From debut author Alyssa Hollingsworth comes a story about living with fear, being a friend, and finding a new place to call home. They say you can’t get something for nothing, but nothing is all Sami has. When his grandfather’s most-prized possession—a traditional Afghan instrument called a rebab—is stolen, Sami resolves to get it back. He finds it at a music store, but it costs $700, and Sami doesn’t have even one penny. What he does have is a keychain that has caught the eye of his classmate. If he trades the keychain for something more valuable, could he keep trading until he has $700? Sami is about to find out. The Eleventh Trade is both a classic middle school story and a story about being a refugee. Like Katherine Applegate, author of Wishtree, Alyssa Hollingsworth tackles a big issue with a light touch.
Alyssa was born in small-town Milton, Florida, but life as a roving military kid soon mellowed her (unintelligibly strong) Southern accent. Wanderlust is in her blood, and she’s always waiting for the wind to change. Stories remain her constant.
Alyssa received her BA in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing from Berry College and her MA with honors in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University. In 2013, she won a prize from the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity for her creative non-fiction essay, Naan in the Afghan Village. She is represented by Amber Caraveo at Skylark Literary. Her debut is THE ELEVENTH TRADE, published by Roaring Brook/Macmillan (U.S.) and Piccadilly Press (U.K.).
Where did you originally get the idea for The Eleventh Trade?
While I was getting my post-graduate degree, I was given an assignment to draft a short story for a book I’d never ever actually write. A book that would be soooooo far out of my comfort zone, I’d never do it. At the time, I was working on a Young Adult project about mermaids and magic — so I figured the opposite of that would be a contemporary story for 8-12s! I thought about books I enjoyed reading in that age range, and then blended those ideas with themes I’m passionate about (like refugees and family) and topics I wanted to learn about (like trauma and healing). At the end of the assignment, I had the basic bones of the story that would become The Eleventh Trade!
What was the hardest part about creating The Eleventh Trade?
There were a lot of aspects of this book that were far out of my comfort zone, including but not limited to: I’m not Afghan, I’m not a Muslim, I didn’t go to public school, I never played soccer, I’m not a boy, I’ve never lived in Boston… The list goes on and on. As I wrote, I had to constantly fight fear that I wouldn’t be able to capture these experiences well. But in those places where I didn’t have firsthand knowledge, I was able to reach out to a huge community of friends all around the world. They stepped in as the experts, and my job was merely to learn from them and work their knowledge into this story.