School Visits

morningMorning in a Different Place

By Mary Ann McGuigan

A young adult novel for ages 12 and up

A Junior Library Guild Selection

“History buffs will appreciate the visceral reminder of how much Kennedy’s beliefs meant to the black community, and how devastating was his death.” —Booklist

“McGuigan is as adept at evoking the class consciousness and racial politics of ’60s New York as she is the horrors of adolescence, including insecurity and helplessness. With the twin evils of domestic violence and President Kennedy’s assassination looming in the background, the author’s portrait of the chameleonic nature of teenage girls builds aggressively to a powerful finale.” —Kirkus


The Story of an Interracial Friendship in a Turbulent Time

Morning in a Different Place tells the story of a friendship between two 13-year-old girls in the Bronx in 1963. Why does this friendship get everyone so upset? Because Fiona is white and Yolanda is black and in the Bronx in the 1960s, that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. The story unfolds during the weeks approaching the death of John F. Kennedy and concludes on the day of the assassination. It was a time of change. The Civil Rights movement was challenging the status quo, and the racial mix of neighborhoods in the Bronx was changing in a way that many didn’t welcome.

With social upheaval all around her, Fiona faces her own moral crossroads. Her family’s escape from her abusive, alcoholic father turns out to be as fleeting as his sobriety. At school, the popular girls ignore Fiona. Her family’s new start offers her the hope of finally being accepted by her peers. But her friendship with Yolanda is not something her new friends will tolerate, and so Fiona deceives both Yolanda and herself as she tries to make a life. When she realizes that her father is drinking again and her mother is in danger, Fiona sees that the price of acceptance—her mother’s safety and her friendship with Yolanda—is one she’s unwilling to pay. As she comes to understand what is truly worth having, Fiona follows the example of Yolanda’s heroes—Civil Rights workers who stood up to fire hoses and police dogs. She makes a plan to protect her mother and finds the courage to defend her friendship with Yolanda.


Author Visit and Class Discussion (Grades 6 through 9)

The novel’s historical setting and the issues it treats make it an excellent vehicle for using fiction to teach topics in both language arts and social studies. My visit consists of a reading and discussion of Chapter 5. I provide the chapter in advance to photocopy for each student attending. I also provide targeted questions and lead the discussion, challenging the students to draw evidence from the chapter and encouraging critical thinking, problem solving, and analytical skills, as outlined in Common Core Standards.

Themes discussed: Interracial friendship, the Civil Rights Movement, effects of poverty, teenage drinking.

Common Core Standards applied: The following anchor standards for reading in grades 7 and 8 are encouraged as part of the discussion of the chapter.


Key Ideas and Details Craft and Structure
Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.
Analyze how particular elements of a story or drama interact (e.g., how setting shapes the characters or plot).
Analyze how an author develops and contrasts the points of view of different characters or narrators in a text.
Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision.
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.
Analyze how differences in the points of view of the characters and the audience or reader (e.g., created through the use of dramatic irony) create such effects as suspense or humor.


Time needed: One class period.

Cost: $200 per session. I provide a copy of Chapter 5 in advance for photocopying, so that all interested students may participate, not just those who purchase books. For schools purchasing at least 10 books, the cost of the visit is reduced to $150.

Book discount: Boyds Mills Press offers a 40% discount on list price ($17.95) for quantities of at least five books purchased for an author’s school visit. To order books, call Perseus Books at 1-800-343-4499 for information or send your request to If you indicate the order is for “author signing,” any books not sold may be returned.

To arrange an author visit: Contact Mary Ann McGuigan at 201-653-7669 or via email at


About the Author

mary-ann-photoMary Ann McGuigan is the author of three novels for young adults. Two of them—Cloud Dancer, set in Jersey City, and Where You Belong—were chosen by the New York Public Library as Best Books for the Teen Age. Where You Belong was a finalist for the National Book Award. Morning in a Different Place was an Honor Book for the Paterson Prize for Books for Young Readers and was chosen by the Junior Library Guild for its recommended list. Mary Ann has also served as a judge for the National Book Award for young people’s literature. Her novel Crossing Into Brooklyn will appear by published by Merit Press in August.

Mary Ann’s short fiction and essays appear in newspapers and literary journals. She lives in Jersey City and attended public schools there, including P.S. #20 and Snyder High School. A graduate of St. Peter’s College, Mary Ann taught English for eight years and later became executive editor and publisher of Bloomberg Press in New York, publishing books on finance and the economy. She was also managing editor of two of Bloomberg’s financial journals.