Posted tagged ‘Historical Fiction’

Interview with Alexandria LaFaye and Her Grand Giveaway!

January 10, 2019

img_4621Today I am privileged to interview the award-winning author, Alexandria LaFaye. Known as A. LaFaye by her readers, she is a prolific writer of fantasy books, picture books, and historical fiction. She has won numerous awards for her writing and her newest picture book, FOLLOW ME DOWN TO NICODEMUS TOWN: Based on the History of the African American Pioneer Settlement received a starred review. Readers will be delighted by Alexandria’s lively lyrical language and Nicole Tadgell’s beautiful illustrations rendered in pencil and soft watercolors. The story is about young Dede and her family who have dreams of leaving sharecropping and owning their own piece of land. To make their dreams come true, each member of the family works hard. Besides working in the fields from “sun-climb to sun-slide,” Papa makes furniture, Dede shines shoes, and Mama sews fine dresses. When Dede sees a notice offering land for colored folk in Kansas, they work even harder. This is a story about a family working together to achieve their dreams. It’s a story of pride, hope, and feeling blessed for their neighbors and friends in their new town. It’s a story that will touch your heart.

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Alexandria also has a paperback version of WALKING HOME TO ROSIE LEE that was released the same day as FOLLOW ME DOWN TO NICODEMUS TOWN that tells the story of Dede’s father searching for her grandmother after the end of the Civil War.

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I’m so happy to have you as my guest today, Alexandria. First of all, I’d like to say Follow Me Down to Nicodemus Town is a beautiful book, and I’m extremely happy to have it as part of my picture book collection.

I’m so honored to hear you say that. Thank you!

The topic of this book is a part of our American history that many people may not be familiar. What made you decide to write a picture book based on the African-American land rush of the 1870s?

If each person commits to building a society focused on social justice, equity, and cross-cultural understanding, and the power of art to transform lives, then we will all be a part of building the future we want to see—the future I long to see is one where every voice is heard, every story is told, and no chapter of history is unknown. For these reasons, I love to uncover little known elements of history—the forced removal of the Aleutian Indians (see Hesse’s Aleutian Sparrow), the amazing efforts of African-American families to reunify before and after the Emancipation Proclamation (see my book which debuts in paperback Jan. 1—Walking Home to Rosie Lee) and the story of the Exodusters who joined the land rush. Since I started the research for FOLLOW ME DOWN TO NICODEMUS TOWN, nearly every person I’ve asked about Exodusters has never even heard of them and, in my opinion, they should be well known. I want to be a small part of revealing their story.

I like your thinking.

As a writer of historical fiction, how do you keep readers engaged in the story while still being informative?

Historical fiction comes alive when we draw people into the life of a compelling character who could realistically have lived in that time. If I can bring that character’s story to life in a way that makes readers feel as if they are right alongside that character—struggling and yearning and growing, then they want to keep turning the pages. Or at least, I hope they do! It’s also important to show the historical world through the eyes of the character because they provide a unique, historically-grounded worldview that creates a literary version of time travel for the reader.

What are some of the things you do to motivate contemporary readers to embrace historical fiction in a picture book?

My primary goal is to create a character who has goals, emotions, and challenges that still resonate with contemporary readers in the hopes that kids of today realize they have something in common with the people who lived before them. As I draw readers into the character’s life, I want to introduce things readers may not have ever known or thought about before and that expands their worldview, ignites their curiosity, and inspires them to want to know more about the past, various cultures (past and present), and themselves.

Why is this genre special to you?

I’ve always loved history—the people of the past who have been such a large part of building the future I currently live in. I want to bring that fascination alive for young readers. 

In order to keep historical fiction stories accurate, research is needed. How do you approach researching an idea?

There is no single approach to research that I’ve found to be a sure-fire way to find the most accurate information, but some approaches I have used in the past—diaries, newspaper articles, academic articles by academic historians, museum collections, historical archives, first-hand accounts, national park resources, to name a few.

In 1996, President Clinton declared five historic buildings in Nicodemus part of the National Park System and made Nicodemus, Kansas a National Historic Site. Did you have the opportunity to visit Nicodemus, Kansas?  

I so wish I had. To be honest, I regret that I haven’t been able to go, but I did watch documentaries, pour over photographs, read all of the primary and secondary sources I could find about the town and the people who started the community. I’m so fortunate that the illustrator, Nicole Tadgell was able to go to Nicodemus to get the visual details just right.

What was your first impression after seeing the final illustrated version of this book?

Gratitude. I’m so grateful to Ms. Tadgell for her amazing talent. The illustrations are so full of life, historical accuracy, and beauty, I couldn’t be happier!

I agree with you. Your words and her illustrations make a fabulous story! 

