Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Voices From Our Past, Stories For Our Future


By Lesa Cline-Ransome

As a child, I was not a fan of history.  For me, history was battles, dates and old white men.  What I loved was English.  Words.  Language.  Stories.  I even looked forward to Friday spelling tests.  But when my teachers pulled down the oversized map at the front of the room or asked us to open our social studies textbooks, my eyes glazed over.  It would be years before I realized that stories are the foundation of both history and English. 

In the early 1970’s, I stood out in my class.  Not because of my academic abilities, but because as the often only African American in my class, there were topics that would cause noticeable discomfort among my classmates and ultimately myself. The discussions of slavery painted my entire ancestry with one broad brush of victimhood and were portrayed in stark contrast to the narrative of the kindly white abolitionists and Union soldiers and a tall bearded President who did all of the work in navigating the freedoms of their black brethren.  

Our textbooks noted only a smattering of African Americans who made contributions to the country throughout the hundreds of years of American history--Martin Luther King, George Washington Carver, Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Tubman--notable figures who were painted as rare exceptions, a credit to their race, among a host of whites who seemingly built this country, unaided, from the ground up by their sheer ingenuity, tenacity, intellect, and perseverance.  

The more I began to read outside of my classroom textbooks, the more I learned about my own history and the history of other marginalized and underrepresented groups.  And it was then that I started writing.  I began writing picture book biographies to fill in the gaps where my history belonged.  I wrote stories of athletes in  Satchel Paige, Game Changers:  The Story of Venus and Serena Williams, Major Taylor:  Champion Cyclist, and Young Pele:  Soccer’s First Star, and how their struggles to compete, to be recognized, to overcome racism and segregation in sports meant I never saw their names alongside those of Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio.  I wrote stories of freedom fighters Frederick Douglass, Ethel Payne and Harriet Tubman, whose quest for freedom, equity and truth meant they left behind a legacy of courage. 

I write of artistic legends Louis Armstrong, Teddy Wilson, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Joseph Boulogne Chevalier de Saint George, whose authentic words and music refused to be silenced and forever altered our cultural landscape.

Diving into history to uncover the stories of the vital roles people of color have played in the shaping and building of this country has led me across the political, cultural, educational, and religious spectrum.  It has at times filled me with frustration, exhilaration, contemplation, and nearly always led me to the question, “How did I not know this?”  The answer is so simple and abundantly clear--These stories were never there for me to read.  

But the beauty of writing comes in discovering your subjects anew, and introducing them to the world.  By allowing their voices to be heard on the pages of each book we write, we hear their struggle and sacrifice, their hopes and dreams.  Placing them in historic context links together moments in history like connecting the pieces of a puzzle. 

In my elementary classrooms, the history that centered on the role of African Americans was focused in slavery or in the Civil Rights movement.  But the richness of our experience didn’t begin and end with those milestones.  We can’t begin to discuss the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s without discussions that include Jamestown, the role of resistance throughout slavery, Reconstruction, Westward Expansion, The Great Migration, African Americans in the military, and The Harlem Renaissance.  

Textbooks today are seeing modest changes in their attempts to provide a more balanced, less Eurocentric view of history, but there is a long way to go.  In the recent New York Times article, “Two States. Eight Textbooks. Two American Stories, Albert S. Broussard, author of the Texas and California edition of McGraw Hill textbooks stated, “American history is not anymore the story of great white men.” 

As a nonfiction author, the job I have is to tell the truth. The sometimes very ugly, hurtful, painful truth. While textbooks have, and often still do, omit the crucial stories that provide a complete, unabridged version of events, my history cannot be erased. 

 Non-fiction biographies help to bridge the gap by revealing the crucial role of African Americans in the building of this country and demonstrate how the lessons from a troubled history can provide a roadmap for a better future.  They give young readers a broader understanding of our shared history, our culture and our strengths.  

These stories hold value not only for the underrepresented children sitting in classrooms, but for all children. 

