Magazine article The Crisis

On A Mission to Write Tales for Young Readers

Magazine article The Crisis

On A Mission to Write Tales for Young Readers

Article excerpt

For most of her career, Katheryn Russell-Brown has been best known for writing hard-hitting, scholarly books about race and justice, such as The Color Of Crime: Racial Hoaxes, White Fear, Black Protectionism, Police Harassment and Other Macroaggressions. Recently, though, she has won acclaim for a dramatically different form of writing. Her book for children, Little Melba And Her Big Trombone, was published last year to considerable praise. Illustrated by Frank Morrison, Russell-Brown's book tells the colorful story of Melba Liston, a pioneering jazz musician. From her post as director of the Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations at University of Florida's Fredric G. Levin College of Law, she talked with The Crisis about making such an unlikely change.

What led you to write a children's book after having tackled such serious issues in your previous books for adults?

Katheryn Russell-Brown: I adore children's books, especially those with Black main characters. Long before I became a mother, I was buying children's books with Black characters. Now that I have children, this pastime has become a mission. From day one, my kids have been exposed to books that feature people with skin color like their own. I also make it a point to buy children's books written by authors of color.

Why were you inspired to write about Melba Liston in particular?

KRB: My father was a bebop/jazz lover. When I was coming up, Miles, Monk, Parker and Coltrane were always on the turntable.

Last year approximately 5,000 children's books were published. About 5 percent were about Black children and less than 3 percent of the books were written by Black authors. …

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