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In 1973, 12-year-old Karen Boutilier Kendall was invited by actress Shirley MacLaine to become the youngest member of the First American Women’s Friendship Delegation to China.
The delegation consisted of 12 women including a four-woman film crew and Boutilier Kendall. The resulting Oscar nominated documentary, “The Other Half of the Sky: a China Memoir” aired in 1975. This life-altering experience was preceded by a most unusual childhood.
She lived, breathed and experienced history in a way that exposed her to amazing, fascinating and sometimes frightening situations.
Boutilier Kendall was the daughter of a minister raised during the ‘60s, but her father did not fit any conventional stereotypes of a minister.
Boutilier Kendall had grown up living in communal strike houses, walking United Farm Worker picket lines, working on political campaigns, surviving the violence of Washington, D.C. and the Poor People’s Campaign, as well as attending marches and protest rallies for civil rights and the anti-war movement.
After hearing her stories, Boutilier Kendall’s family and friends encouraged her to start writing her experiences down.
She followed their advice and in May 2009, her autobiography, “Berkeley to Beijing: Journey of a Young Activtist” was published.
Boutilier Kendall said she is excited to share a few of her stories during the Authors Speak presentation at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Mesa Public Library.
“I plan on sharing some stories about some particular protests in a school,” Boutilier Kendall said. She added she also plans to read some specific stories in the book and about her travels in China.
The presentation will not be just Boutilier Kendall talking. She is looking forward to a question and answer session with the audience.
“I’ve gone to the lecture series a number of times … and I’m looking forward to the interaction and I am really looking forward to Q and A more than anything because of the interection,” Boutilier Kendall said. “I think the nice thing about the Author Speaks is it gives you a chance to ask questions of authors you already read and to discover new authors.”
She added she hopes readers learn from her own perspective on history.
“I love biographies because I think it is a great way to see history from the indivual’s point of view,” she said.
Additionally, Boutilier said her main message to readers is although there are negative things in life, the bad events don’t define a life.
“Basically (you need to) take those experiences that were negative and use them as a learning tool,” she said.
There is also a message to young adult years. “Overall message is positive and hopeful,” she said.
Even though you may be a teenager, you can control the destiny in your life.”
For more information, visit Boutilier Kendall’s Web site, www.kbkendall.com.