 When I look back to find voices from the past, I am looking forward, too, into a future that remembers that a history that tells the honest, balanced, authentic, stories of everyone, is a history that belongs to all of us.  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lesa Cline-Ransome’s first book was the biography Satchel Paige, an ALA Notable Book and a Bank Street College “Best Children’s Book of the Year.  She later created Major Taylor: Champion Cyclist, Young Pele, Words Set Me Free,  Light in the Darkness, Benny Goodman and Teddy Wilson, Light in the Darkness, Freedom’s School, My Story, My Dance, Just a Lucky So and So: The Story of Louis Armstrong and Germs: Fact and Fiction, Friends and Foes, and Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams.  Her verse biography of Harriet Tubman, Before She Was Harriet received five starred reviews, was nominated for an NAACP image award, and received a Coretta Scott King Honor for Illustration.  Her debut middle grade novel, Finding Langston, was the 2019 winner of the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction and received the Coretta Scott King Award Author Honor.  The sequel, Leaving Lymon will be released in Spring 2020.  

Lesa’s books have received numerous honors and awards including NAACP Awards, Kirkus Best Books, ALA Notable, CBC Choice Awards, two Top 10 Sports Books for Youth, and an Orbis Pictus Recommended Book. She lives in the Hudson Valley region of New York with her husband, and frequent collaborator, James Ransome and their family.  Visit her at www.lesaclineransome.com.

 
ABOUT THE PRIZE

One lucky winner will receive an autographed copy of Before She Was Harriet.

Leave one comment below about what struck you in the post.
You’re eligible to win if you’re a registered NF Fest participant and you have contributed one comment below. 
 

130 comments:

  1. Less, I love Before She Was Harriet. Thank you for telling all your stories. They are inspirational for all of us.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Lesa, I'm blown away by your books and your passion to fill in the gaping holes in our history. Your stories do help shape a brighter future for all. Thank you and congratulations on all your successes!

    ReplyDelete
  3. You ask the right question to make history for children intriguing and important - How did I not know this? You gave the right answer. Find the voices from the past and tell the truth.
    Melanie Vickers

    ReplyDelete
  4. "But the beauty of writing comes in discovering your subjects anew, and introducing them to the world." Love that thank you! Looking forward to reading your books and learning of those you have reintroduced to today's generation.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm so glad my daughter has these books to fill in those glaring text book gaps. And as a teacher, I'm grateful too! Just a Lucky So and So is our book of the month and every classroom at my elementary school is reading it. -Sara Ackerman

    ReplyDelete
  6. Lesa, I love this post and your books! I hope to connect the puzzle pieces to "give young readers a broader understanding of our shared history, our culture and our strengths."

    ReplyDelete
  7. "As a nonfiction author, the job I have is to tell the truth. The sometimes very ugly, hurtful, painful truth. While textbooks have, and often still do, omit the crucial stories that provide a complete, unabridged version of events, my history cannot be erased." I try to show my son the truth as he still doesn't get it at school like I did many years ago. I'm glad you're telling these stories and getting the truth out there.
    -Ashley Congdon

    ReplyDelete
  8. I totally agree about my youth in history class as well! It wasn't until I researched subjects for interpretive exhibits that I found I loved history and felt if they could link it to individual people it would be so much more relevant. So glad you are writing the books to help put pieces in place to do so. Thanks for the post!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Before She Was Harriet is such a lovely and important book. Thank you for raising these stories for all of us!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thank you so much, Lesa, for your moving and inspiring post. I love what you said about nonfiction authors telling the truth, no matter whether it's beautiful or painful. Kids need the whole story.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hi, Lesa, I'm a huge fan of all of your books, and am looking forward to reading more authentic stories! History was my worst subject in school--dry and dull--so I try to make it spring alive for kids in my books. Thankfully things are slowly changing....

    ReplyDelete
  12. Lesa, your work has been a true history book for your readers. Sad, but true, we are still thin got get away from “ the story of great white men.” If I taught today, I'd ditch the textbook and begin w/PB bios and NF by BIPOC. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  13. You are contributing pieces of history that need to be told. Thank you so much for all you do. Thanks, also, for this beautiful post.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Kathleen Cornell BermanFebruary 26, 2020 at 6:26 AM

    Thank you for writing the stories that need to be told. I love your passion and dedication, it certainly comes through the books you've written. I love BEFORE SHE WAS HARRIET.

    ReplyDelete
  15. What a great reminder that we each experience the world in different ways and have stories to tell based on that! Thanks for being a champion for stories that need to be told!

