Two Montrosians Win Top Honors in MA for Letters for Literature Contest

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(Credit: Samantha Martin)

Maevis Fahey '21, Editor-in-Chief

There are many words to describe Montrosians: driven, confident, kind. But another word that certainly describes all of us would be… busy.

Since the beginning of quarantine, students have experienced a newfound sense of relaxation while we stay at home and attend classes remotely. Agreeably, more sleep and less homework are a really a recipe for happy Montrose girls. But before quarantine, we all experienced different levels of stress during our regular school routine. It’s hard to find time for anything outside of our schoolwork and extracurriculars, not to mention our family and friendships.

Last December, two Montrosians took up the challenge to pause and reflect amidst one of the most exciting and busy times of the year. Every year, the Letters About Literature Contest invites students across the country to write a letter to the author of a book that inspired them to think deeply. Spandana Vagwala ‘22 and Mary Connolly ‘24 both submitted letters and won Honors in Massachusetts!

Sadly, the winners are usually invited to our State House in honor of their work, but the event was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Nonetheless, Spandana and Mary have made our school community proud, and their hard work exemplifies what it means to pause and reflect — a fitting lesson during our time at home.

Mary Connolly ‘24 wrote about Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts by Erica Moroz, Gregory Mone, and Susan Cain. “I wrote my piece about my brother and understanding him, because he’s really quiet and I’m not,” shared Mary. “The book explains why introverts are good for this world and why they’re so needed in society.”

From the perspective of students, the relationships between extroverts and introverts is incredibly relevant inside the classroom. The role of introverts and extroverts often differs, especially through the lens of an important aspect of our grades — class participation. While extroverts tend to feel more inclined to “talk things out” and raise their hand in class, introverts often feel more comfortable absorbing the class and their thoughts through listening.

Mary said: “I’ve thought about the topic of introverts more because of this book. I hadn’t thought about introverts and extroverts from the perspective of my own life until I read it.”

Spandana Vagwala ‘22 wrote about You Bring The Distant Near by Mitali Perkins. “It’s about three generations of the same family. Some of them are born and raised in India, others grow up here in America,” she said. The book brings light to the beautiful truth found in one family’s story of immigrating to the United States.

“I read You Bring The Distant Near during Enrichment and I was just really grateful for that book,” Spandana said. “Growing up, and even now, there’s really a lack of Indian representation in the media — different books we read and shows we watch. And even if there is [Indian representation], they always tend to portray the characters in the same way.”

In her letter to Mitali Perkins, Spandana discusses stereotypical Indian characters like Baljeet from Phineas and Ferb and Ravi from Jessie. Growing up, TV shows and other children’s media for Gen-Z lacked true Indian representation and only perpetuated stereotypes. “Every time I watched those, I would think and reflect,” Spandana said. “It was relieving to really articulate everything I’d thought about for a long time [while writing the letter].”

Montrose recently featured Mary and Spandana in an Instagram post when they received their awards. Excitingly, Mitali Perkins heard about Spandana’s accomplishment and asked to read the letter she wrote! Although all submissions to the Letters About Literature Contest are addressed to an author, Spandana’s will truly reach its recipient.

The Letters About Literature Contest gave Spandana and Mary an opportunity to think deeper about the messages they discovered in books like Quiet Power and You Bring The Distant Near. While in quarantine, both girls agreed that the opportunity to write their letters still impacts them today.

Mary shared: “I feel like the topic [of introverts] is very relevant right now because everyone’s finding their personality in isolation. You’re not around other people. You’re thinking about your personality more inside yourself, because you don’t get to be as extroverted.”

Spandana also shared that she hopes to continue writing in quarantine. She said: “I really enjoyed this kind of writing– you’re reflecting on the book and relating it to your experiences in your own life. I can definitely explore this field or writing, especially now that I have more time on my hands.”

Congratulations to Mary and Spandana on your accomplishments in the Letters About Literature Contest!

You can also view Spandana’s award-winning letter on the Walrus, our hub for student writing and creativity.

Maevis Fahey ’21, Editor-in-Chief

21mfahey@montroseschool.org