girls write now 1
IN MEMORY OF MONA HADDAD
October 19, 2016 by mayanussbaum
IN MEMORY OF MONA HADDAD
October 19, 2016 by MayaNussbaum
Mona Daniella Haddad (January 11, 1990 – September 26, 2016) was a Girls Write Now mentee from 2006 to 2009. Our hearts are breaking from the tragic loss of this bright young writer and beautiful soul. We invite our community to celebrate and honor her life and work.
Mona’s family has invited all who knew and loved Mona to join them at a memorial service at the Edmond J. Safra Synagogue located at 11 East 63rd Street, New York, NY 10065 on October 30: 3:00pm Tehilim (Psalms reading) and remarks from friends/family start at 5:00pm.
The following post was written by Andrea Juncos, a Girls Write Now Mentor Alumna who mentored Mona since 2006.
I had the privilege of being Mona’s mentor for three years at Girls Write Now, and in the years since then, as we remained good friends. I am deeply saddened by her death and wanted to share some memories with the Girls Write Now community, which was extremely important to her.
I met Mona when she was 16, when she first joined Girls Write Now. The Enrollment Committee somehow knew we would make a great mentor-mentee pair! We both lived on the Upper East Side, and we met regularly at the Barnes & Noble café to work on writing projects and to talk about life. We initially bonded over some shared interests and experiences — my dad is from Argentina, her mom is Brazilian; my dad and brothers play guitar, her dad studied at a conservatory and collects guitars; I went through 13 years of Catholic school, and Mona attended a Jewish school for many years. We later laughed about the fact that I learned about the birds and the bees from a nun, and in her case, from a rabbi. We also shared a love of reading and writing memoir and poetry — two of the many genres in which Mona excelled as a writer.
I was always impressed and inspired by Mona’s talents as a writer. She was brave, creative, hilarious, and original, and wrote with a strong and distinct voice. It was a joy to collaborate with her, and a couple of pieces we wrote together still stand out. One was a poem that was a conversation made up entirely of tongue twisters — an idea she had that led to lots of giggling in Barnes & Noble. She also challenged us to write a poem that has a different meaning depending on the order in which you read it — from the top to the bottom, or from the bottom up. We had a blast sharing both pieces at the Girls Write Now reading, where they were a big hit.
Mona pursued her passion for writing at several schools, always interested in learning more. In high school, she attended the University of Iowa Young Writers’ Studio and the Advanced Creative Writing Workshop at Columbia University. Later, while living in Boston, she took creative writing classes at Tufts University, and more recently, while living in Brooklyn, she studied creative nonfiction at Hunter College. She was extremely humble, but I must take a moment to highlight a few of her many accomplishments: She published pieces in Teen Ink magazine, Fifth Wednesday Journal, Hackley School’s The Vision, and Mount Holyoke’s Blackstick Review. In 2011, she won Mount Holyoke’s Kathryn Gray McFarland Memorial Prize for creative writing. I still have the email she forwarded me after learning the news, with the one line she added: “I won!”
I’m grateful that Mona shared her creative process with me; I believe writing allowed her to explore her many innovative ideas, work through questions and challenges, and develop a knowledge of herself that gave her confidence and power.
After completing her program at Girls Write Now, Mona asked me if I could continue being her mentor. I was flattered and touched, and agreed without hesitation! We have kept in touch over the years, connecting in both New York and Boston, where I live now. It has been a privilege to be part of her life and to watch her grow into such a thoughtful, compassionate, and accomplished young woman. I know that Mona went through some very difficult times, and I was always impressed with her grace and courage in facing challenges. She was a fierce advocate for others, and always supportive of her friends, including me. She was also an active member in her community, with particular interests in helping immigrants and refugees, tutoring elementary and middle school students, supporting those suffering from mental illnesses, and singing in local choruses.
She inspired me in many ways, and I will always be so proud of her.
It’s hard to process the news of Mona’s passing. She was full of promise and had a bright future ahead of her. She talked about wanting to be a writer and a therapist — and about someday being a mentor at Girls Write Now. I often told her I couldn’t wait to see what she would go on to do, and that I would be in the audience applauding her accomplishments, blubbering like a fool.
At this difficult time, I remind myself that Mona couldn’t stand the thought of other people being sad. And as a memoirist, she valued memories and the preservation of memories a great deal. I think she would want us to focus on our happiest memories of her; I know I’ll always remember how she approached the world with wonder and brought joy to everyone around her.