    ReplyDelete
  16. So many interesting people you've written about--and thank you for finding and telling their stories. We're all in this together, making history! And P.S. I felt the same way about geography when I was a kid. And though I've come to appreciate this land of ours, I still can't tell east from west. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  17. I didn't much like history either until I discovered historical fiction. Now that nonfiction is no longer dry and one-note, I'm a huge fan. So glad that we have books like yours to help us understand our past more fully.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I love your books, Lesa. Thank y ou for bringing these amazing people into the light for children--and adults.

    ReplyDelete
  19. This was my favorite line--history that tells the honest, balanced, authentic, stories of everyone, is a history that belongs to all of us. I love your book, Before She was Harriet!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Non-fiction biographies enrich us all--All biographies, all cultures, all colors. Thanks for sharing your work, Lesa. Much to learn and do for everyone to be fully represented.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I agree Lesa, all children must learn the truth of all of our history. Be Inspired, Nicki Jacobsmeyer

    ReplyDelete
  22. "Stories are the foundation of both history and English." So true! I was also a kid who loved English but hated social studies. I'm glad kids today have so many wonderful biographies available to them.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Kudos to Lesa for writing the STORY that is history. The OWN VOICES being published now bring to light events related to cultures unrelated to me. But in a true sense, we are all related to these events...for good or bad. I had heard many of these stories, even wrote about Matthew Henson and Wilma Rudolph, but Lesa brings an authenticity to her stories that I cannot provide. Keep going, Lesa.

    ReplyDelete
  24. You and your writing are admired, Lesa. Thank you for digging deep and sharing untold, amazing stories about important individuals, Lesa.

    Suzy Leopold

    ReplyDelete
  25. Lesa, thank you for all you do to bridge the WIDE gap left by textbooks. As a middle school language arts teacher I try to make students aware of the bias in text books, not only in what's left out, but how what's left in is worded. As you said, textbooks still have a long way to go, but thankfully nonfiction books like yours give readers a richer, fuller view of the past.

    ReplyDelete
  26. 'By allowing their voices to be heard on the pages of each book we write, we hear their struggle and sacrifice, their hopes and dreams.' This really hits home as I finished reading a biography on the person I have been researching and will write my first draft today. Loved Before She Was Harriet!

    ReplyDelete
  27. History is story - so many stories. What an exciting time when children's authors are searching for and sharing those stories like the treasures they are. Even the stories of those "old white men". And old white women. And the native Americans. And the Africans brought here against their will. Such a terrible time but our country wouldn't be the great nation it is today without their contribution and the contributions of their descendants. And all the others who made their way to our shores. I'm so glad Lesa and others are bringing their stories to light.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Thank you for telling these powerful stories and for working to bridge the gap.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Your books are both beautifly told and illustrated.
    Thank you for digging deep and bringing to life, more stories for everyone, every color, hue and shade to
    enjoy . As we all are beautiful shades under the same rainbow

    ReplyDelete
  30. Great post! I have The Power of Her Pen on reserve from my local library and can't wait to pick it up.

    ReplyDelete
  31. I'm so happy that you and others are telling engaging stories that fill in the huge gaps that remain in most history books.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Thank you for this articulate, thought-provoking post. And thank you for your amazing books. Favorite quote here: "These stories hold value not only for the underrepresented children sitting in classrooms, but for all children."

    ReplyDelete
  33. Lesa, thank you for sharing your own personal journey in this post, and thank you for "filling in the gaps."

    ReplyDelete
  34. Kudos to you and your husband for all you do to get the stories out there. Before She Was Harriet is amazing.

    ReplyDelete
  35. I agree that all children--and ALL adults--need to hear these stories over and over again. Thank you for sharing what inspired your career and the types of stories you tell!

    ReplyDelete
  36. I grew up in the 60s and, unfortunately, in the care of people who were racist. I couldn't understand why I got in trouble for not mentioning in advance that the birthday girl at the party I was attending had darker skin than mine. Then I noticed that pretty much all the people in my books--textbooks and the library books I devoured--also had light skin. It was confusing and led to some mistaken understandings about my friend and her family. I can't imagine what it was like for my friend. I'm so glad today’s children have better resources than I did to learn about America’s true history and that there are writers like you and do many others to keep expanding that understanding! Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Thank you, Lesa, for your inspiring post. May the future bring even more diverse and life-changing stories for all our children!

