I try to avoid crowds as much as possible but it’s hard to stay away from a book festival—especially when it’s in Harlem and the street is filled with black folks who love to read, write, and talk about literature! I watched some of the Schomburg panels on C-Span before hopping on the train to give my own presentation at the Young Readers Pavilion, which was once again expertly run by the Hudsons. I read from Ship of Souls and took some questions from the young readers in the audience, and then had time to catch the second half of the panel on getting black boys to read, which was moderated by Wade Hudson. I don’t like crowds, but large gatherings do increase the likelihood of meeting folks you haven’t seen in a while. It was great to catch up with Carol-Ann Hoyte, poet, librarian, and editor/publisher of the forthcoming anthology, And the Crowd Goes Wild! Carol-Ann shared some of the sports poems with kids at the Young Readers Pavilion and she’ll be back in NYC this fall for an official launch party so stay tuned. I also met Donald Peebles, author and librarian-in-training; we talked about the importance of male role models, the need for more black male voices in YA lit, and the many different family configurations that make black boys LOVE to read. That was an issue that came up in the panel: what’s the link between fathers and better literacy among boys? I’m not a fan of the “just add MAN” remedy to what ails the black community, though I absolutely believe that fathers are important to boys and girls. But the mere presence of men doesn’t solve any problem—it’s their involvement in the family that matters and their commitment to promoting literacy by reading with and around their kids.
Later that night I had a Skype conversation with my cousin and we realized that our “fun” summer reads actually reflect our scholarship…I just finished a novel on racial violence in the post-Emancipation South, and she was reading a novel about the body’s memory of trauma. I’d been planning to self-publish my novella about black children and AIDS this fall, but somehow that conversation gave me a sharp nudge. I worked on it past midnight and ordered a proof this morning. There is a major AIDS conference in D.C. right now, and a Canadian friend sent a team from her Toronto clinic, Women’s Health in Women’s Hands. When I visited that clinic a couple of years ago, one of the researchers asked me why I didn’t write about the impact of HIV/AIDS on the black community. I assured her that I *had* written about it but couldn’t find a publisher. Well, what am I waiting for? The community is still in crisis and waiting ten years hasn’t helped matters any. I hope to have An Angel for Mariqua out by my birthday in late October. This is just a demo cover I made with the CreateSpace template.
Christmas is coming, but nine-year-old Mariqua Thatcher isn’t looking forward to the holidays. Mama’s gone and Gramma doesn’t know what to do with her feisty granddaughter. Almost every day Mariqua gets into a fight at school and no one seems to understand how she feels inside. But things start to change when a mysterious street vendor gives Mariqua a beautifully carved wooden angel as a gift. Each night Mariqua whispers in the angel’s ear and soon her wishes start to come true! Mariqua begins to do better at school and she even wins an important role in the church pageant. But best of all, Mariqua becomes friends with Valina Patterson, a teenager who lives in Mariqua’s building. Valina helps Mariqua learn how to control her anger, and reminds her pretend little sister that “everyone has a story to tell.” Their friendship is tested, however, when Mariqua discovers that Valina has been keeping a secret about her own mother. Can the magic angel make things better?
A touching story about love, compassion, and the gift within every heart.
For children age 8+.