Out of curiosity, why did you decide to use A. LaFaye as your author name rather than your entire first name?

Well, when you have a five syllable first name like I do, there’s a good chance that someone is going to miss a part of it. In fact, my name was misspelled as “Alexandra” on my first galley! Not only is it really tough to misspell “A,” but it’s also gender neutral and it raises a question that draws people in…what does the “A” stand for?

What can your picture book fans hope to see from you next?

I’m thrilled to say that my next project is a collaboration with the talented Lea Lyon, we’ve created a book together called Ready to Fly with illustrations by Jessica Gibson. This book is about Sylvia Townsend, an amazing African American ballet dancer and dance school founder and instructor who was denied access to dance classes as a child in 1950s California who taught herself and others how to dance ballet using books from the bookmobile. Talk about perseverance, talent, and ingenuity, she’s amazing and her story should be told and shared. The book will be published by HarperCollins in 2020. 

It sounds amazing. I can’t wait to read it. 

It has been wonderful learning more about you and your writing, Alexandria. Thank you for being a part of my blog. 

And now for Alexandria’s Great Giveaway. This talented author has agreed to give away to one lucky winner his/her choice of a free picture book critique, an autographed book, or a Skype visit. For a chance to win, leave a comment about the post below. Please note:  You must be a resident of the U.S. and at least 18 years of age to enter. The giveaway ends on Wednesday, January 16th at midnight EST. The winner will be randomly picked and announced on my blog post on Thursday, January 17th.

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You can learn more about Alexandria LaFaye at:

Website:  https://www.alafaye.com

YouTube:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0rs916zLi2y7tMAKb2aDeQ

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/alafayeauthor

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/artlafaye

 Buy A. LaFaye’s books at:

IndieBound

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

CHASING FREEDOM – A Fictional Gem

June 4, 2015

Chasing Freedom: The Journeys of Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony Inspired by Historical Facts is written by Coretta Scott King award-winning author, Nikki Grimes, and it’s illustrated by Michele Wood, a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award winner.

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Grimes has created a story that brings together two famous historical figures. She begins her story with Susan B. Anthony inviting Harriet Tubman to her home for conversation and tea before the Annual Convention of the New York State Suffrage Association. In the hours before the opening of the convention, Susan and Harriet take turns sharing memories from their lives. The reader learns of the hardships faced by both women as they stood up for their beliefs. Susan talks about her work in the antislavery and women’s rights movements. Harriet reminisces about her life as a slave and conductor on the Underground Railroad. Included in their conversation are other famous historical men and women who lived during the same time period. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Amelia Bloomer, Frederick Douglas, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Horace Greely are just a few of the figures who influenced their thinking. Grimes has used her magic with words to spin a story filled with historical facts and information. Along with the impressive illustrations by Michele Wood, this book is well-worth reading. Back matter includes short biographies of those figures mentioned in the book, an author’s note, additional notes, and a bibliography. Make sure to check this book out.

Black History Month Authors and Illustrators

February 17, 2012

Black History Month is ticking away, and my library students are busy celebrating the African American experience with books. They have discovered a wide variety of genres written and illustrated by some awesome African American writers and artists.

Picture books, poetry, folktales, historical fiction, biographies, and nonfiction have been discussed, passed around, checked out, and enjoyed. It’s heartwarming to see students get excited about books they wouldn’t ordinarily choose. They’re learning to step outside of the box for a new literary experience.

What we’ve come to know during our author/illustrator study is that being exposed to different cultures and ethnic backgrounds enhances our knowledge of the world around us.

We grooved to the rhythmic words in Jazz written by Walter Dean Myers and illustrated by Christopher Myers. We tapped our toes to Leo & Diane Dillon’s Rap A Tap Tap Here’s Bojangles – Think Of That! We learned what it’s like if you have a passion to succeed in For the Love of the Game written by Eloise Greenfield and illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist. Lessons of love and acceptance came our way in The Other Side written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis and Show Way also by Woodson and illustrated by Hudson Talbott. Richard Wright and the Library Card written by William Miller and illustrated by Gregory Christie and SitIn How Four Friend Stood Up by Sitting Down written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney demonstrated the hardships black Americans were up against in their struggle for equal rights.

We’ve looked at works by Jerry Pinkney, Virginia Hamilton, Nikki Giovanni, Bryan Collier, Patricia and Fredrick McKissack, Floyd Cooper, and Rita Williams-Garcia. We’ve been wowed by their talent and impressed by their numerous literary awards.

Celebrate Black History Month. Read. Learn. Enjoy.

“We should emphasize not Negro History, but the Negro in history. What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world void of national bias, race hate, and religious prejudice.” ~Carter Woodson, 1926


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