    ReplyDelete
  38. Thank you for sharing Lesa! I too was often the only person of color in my classroom and when I took an African American History class in college I thought this same thing. “How did I not know this?” The answer is so simple and abundantly clear--These stories were never there for me to read. I did have a wonderful family oral history of particular events in history, my family - especially my mom - shared all her experiences that she felt we needed to hear. Some of them were unsettling to say the least. This line struck me in particular. “American history is not anymore the story of great white men.” America is the country it is today, for better or worse, because of ALL our ancestors, Black, White, Asian, or Native.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Thanks Lesa. BEFORE SHE WAS HARRIET is one of my all time favorite books.

    I love this post. The lines that resonated the most with me in this post is "By allowing their voices to be heard on the pages of each book we write, we hear their struggle and sacrifice, their hopes and dreams. Placing them in historic context links together moments in history like connecting the pieces of a puzzle."

    Sometimes I think schools should give up text books and just read dozens of PBs from each portion of history, being sure to include all cultures in those books. I think history lessons would be more balanced. And the people of history and the times they lived would be more real.

    ReplyDelete
  40. "I am looking forward, too, into a future that remembers that a history that tells the honest, balanced, authentic, stories of everyone, is a history that belongs to all of us." Love this perspective!

    ReplyDelete
  41. Thank you so much for reminding me of the value, nonfiction-biographies have for all children!!! "These stories hold value not only for the underrepresented children sitting in classrooms, but for all children." I love that!!!

    ReplyDelete
  42. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  43. OOOOH, love to hear both the past and the future speak. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  44. Lesa, your post was very inspirational. It's so good to know that important contributions made by African Americans and others in our diverse population are being put out there for everyone to learn about and acknowledge.

    ReplyDelete
  45. "When I look back to find voices from the past, I am looking forward, too, into a future that remembers that a history that tells the honest, balanced, authentic, stories of everyone, is a history that belongs to all of us." You speak to my heart. Thank you Lesa.

    ReplyDelete
  46. This is a very timely read, considering we just lost the incredibly brilliant Katherine Johnson. When I first read Hidden Figures, I couldn't believe we didn't know anything about these amazing women from NASA. I'm so grateful books are now out there for this generation to learn of the important contributions of people of color throughout history.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Lesa, Thank you for a great informational post. I think "Before She was Harriet" should be used in every writing class as a wonderful mentor text.

    ReplyDelete
  48. I love that you knew there was more than what we were all taught. And how you've dug so deep to find more, more, more. You are doing a wonderful job highlighting more of the untold stories. Congratulations and thanks for this post.

    ReplyDelete
  49. Lesa is absolutely right that textbooks aren't doing the job and that we nonfiction writers have to fill in the history of under-represented people who had helped make this country what it is today.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Unfortunately, around the world, the history is written "by the winner." Lesa, I love your desire for "a future that remembers that a history that tells the honest, balanced, authentic, stories of everyone, is a history that belongs to all of us." Thank you for all you do toward this goal.

    ReplyDelete
  51. I wish that my childhood books had more diverse characters and painted a broader picture of history. There are so many people who made meaningful contributions who we have heard nothing about. On the upside, that means there are many more stories for us all to discover and share!

    ReplyDelete
  52. Thank you for sharing your insight! What a great post. If I have to pick just one thought from your post, it is this: “'How did I not know this?' The answer is so simple and abundantly clear--These stories were never there for me to read." So, so true. As writers, we are lucky to have the passion to uncover untold stories and bring them to light. There's so much more for us to discover! Priscilla

    ReplyDelete
  53. I'm glad you found a love (liking? :> ) of history! "Harriet" is an excellent book!

    ReplyDelete
  54. Thank you for sharing your perspectives on this subject. As an educator, I always valued literature as a way to go beyond the textbook and enhance my students' learning. I totally agree with your analysis. No textbook tells the whole story our children need to hear and about which they need to learn. I appreciate your beautiful books and the way the help to bridge the gaps.

    ReplyDelete
  55. Thank you this wonderful post, Lesa, and also for the powerful and thought-provoking books you create.

    ReplyDelete
  56. Thanks so much. I loved the line that sometimes we have to tell the "very ugly, hurtful and painful truth." It is so much easier to shy away from those truths, and I appreciated your reminder to tell those hard stories.

    ReplyDelete
  57. Thank you for your heartfelt post.

