KidLit in Color author Valerie Bolling was thrilled to have had the opportunity to interview prolific picture book author, Alice Faye Duncan. This is an interview you don’t want to miss! So let’s begin …
CONGRATULATIONS, Alice, on your twin book birthday! Two books releasing on the same day – TODAY, January 11, 2022 -- is truly special and a reason for celebration.
I’m curious to know how these books, EVICTED! — THE STRUGGLE FOR THE RIGHT TO VOTE (Astra Publishing), illustrated by Charly Palmer, and OPAL LEE AND WHAT IT MEANS TO BE FREE (HarperCollins), illustrated by Keturah Bobo, are connected and what makes them different. In other words, why should we have them in our personal, public, and school libraries?
My books amplify unfamiliar moments in American History.
EVICTED! — THE STRUGGLE FOR THE RIGHT TO VOTE is the story of Black sharecroppers in Tennessee, who laid the foundation for Freedom Summer and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Children are unaware of this critical history (adults too). I live fifty miles from what was called the “Tent City Voting Rights Movement.” The dead would not let me rest until their story was written. EVICTED! is composed of poetry and narratives for middle and high school students. The main character is James Junior, a selective mute, who learns to raise his voice for justice.
OPAL LEE AND WHAT IT MEANS TO BE FREE is the official children’s biography of the Texas activist and grandmother, who petitioned Congress to vote and make Juneteenth a National Holiday. The book is also a history of Juneteenth written as a “call and response.” To engage readers further, the text includes a recipe for red Juneteenth punch. OPAL LEE is suited for ages PK- 3rd grade.
Here are summaries of both books composed as Diamante Poems.
What a creative, poetic way to summarize your stories, Alice. In addition to being a poet, you’re a master of nonfiction. Why do you love this genre?
Non-fiction is a boon to my soul because research for each book starts me on a journey to places unknown. I am sure of one thing. During the writing process, I will meet people (dead and alive) who have something urgent to say for now and later. The message is for me, first. Then I pass it on to the reader. Here is a Golden Shovel poem. I wrote it to inspire writers from all genres. The reference source is Gwendolyn Brooks’ “Paul Robeson.”
I’m loving these poems! And it’s clear you love research. What, specifically, did you learn that you didn’t already know before researching these books?
Writing OPAL LEE AND WHAT IT MEANS TO BE FREE gave me an understanding of how the Union Army won the Civil War. When the Emancipation Proclamation freed the enslaved living in the Southern states, Black soldiers joined the Union. And research supports that because of the additional Black forces—the Union prevailed.
Writing EVICTED! —THE STRUGGLE FOR THE RIGHT TO VOTE gave me a full understanding of Ella Baker and the “herstorical” impact she made to the Civil Rights Movement. I call Miss Baker a “King Maker” because she “discipled” Dr. King, encouraged him to build on the momentum of the Montgomery Bus boycott, and to use that energy to abolish legal segregation completely. Dr. King listened … and it worked.
What suggestions do you have for parents and teachers to help young readers engage further with your books?
Here are some ways to make my two books INTERACTIVE AND FUN:
EVICTED! —THE STRUGGLE FOR THE RIGHT TO VOTE
OPAL LEE AND WHAT IT MEANS TO BE FREE
I agree with you, Alice: “Every day is a good time to celebrate liberation and democracy.” Please let us know what we can expect next from you.
I have two new picture books in the works. They include YELLOW DOG BLUES (Fall 2022—Eerdmans Press) a fable about love and loss illustrated by Chris Raschka. And there is CORETTA’S JOURNEY (Fall 2023—Astra Publishing) a cosmic biography of Mrs. King and her life as rebel, activist, and prophet.
I look forward to reading those books and anything else that you write, Alice. Thank you for sharing details about your most recent books, insights about nonfiction, and a poetry lesson. Again, Happy Birthday to both of these wonderful books!