My books for children are set in the segregated South and focus on ordinary people who achieved extraordinary things for the time period in which they lived. There are a number of reasons I write about the history of the South. However, my top three reasons are:
1) To Inspire Children to Dream Great Dreams For Their Lives – If children can see that the characters in my stories, who lived during a time of racial barriers and discrimination, could achieve their dreams, surely they will believe that they can too. I’ll never forget the little girl who said to me, “I like your story about Uncle Jed. I want to be a doctor when I grow up, but my grandmamma says I’ll never be one. Now I know I can be a doctor.” In all of my school visits I always ask the kids to tell me their dreams. I want them to be heard. I want them to feel that their dreams matter to someone.
2) I Grew Up In The South – I was born and raised in Holly Springs, Mississippi on my grandfather’s farm. My grandfather owned his own farm during a time when not many black people owned their own land. I was a firsthand witness to the struggles my grandfather went through in maintaining his farm, which is why I put obstacles to be overcome in my stories. I want children to know that dreams are sometimes not easy to achieve. It seems like the bigger the dream, the bigger the obstacles that come your way. But with persistence, focus, and determination, dreams can and will come true.
3) I Am Proud To Be From Mississippi – When someone asks me where I’m from, I without hesitation say Mississippi. And being a proud product of Mississippi, I want children to be proud of where they are from and to remember that it is not where you start but where you end that counts.
The South has a troubled history that some think is best forgotten. But only by discussing it can we focus on how to do our part to make the world a better place.