    ReplyDelete
  58. I am grateful for the powerful stories you craft and that today's young people will have the chance to read them and gain a much broader understanding of the complexity that makes up history. Thank you for sharing your writing journey!

    ReplyDelete
  59. "By allowing their voices to be heard on the pages of each book we write, we hear their struggle and sacrifice, their hopes and dreams. Placing them in historic context links together moments in history like connecting the pieces of a puzzle. " Yes!, I thought, That's exactly it! That quote is going on my desktop to keep me focused as I try to tell the story of a small man who propelled forward a big event: the American Revolution

    ReplyDelete
  60. Thank you for filling gaps and telling so many stories that need to be told! I connected with your post in many ways and appreciate you sharing your own story and how you are helping to rewrite history.

    ReplyDelete
  61. Perhaps if history had been told as a better, more balanced and inclusive narrative when I went to school, I might have enjoyed it more. Thank you for filling in the gaps!

    ReplyDelete
  62. Thanks for sharing your insight.

    I wasn't found of history class either. But as an adult, I enjoy history. And part of the reason why is all the great creative NF PBs out there these days. I especially like the PB biographies of lessen-known people who did amazing things. I hadn't come across The Power of her Pen yet. I am adding it to my To-Read List.

    ReplyDelete
  63. I'm thankful for the work you do, the voices from the gaps that your stories lift up. I, too, loved words, spelling, and language growing up. I was drawn to stories because they fed a hunger in me to know, learn and explore different worlds. But so few reflected the full complexity of my life growing up Latina, the daughter of immigrants. You write that the "beauty of writing comes in discovering your subjects anew, allowing their voices to be heard in the pages of each book we write." Your words resonate with me profoundly, re-fueling me with a sense of purpose to persevere in this writing journey. Many thanks for this excellent post.

    Celia Viramontes

    ReplyDelete
  64. great post - I loved Before She Was Harriet, and can feel your passion in your writing. Thanks for inspiring readers everywhere.

    ReplyDelete
  65. Lesa,
    It is such a blessing for us to learn of the stories of African-American lives.

    ReplyDelete
  66. Fantastic post. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  67. I was raised in New England, and thought that American history began with the pilgrims. It wasn't until I moved to New Mexico that I learned the Spanish were here way before the Mayflower set sail! And of course the Native Americans had been here for ages. The word you used, Eurocentric, is so true. But thanks to you and other writers, we're seeing a broader picture of our country's history. Thank you, Lesa!

    ReplyDelete
  68. Thank you for uncovering these stories and inspiring me to uncover others! I am looking forward to reading your books!

    ReplyDelete
  69. Her quest to tell forgotten and unknown stories is important. I like the way she said: "These stories hold value not only for the underrepresented children sitting in classrooms, but for all children." Yes, yes and yes!

    ReplyDelete
  70. I love what you said about these stories being for all of us. And I love Before She Was Harriet.

    ReplyDelete
  71. Inspiring post. Thank you so much! 🙂

    ReplyDelete
  72. Great post! I also think it's important to tell the truth about our history, even and especially when it's ugly. And children want/need to know the truth as well.

    ReplyDelete
  73. A beautifully-written post, reminding us how much of history still needs to be shared. Thank you, Lesa!

    ReplyDelete
  74. My son's school uses A People's History of the United States for their 6-8th grade history curriculum. But even that book leaves out some ugly truths. I'm so glad that you and so many others are working to fill in the gaps in our knowledge. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  75. I didn't appreciate my History and English class as a child. I'm making up for it now!

    ReplyDelete
  76. Well said - all of it. One of my favorite lines: "The answer is so simple and abundantly clear--These stories were never there for me to read." You speak the truth. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  77. The things we don't know about our country's past and ALL the people that have lived, suffered, survived, thrived despaired and rejoiced in it. NF biographies and stories do fill a much needed void and those gaps in history. Thasnk you for writing these stories!

    ReplyDelete
  78. Thank you for your wonderful post. You biographies are great.

    ReplyDelete
  79. Thank you for a wonderful post- so intrigued

    ReplyDelete
  80. Thank you, Lesa. You are doing such important work. Your words hit home when you said you are not only looking to the past but to the future. A legacy for all!

    ReplyDelete
  81. I love the way you express this - "letting their voices be heard". You're helping children understand history in a very real way.

