Real Talk with Mae Jemison
In 1992, Mae Jemison was the first Black woman astronaut to travel into space. In February 2021, she published a new edition of Find Where the Wind Goes, an autobiography for young people. TFK Kid Reporter Bellen Woodard spoke with Jemison about her life and book.
1. What’s it like being in space?
One thing about space that is really interesting is being able to go around the Earth every 90 minutes and see this amazing planet that way. And I did a lot of work in space. I think people miss that astronauts do a lot of work, even if they’re not training for a mission.
2. What’s the most fun thing about being in space?
Being able to float. It’s such a silly feeling!
3. What’s your book about?
The book is about how to navigate life and become the person you intend to be. [Life is] not about a job. It’s not even what you study. It’s the kind of person you want to be inside. For me, that was always about exploration, creativity, challenges, learning new things, and making a difference in the world.
4. I noticed that you use wind in the title and as a common theme in your book. Why?
It comes and it goes, and it leads you along a path. There are different types of wind. Some are very soft and subtle—they’re a little breeze. Some are incredibly strong. Those are some of the ways I think of the events that have happened in my life.
5. On the book’s cover, you’re wearing one earring. It’s a feather. Is there a reason you chose it?
In the book, I talk about arriving in New York City for medical school, and I had a feather in my ear. I used to wear just one feather earring in college a lot.
6. You’ve written that you love cats and feel they have superpowers. Can you explain?
When I was growing up, we always had pets. We had dogs and cats. We even had a rabbit. But what I loved about cats was how self-confident they were. Even a small cat can still be very self-confident. Cats have these remarkable superpowers of being able to be self-confident, resilient, and flexible.
7. I heard someone say that, instead of asking kids what they want to be when they grow up, adults should ask them what they want to change. What do you think?
Let me say this: There were experiences I had growing up when I questioned the fairness of society. They helped me think about making sure people are included, and not telling folks what they can’t do just because of who society perceives them to be. That’s guided me in almost all my work. The more people’s perspectives you have, the better the ideas that come through, and the more information you have to work with.
8. I want people to be included too. What do you want to say to kids who don’t feel included?
Be who you are. Use all your talents and don’t shrink!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. It was originally published in TIME for Kids on April 30, 2021.