The Snowy Day anniversary

“I have Snowy Day,” the two-year-old declared. She had overheard my wife ask me if I had saved the Washington Post article about the 50th anniversary of the book by author and illustrator Ezra Jack Keats. http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/the-snowy-day-first-picture-book-with-black-child-as-hero-marks-50-years/2011/12/04/gIQA3a8yUP_story_1.html  Published in 1962, here was a children’s book with an African American hero. Now, fifty years after publication, The Snowy Day is a book well recognized by a white two-year-old. Until all the publicity came out, however, I did not realize that this was another case of a white author with a black protagonist. And whether a white man  should write about a black character was an issue then as it sometimes is today.  The Post article quotes Newbery and National Book Award winner Katherine Paterson, the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, “Carry that to an extreme, and none of us could write. There’s no space for the imagination,” and Keats himself, “How can you put a color on a child’s experience in the snow?” Because there is still ongoing questioning when a white author writes about a black protagonist, I am especially proud that some of the positive reviews about my novel Well Considered came from Robert Fleming of AALBC (African American Literature Book Club) http://aalbc.com/reviews/well_considered.html and several African American individuals. Maybe in another fifty years we will have learned enough about each other regarding race and other diversities that this will no longer be a point of discussion. Meanwhile, my next book, a young adult novel, takes place around the same time as when A Snowy Day was published. It is about bored white teenagers who live isolated from African Americans and rarely give them a thought. Like a lot of fiction, some of it draws on my real life experiences. An African American friend of mine who recently read the manuscript asked me, “Didn’t you even wonder about us?”

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