    ReplyDelete
  82. ". . . a history that tells the honest, balanced, authentic, stories of everyone, is a history that belongs to all of us."

    ReplyDelete
  83. I so respect Lesa's work and her desire to share truth. I love the "How did I not know that?" statement. That has fueled all of my picture book bios as I discover fascinating people. And so happy to say I have a pb bio of African Americans during World War II--a story that has not been told, but needs to be.

    ReplyDelete
  84. Thank you for sharing your experience and sharing these historical stories with children.

    ReplyDelete
  85. Thanks for the reminder that we need to tell more diverse stories to get a clearer picture of human history. I support this wholeheartedly and am only slightly cynical about the publishing industry's willingness to pay for only those stories it wants to hear. A comment from a panel of agents/editors at a children's book conference within the past year: "No more women in STEM." They've had enough women in STEM books, thank you very much! Women in STEM doesn't sell! I think we have to tell the stories we're passionate about, regardless of what sells. And then we have to make it sell. (Stupid publishing industry!)

    ReplyDelete
  86. I love your post Lesa! I believe if your books and those of others like yours, telling the truth of our history, had existed all along our society would be closer and kinder. I have also been angered over being told only the stories of rich, white males. Thank you for your hard work to tell the truth and congratulations on all your successes.

    ReplyDelete
  87. I like how you phrase it: bridging the gap. I feel there are so many topics with missing people, information, viewpoints, and ideas, and nonfiction is a good way to finish the puzzle!

    ReplyDelete
  88. "a history that tells the honest, balanced, authentic, stories of everyone, is a history that belongs to all of us." Love that.

    ReplyDelete
  89. I loved this post, Lesa...and shared it with others because teachers need to know history textbooks are not enough. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  90. Thank you for your post and your beautiful, important books! I love your comment: "But the beauty of writing comes in discovering your subjects anew, and introducing them to the world." And I admit, like you, I did not love history as a child but find myself drawn to reading NF picture books (maybe because they are so well done now?).

    ReplyDelete
  91. Wonderful post. I love the idea of letting our subject's voices be heard on the page. Our kids need these stories.

    ReplyDelete
  92. Thank you for sharing your passion on this topic. I love finding new picture book biographies, since they make it so much easier to introduce my children to the stories of the past.

    ReplyDelete
  93. Thank you for being a game changer in the field of children's literature. I'm a huge fan of your work and look forward to reading all the stories you'll create in the future. Special shout-out to your book about Major Taylor - I loved that one so much!

    ReplyDelete
  94. My youth history classes bored me with memorizing dates and events in which I had no connection with. I like that biographies are gaining popularity and have been geared to younger audiences to help them find their own connections to the past.

    ReplyDelete
  95. Thank you for an inspiring post. I love what you said about writing stories about the past that are also looking forward too the future.

    ReplyDelete
  96. Thank you so much for what you do. Your work is very important. I also strive to tell the unknown stories of little-known but pivotal people from history. And you’re right, these stories belong to all of us!

    ReplyDelete
  97. Lesa, thank you so much for the stories you write. Your stories really are important for all children.

    ReplyDelete
  98. Brava! "As a nonfiction author, the job I have is to tell the truth. The sometimes very ugly, hurtful, painful truth. While textbooks have, and often still do, omit the crucial stories that provide a complete, unabridged version of events, my history cannot be erased."

    ReplyDelete
  99. Lesa, love your work and your passion for it. I MUST find your books in our local library, and read them all. Painful truths must be told, and I sense you have another lesson for us in your work. Thanks for this inspiring post.

    ReplyDelete
  100. This is a wonderful post, Lesa. I love that history is getting broader and how previously unknown stories are being brought to life thanks to stories like yours.

    ReplyDelete
  101. Lesa, this is a powerful post. I like your line: "Placing [subjects] in historic context links together moments in history like connecting the pieces of a puzzle." Biographies like yours teach history in a personal, engaging way, which makes it come alive for young readers.

    ReplyDelete
  102. Thank you for this, so important and powerful.

    ReplyDelete
  103. I'm so grateful we have your books in the world. I recommend them to teachers (I'm a librarian) and other writers all the time! What treasures you are writing for our kids! Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  104. All I can say is... WOW! Thank you for this. It was inspirational and informative.

