life princess.  Her mother tells Tameika that she’s the one who has it wrong-she’s just tall enough, just brown enough to be a princess.  Heartened by this, Tameika begins to feel better.  At the second day of auditions, Tameika sings her heart out.  She is in fact, perfect amounts of everything to be a princess. Specifically, Snow White.

This book is so important.  It nails the crux of the issue-there is too little representation in the media that children consume.  We are used to seeing white princesses that are petite and beautiful with flowing blond hair.  Without diverse role models, children believe that they can’t in fact be what interests them.  We see this dilemma of the single story with fairy-tales, women in STEM careers, and men in careers that are deemed “feminine” like nursing and dancing.  The racial diversity or lack thereof is a plague that children subconsciously become imprinted with, and this develops into beliefs like the ones that Tameika’s classmates were spouting off behind her back.  By having these conversations in books and with young children, coupled with reading and creating an intentional bookshelf we can begin to combat these harmful notions that not everyone can achieve anything.

Reflection Questions:

  • What would you say to someone that you overheard talking about someone else?
  • Has there ever been a time that you felt the way Tameika did when she heard others judging her appearance?
  • What do you think a princess looks like?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Have you ever acted in a play?  You can turn your favorite classroom stories into short and fun plays to perform for other classes or each other.  Some ones that have been popular in classrooms we have been in are King Bidgood and The Book With No Pictures. These were adapted from the books into short plays with simple lines that 4-5 year old students could memorize and perform.
  • Have class visitors that would be deemed “unconventional” visit your class.  A female pilot, male dancer, a non-binary actor.  Begin to show the representations you feel are lacking in books and the media that your classroom or family consume.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Ashley.Franklin headshotAshley Franklin is the author and this is her debut book!  Here is a fantastic interview with KidLit TV, which I bet you’ll enjoy! Ashley Franklin is represented by Kathleen Rushall of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Her debut picture book, NOT QUITE SNOW WHITE, was published in Summer 2019 by Harper Collins. Ashley received her M.A. from the University of Delaware in English Literature. She currently resides in Arkansas with her husband and two sons, ages 6 and 4.

 

 

IMG_2487-copyEbony is also the proud recipient of the 2018 Wonders of Childhood Focus Fellowship, an award given by AIR Serenbe, a nonprofit artist residency program of the Serenbe Institute in Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia.  We’ve even talked about Ebony before when reviewing the book Mommy’s Khimar as well as featured her on one of our Sound Off Saturday posts!

A passion for the arts, great storytelling, and advocating diversity in children’s books, she aims to create illustrations that will foster a love of reading in young readers.  She also loves to create joyful and heartwarming crafts to satisfy her endless need to always make new things.

When Ebony is not giving in to her creative itch of art-making, you may find her lost in the pages of a good book, learning some new hula-hooping tricks, or going on an adventure with her pups, Louie and Gabby.

Tiger Boy

Written by: Mitali Perkins

For ages: YA Book

Language: English, some Bangla.

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Bangladeshi Culture & Traditions, Environmental Activism, Education, Social-Emotional Development.

Summary: The span of the plot in this story is only a few days, but the growth of the main character Neel seems much bigger than that.  Neel is a gifted student and has been given the opportunity to take a huge exam in attempt to win a scholarship for a school a few hours from his small island village.  Neel is resistant, because he doesn’t like math.  He also wants to stay in his village and learn to live off the land and carpentry skills like his father.  Neel’s father currently works for a rich but mean man named Gupta.  When a baby tiger escapes from the local nature reserve, Neel and his friends learn that Gupta plans to catch the cub and sell it on the black market.  Neel and his sister Rupa decide they must catch the cub and return it, because they have learned from their father to honor and protect nature.  During their nighttime searches, Neel also learns the value of the math he doesn’t want to study for when he draws a map of the island to look for hiding spots that the tiger might be living in.  The plot is driven by the fact that Neel and Rupa’s father is being paid by Gupta to hunt for the cub, because he wants to pay for a tutor for Neel.  Upon discovering the cub in a cave, Neel and Rupa race to the shore where there are small boats they can row over to return the cub.  We won’t spoil the end of the book, but Neel learns that he must leave his small village for a short amount of time in order to be able to return, armed with the knowledge to keep his village’s flora and fauna healthy and safe.  Great read!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

largeMitali Perkins has written twelve books for young readers, including Between Us and AbuelaForward Me Back To You,You Bring the Distant Near, and Rickshaw Girl, all of which explore crossing different kinds of borders. She was honored as a “Most Engaging Author” by independent booksellers across the country and has addressed a diversity of audiences in schools and libraries, as well as at festivals and conferences. Mitali was born in Kolkata, India before immigrating to the United States. She has lived in Bangladesh, India, England, Thailand, Mexico, Cameroon, and Ghana, studied Political Science at Stanford and Public Policy at U.C. Berkeley, and currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.