Guest Post by Kataneh Vahdani, author of Kat and Juju, out this month from Two Lions Press.
I remember when I was a little girl growing up in Iran, I was told a career in art will never take me anywhere. But I kept on saying that one day I will use my voice and share my stories with the world!
After many years, I’m grateful to have a platform and can use my voice and share my stories. I am not the lucky one, I am the responsible one!
Today I want to share with you the raw journey and what was the seed of my story, Kat and Juju. This is not a fairy tale, but it still has wings.
GRATITUDE FOR THE SCARS
I grew up with abuse and lots of fears as a child. I used to hide under the dining room table wishing I could disappear. My kind mother always tried to lift me up, but I felt my wings were broken. After my mother, little brother, and I immigrated to America with few suitcases and little money, I had a second chance. But all those childhood fears and doubts were stopping me to truly believe in myself. I used to be embarrassed of being an immigrant and to have an accent. But today I realized all those scars are seeds behind our stories. Our accents and being immigrants are not weaknesses but our superpower!
“Life is a strange sense experienced by migrating bird.” Sohrab Sepehri
STORIES WITH HEARTBEATS
Many have asked me how I come up with my story ideas. During my journey I have realized stories that are coming from a real event and a true experience are the ones that the readers can connect with the most.
Kat and Juju is a story about being different and afraid of judgments of others. What if I can’t? What if others laugh at me! I must stay inside the lines.
There was a time when my anxieties got worse, and I faced a dark period when I couldn’t find the strength to move on. But then one day I found a fallen baby bird, my Juju! I raised Juju without a cage. He grew up to become a wild meat-eater bird, but we connected like friends. I learned acceptance from my Juju. I learned to believe that I am braver than I think.
When I started writing and illustrating my story idea, I realized it has a heartbeat and that was the beginning of the journey of Kat and Juju.
THE ART OF LETTING GO
They say everything we want is on the other side of fears. One of the hardest moments was when Juju flew away. I had a choice to go back to the dark place, wishing I could be invisible—or I could learn to let go. I chose to face my fears and believe that I am strong.
I hope my story inspires you to face your fears, believe you can, open your wings and fly high!
“Sometimes you just gotta let go and Jump,” Said Juju to Kat.
Kat and Juju
by Katenah Vahdani
Two Lions Press
July 1, 2020
Kataneh Vahdani is a director, animation creator, storyteller and a professor. She was born in Iran but came to the United States in pursuit of her dream: to have a voice and be free. After receiving a degree in Mathematics, she enrolled at California Institute of the Arts, spending seven years studying animation and earning her master’s degree. She later continued her education in Paris, France. Kataneh’s animated films have been screened at many festivals, including the Sundance Film Festival and the New York International Film Festival, where she was named Best Director of Animated Shorts. She worked for many years in the story department at Walt Disney Animation Studios and also taught story, design, and animation at CalArts and College of the Canyons. Kataneh is currently directing an animated feature. Kat and Juju is Kataneh’s first picture book.