    ReplyDelete
  105. As a kid, I didn't like history either. I became a journalist because I loved telling stories about people. Then I discovered that I could write about history by telling the stories of people. History came alive for me and I enjoy the research of it almost as much as I enjoy writing it! Especially stories that haven't been told. BEFORE SHE WAS HARRIET was one of my FAVORITE stories about a person. So beautifully written. It has inspired me to move forward in this journey.

    ReplyDelete
  106. Really enjoyed using Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams with third-grade students recently. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  107. OH, yes, my eyes glazed over at Social Studies. and I was a white kid . . . So very thankful you are doing this work.

    ReplyDelete
  108. Great post, Lesa! I was struck by three things…first when you said, “… stories are the foundation of history” and then asked “How did I not know this?” And finally when you stated, “… history that tells the honest, balanced, authentic, stories of everyone, is a history that belongs to all of us.”

    Thank you for showing us how to find the voices from the past and tell the truth.

    ReplyDelete
  109. My own kids have asked the same question about our NA history,”why didn’t we learn about this in school?” And you gave a perfect answer above. I loved your post, and was this line “ When I look back to find voices from the past, I am looking forward, too...” is lingering with me, making me think. Thank you Lesa 😁

    ReplyDelete
  110. The older I get, the more upset I get about the one-sided education many of us got. It was very uncomfortable to sit next to other students of other races and cultures during many social studies classes. I considered these students friends. Thank you for this post.

    ReplyDelete
  111. I'm glad you honed your writing skills and followed your heart. As you said, "These stories hold value not only for the underrepresented children sitting in classrooms, but for all children."

    ReplyDelete
  112. Lesa, thank you for reminding us of the need for more authentic histories in textbooks!

    ReplyDelete
  113. This is a wonderful post. Yes, if we do mot write about a topic, how will anyone learn about it?

    ReplyDelete
  114. Thank you for your post. I loved reading Before She Was Harriet. We are all so lucky that your books are in the world.

    ReplyDelete
  115. Ugh! History. I've looked at it the same way you did. But you are right, stories are the foundation of history, and those of us who have little aptitude for memorizing maps, dates, and timelines can seek out the underlying stories.

    ReplyDelete
  116. I loved the Power of Her Pen. I've been using picture books for my social studies class for about two years. So much better than our dreary textbook.

    ReplyDelete
  117. This is beautiful, Lesa! I was really touched when you said "How did I not know this?...These stories were never there for me to read." Thank you for sharing all your stories...all the truth!

    ReplyDelete
  118. As a child in the 70s, in a VERY white, rural small town, I frequently checked books out from a library/school like yours. I lived in the library and the librarian was constantly pulling down the books with the biggest world view for my curious mind. We had a series of books, biographies and histories, but they weren't anything close to the PBs we have now. They were closer to the WHO WAS series in content. I read all of them and o.m.g yes... so much, so many important people were left out. I remember wondering why there weren't enough books on diverse peoples/histories, even on Geronimo and Sacajawea were limited to one each! So glad you're finding and writing to help fill in the gaps. Love the post!!!

    ReplyDelete
  119. Thank you for working towards more representation of history and in children's literature. It's so important that these stories be told.

    ReplyDelete
  120. Thank you! As a kid I did not like biographies but if I had the amazing books that are out now, I really think it would be different!

    ReplyDelete
  121. Thank you so much for this post! As the whiteish mom of black daughters, I’ve both delved deeper into history and important historical people of color and changed the way I read / write about them. With very few books written about black history and it’s important role in any human history when my girls were young, I wanted to involve them in researching subjects to write about. We have learned a lot about truth in history!

    ReplyDelete
  122. I'm working on PB biographies of Asian American pioneers for similar reasons. Thank you so much for this post!

    ReplyDelete
  123. And your work will inspire others! I will mirror what others have said that I didn't like reading bio at all but the bios picture book nowadays are amazing.

    ReplyDelete
  124. I loved those little orange and blue biographies as a child and was angry then that there were so few women represented...and of course, now I know that they were not factual, but I did learn the names. How wonderful to read your books, so fact based, so strong and they start to bridge the gaps. Thank you for this post.

    ReplyDelete
  125. I love your books, Lesa. I'm so glad you write these stories that need telling.

    ReplyDelete
  126. Great insight. Great books. Thanks.Maria Johnson

    ReplyDelete